Breaking barriers, saving lives
She faced domestic violence and poverty before and after immigrating to the United States. Now this college grad hopes to help others as a physician.
Before Ines Calvete Barrios came to the United States, she lived in Barranquilla, Colombia, where she said she faced domestic violence, poverty and uncertainty.
Then, things got worse. In 2012, at age 12, she and her family came to Denver.
“Soon after we arrived, we found ourselves in an abusive, controlling and dark place,” said Calvete Barrios, the 2022 President’s Award winner for student achievement and Integrative Health Care major at Metropolitan State University of Denver.
She and her family moved from shelter to shelter, living in nine places over two years during Calvete Barrios’ freshman and sophomore years of high school.
Then, due to unexpected circumstances, Calvete Barrios was left without her family from 2015 through 2018. She stayed with friends in her junior year of high school and rented her own place in her senior year. “Living by myself was grueling, lonely, and it forced me to mature and persist beyond my own perceived limits.”
And while at MSU Denver, she faced additional challenges. “Maneuvering school, work and responsibility of my family wasn’t easy,” she said. “I was often exhausted. But every day, I continued to pursue my goals because I knew that one day my hard work and dedication would pay off.”
She said her senior year of high school was one of the most devastating times of her life. “I remember seeing my peers get accepted into the schools they chose and being excited about their future,” Calvete Barrios said. “Since I was an undocumented student, I was not gifted with the same opportunities.”
But she said MSU Denver changed that — and her life.
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“It was the only school willing to help me accomplish my goal of becoming a physician despite my legal status,” she said. “The staff, faculty and mentors have supported my aspirations more than anyone else in my life. I truly owe my success to MSU Denver. Other institutions talk about diversity and inclusion, but MSU Denver shows it through action.
“It was here that I was able to develop self-pride and embrace who I truly am without shame. I am an Afro-Latina, first-generation student, survivor, STEM enthusiast and a proud immigrant.”
She has participated as a prehealth scholar in MSU Denver’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals/Undocumented Health Opportunity Program and served on the board of the University’s Health Institute. She also sat on the student-affairs advisory board, representing DACA/undocumented students. And she worked as a teaching assistant in Organic and General Chemistry. Over the past two years, she completed extensive research on the health benefits of chamomile essential oils and tea and presented her findings at two national conferences.
In her spare time, she volunteers at the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking, a Denver-based nonprofit, and she shadowed a physician at Denver Health and a neuro-anesthesiologist at UCHealth, where she’s also a scholar in a career-exploration program.
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“Without question, Ines is one of the most extraordinary students I’ve worked with during my 15 years at MSU Denver,” said Emily Matuszewicz, University Health Institute director of Development and Partnerships. “It has been a gift, as she truly embodies not only the Roadrunner spirit of resilience and determination, but she gives back to her community and our institution at every step along the way. I am confident that she will be successful no matter what life sends her way.”
Calvete Barrios’ career goal is to become a pediatrician, and she’s committed to transforming significant health disparities in the Latinx community. She said she became attracted to medicine as a child fighting severe asthma and being born with one kidney.
“I was at the doctor’s office often, and I think seeing the impact that pediatricians and other doctors had in my own life, and how they would ease my parents’ concerns, sparked my interest in medicine,” she said. “I made it a goal to make an impact in my community in every way I could — to be a doctor who truly cares for her patients and who understands that access to health care is a human right that everyone deserves.”
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