Ever since she was 12 years old, Naina Patel knew college was a given.
“I never really had another future for myself. In the Indian community, education gets you everywhere,” said Patel, whose parents immigrated from India in the mid-90s.
For Patel, who will graduate in December with a degree in biology from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, education means more than a diploma. It means she will be the first in her family to graduate from college.
Moving to McMinnville, Tennessee, in 2008, when Patel was nine years old, her parents now own convenience stores and buy homes to flip and resell. With those businesses on their plate, they “work endless hours,” said Patel, an Innovations in Honors student in the UTC Honors College.
Their hard work motivated her during her four years at UTC, “but I do worry and stress that, being the first, I might mess up and make mistakes,” said Patel, who talks with a level of self-assurance and confidence that counters her worries that she might “mess up.”
Along with knowing that college was part of her future, Patel knew a career in medicine was part of it, too.
“Ever since I was little, I always felt like medicine was my calling, my passion,” she said. “Going to med school is what best suits me.”
Her parents have supported her decision, although they wanted to make sure she understood what she was getting into.
“They were, ‘Are you sure you want to go to school for eight years? It’s a lot of stress. Can you just get a degree in something else and work normal hours?’”
Once she made it clear that medicine was her path, they stood firmly behind her decision.
“Most people have the stereotype that Indian parents want their kids to be doctors and almost groom them to become that,” she said. “However, my parents were not like that. They wanted us to choose a path we would be most successful in ourselves.”
Her goal now is to be an internist, which she said is “like you play detective.”
“A patient comes in and they can have a problem from neurology-based all the way to gastroenterology-based. You have to kind of figure it out.”
At this point, she’s not sure which med school to attend but she’s sure of her next step.
“I’m just going to apply this spring,” she said, “and then see wherever I get accepted.”
Celebrating First Gen Week: November 7-12
Now in its fourth year, First Gen Week has daily events from Monday, Nov. 7, to Saturday, Nov. 12, including:
- Monday: First Gen Week Kickoff, 3-5 p.m., top of Cardiac Hill
- Tuesday (National First Gen Day): “I Belong” Breakfast with Gary W. Rollins College of Business, 9-11 a.m., Fletcher Hall
- Tuesday: Outdoor Movie Night with SaFE, 7 p.m., Chamberlain Field
- Wednesday: First Gen is Sweet, 3-5 p.m., Barr Building
- Thursday: Tri-Alpha Tabling, 1-3 p.m., top of Cardiac Hill
- Thursday: Workplace Perspectives Panel, 5:30 p.m., University Center Tennessee Room
- Friday: First Gen Professional Networking, 6 p.m., Guerry Center
- Saturday: UC After Dark, 8-11 p.m., University Center
Click here for the complete First Gen Week schedule of events.