By Devlin Smith | Photo by Stan Lim


Sommer Rowell
Sommer Rowell, 24, will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry this winter and is expecting her first child in March.


All in the Family

Future physician Rowell has known she was going to be a doctor since she was 3. “Both of my parents are nurses, so it runs in the family,” she said. “My joke is that it takes two nurses to make a doctor.” That interest in and passion for medicine grew through high school with Rowell’s involvement in Health Occupations Students of America and running blood drives. A native of Apple Valley, Rowell hopes to practice in Inland Southern California and serve medically underserved populations. As a volunteer and chair of research and health education at the San Bernardino Free Clinic, Rowell is already making contributions to improving health outcomes for people in the region.

Screen Time

A biochemistry major with an emphasis in medical sciences, Rowell worked as a researcher in biochemistry professor Paul Larsen’s lab at UCR. She has presented her research in person and virtually through programs like Research in Science and Engineering, which she said helped prep her for medical school interviews. “All of my interviews have been on Zoom,” she said. “I feel like it really prepared me to better present myself in a virtual format ... which can be hard when you’re on screen.”

Action Hero

In fall 2017, Rowell and her husband witnessed an accident in which a car crashed into the center divider. They pulled over to help, finding the driver was unconscious and in cardiac arrest. The CPR- and first aid-certified Rowell did chest compressions until an off-duty fire chief stepped in to assist, and, after the ailing driver was taken to the hospital, asked for Rowell’s phone number. A month later, on the chief’s recommendation, she was honored by the Chino Valley Independent Fire District for her action that day. “It was nice to be recognized, to know that people do appreciate this, and it’s important that we encourage people to use the skills that they have to help others,” Rowell said.

Career Mom

Rowell is set to earn her bachelor’s degree in March — and welcome her first child. She starts medical school in fall and credits the support of her family, mentors, and numerous programs and resources for helping her achieve her goals as a first-generation college student, transfer student, and mom-to-be. “You can do it, you will do it, seek out the resources, they are there for you,” she said in encouragement to other student parents. “Having a baby during school does not end your career; it surprisingly makes you so much more motivated to do better because now you have something so much bigger to work for.”



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Return to UCR Magazine: Winter 2022