Open Book . . . Alison Lima, SOM ’13

June 01, 2011

Each Wednesday, the Daily Voice introduces you to a student or resident at UMass Medical School. We’ve asked our subjects to answer a few questions that might reveal a little of their personalities. If you know someone who you’d like to see profiled, let us know at

Alison Lima of Taunton is a member of Tatnuck House. 

Alison Lima 

Why did you choose UMass Medical School? 

Quality, primary care excellence, location and cost. In addition, I did the High School Health Careers Program at UMMS when I was a teenager and fell in love with the school at that time. 

Describe yourself in six words or fewer. 

Persistent, ambitious, engaged, curious, family-oriented, compassionate. 

If you were stranded on a deserted island, name three things you would want. 

My husband, some dance music (e.g. salsa), and the internet (so I can stay in touch with folks back home via Skype and Facebook). 

If you could have dinner with a famous person, living or dead, who would that be and why? 

Oprah Winfrey. I’d love to pick her brain on how to have such a large impact on people’s lives and be as successful as she is. Plus, my mother watches her every day, so that must mean she’s worth a conversation! 

What person or experience made you decide to pursue a medical degree and why? 

The UMMS High School Health Careers Program helped solidify my decision to choose medicine for a career. But the initial interest in medicine came from my love of science and working with people in a hands-on, challenging way. Travel/research abroad in Mexico, Chile, Belize and the Republic of Georgia during college also helped me develop my passion for global health. 

What is the most interesting or challenging job (paid or unpaid) you’ve ever had and what did you learn about yourself? 

Definitely the Peace Corps. I was a community health educator in Nicaragua. Besides learning the basics (e.g. Spanish, how to wash my clothes with a scrub board, kill scorpions and tarantulas in my house, and love to eat rice and beans three times a day), I learned to appreciate the non-materialistic gems of life and how community and family are important to me. Peace Corps definitely is the hardest job you’ll ever love. I also found my husband there! 

What would your fellow students be surprised to learn about you? 

Three things: 

1. I have a sister, Rochelle, who is going to be an attending in emergency medicine at UMass Memorial starting in December. 
2. My sister and I are opposites in that I like to live in what I call (and my husband hates) “organized chaos.” My house currently looks like a hurricane went through it, and yet I know exactly where everything is, most of the time.
3. I speak only Spanish at home now, even though I am not Latina (I’m Cape Verdean and Portuguese) and didn’t start learning Spanish until college. 

If UMass Medical School had not been an option, what would you be doing right now? 

Either finishing my master’s of public health or having a baby. Since I am in medical school though, I plan on completing one or both of these during some time off between third and fourth year. 

If you could change the world as a physician, what would you like to do? 

This question is always in the back of my mind and drives my every effort in medical school. In general, I’d eliminate health disparities here and worldwide through improved access to medical resources and public resources (e.g. education, healthy foods, clean water, sanitation); better training for physicians in developing countries (especially Nicaragua and Cape Verde where I have planted some roots); and public policy that adequately protects and advocates for the health of the people. 

Most surprising thing you’ve found out about graduate school? 

That life does go on, and it is possible to balance school, family and fun. 

Most surprising thing you’ve discovered about Worcester? 

That there is no fluoride in the water. How can that be? Are we not the hub of health care in Central Massachusetts? This still blows my mind. 

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