Student Spotlight: Soneida Rodriguez
When taking their first steps onto the University of Michigan campus, many students begin their freshman year with a general idea of the things they hope to achieve, accomplish, and change throughout their college experience and life beyond. For some this might be the motivation to save countless human lives, others are dedicated to studying law and hope to shape the future legislature of our country. For Soneida Rodriguez both of these cases are true. She has found her passion at the intersection of medicine and law, while leveraging her entrepreneurial skills to see the world through a new perspective.
LS&A senior Soneida Rodriguez has spent her time at Michigan pursuing a sociology degree, serving as a Residential Advisor, completing pre-medicine and pre-law professional tracks, and participating in research with Michigan Medicine.
Her work with a variety of research labs has cemented her passion for cardiac care, phospholipase, and the entirety of medicine; but between her sophomore and junior years, she had a realization which would change the course of her career – “Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum, it demands an interdisciplinary environment,” she said.
This desire to continue exploring other fields to supplement her medical passion led her to law and entrepreneurship. Soneida’s interest in law is derived from her desire to make policy changes to improve the world around her, and entrepreneurship provides a foundation for these two vastly different professional aspirations.
“As someone who wants to work at the intersection of a career in medicine and in law, diving into an entrepreneurship program is a great way to start getting experience,” she said. “Entrepreneurship, at its core, is problem solving. It’s approaching current problems with a creative and innovative perspective.”
Soneida first discovered entrepreneurship through the Center for Entrepreneurship’s Entrepreneurs Leadership Program, after visiting the CFE for an advising appointment. ELP is a one year entrepreneurship program which offers highly motivated students the opportunity to meet with investors, participate in Global Treks, intern for a startup, and other unique resources.
Soneida used her time with the ELP cohort to take the first steps toward her vision of the future – a world where the world’s doctors, lawyers, social workers and policy makers collaborate to improve the healthcare system.
“Researching and working with the healthcare system showed me that there are many issues with the current system, and it became apparent that we need solutions now,” she said.
Her experience with the hospital provided Soneida with the first-hand experience she needed to inspire change. Alongside many other authorities in the field, Soneida believes that patient care should be centered around preventing disease, not simply curing cases as they arise.
“My capstone project aimed at minimizing the gaps in the United States’ primary care system,” she said.
These gaps in the system include poor insurance coverage, housing crises, a lack of nutritious food in struggling areas, and scarce mental health resources. Often these gaps are more prevalent in certain communities – indicating a greater need for medical care for individuals in these areas.
“I’m testing my hypothesis that our healthcare infrastructure would handle volume better if we handled communities as a whole body, rather than specific cases,” Soneida said.
Her capstone project thoughtfully explores how it is the duty of a society – not just physicians – to take responsibility for medical preventative measures. To solve these problems, it requires not just doctors, but also policy makers and social workers. It requires awareness and an active push toward reallocating existing talent and resources.
“My long term vision is a healthcare system relying on interdisciplinary teams, composed of primary healthcare professionals, social workers, and community policy makers all working together,” she said.
With both society and the law supporting medical best practice, medicine in the United States would become an arena for interdisciplinary collaboration. To realize this vision of a brighter future, Soneida plans to enthusiastically pursue both legal and medical degrees, all with the help of the entrepreneurial mindset.
“The entrepreneurial lens is an invaluable tool for examining real-world problems at the intersection between medicine and law, and it’s been so rewarding,” she said.
Beyond the academic and professional benefits of her participation in ELP, one of Soneida’s favorite takeaways has been getting to know and grow friendships with so many motivated, like-minded individuals.
“The most rewarding part of ELP has been the people I get to work with,” she said. “Their enthusiasm is infectious, it’s inspiring.”