Cecile Vazquez story 700x550

KGI Student Cecile Maria Vazquez Advocates the Healing Powers of Nutrition and Fitness

For Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) student Cecile Maria Vazquez, PPC ’21, MS ’22, her passions for health, fitness, and giving back to the community go hand-in-hand. The daughter of Mexican immigrants and a first-generation college graduate, she competed in soccer while attending college and in powerlifting for state finals.

As an undergraduate biology major at Cal State LA (CSULA), Vazquez met Elba Muñoz, who is now Assistant Director of KGI’s Postbaccalaureate Premedical Certificate (PPC) program. At the time, Muñoz was Vazquez’s health professions advisor.

Vazquez belonged to Chicano Latinos for Community Medicine, an organization that brought physicians and dietitians to speak about their career paths and mentored younger students. In 2012, Muñoz approached Vazquez to participate in a panel for high school students.

“Cecile not only came through, but she brought with her a group of her peers to join her in speaking to high school students about their college experiences and served as great role models,” Muñoz said. “The talk was a huge success, and it was noted as a favorite segment from all the speaker series. It was in this very moment I noticed her amazing leadership attributes and what a great mentor she is for our community.”

After graduating from CSULA, Vazquez took a break from school and immersed herself in volunteering and clinical experience. For the past five and a half years, she has performed research for Keck Medicine of USC for studies such as “The Imagine HEALTH (Healthy Eating Active Living Total Health) Study: Guided Imagery Lifestyle Intervention to Promote Health and Prevent Diabetes in Youth.”

Additionally, Vazquez earned Phlebotomy and Medical Assistant certifications and participated in volunteer initiatives such as Healing Hearts Across Borders, providing medical services in Tijuana.

Now as a student in KGI’s PPC program, Vazquez has enjoyed reconnecting with Muñoz.

“Coming back to school after five years, it feels amazing to have her as my mentor once again,” Vazquez said.

Vazquez also considers KGI Arnold and Mabel Beckman Professor Angelika Niemz to be a significant influence. In the class Medical Diagnostics, she participated in a group project to develop a medical device geared toward patients with COVID-19.

“I never imagined myself participating in such a big project, and it seemed real—like we were going to present this device to the FDA,” Vazquez said.

“I enjoyed being exposed to the behind-the-scenes aspect, from developing the device itself to doing research and asking the public questions in regards to what type of testing they would feel more comfortable with.”

Vazquez has remained active in the community, providing workshops to high school students with Claremont-based organization Uncommon Good, helping them develop short-term and long-term goals. She also educates teens and parents on nutrition, teaching them to read food labels and encourages them to replace unhealthy snacks with natural serotonin and dopamine.

The students who attend the workshops are not traditional students, and Vazquez recently shared her personal story, telling them that it is okay to take time off and ask for help.

“Sharing that made me realize that everything I’ve been doing is for a purpose, and whatever I’ve learned I can pass on to the next generation,” Vazquez said. “I wasn’t aware of my resources at that age, but I want to make sure that these students know where they can reach out for guidance.”

For her second year at KGI, Vazquez will continue to the Master of Science in Applied Life Sciences (MS) program and plans on pursuing the Team Masters Project concentration.

She aspires to become a pediatrician to focus on youth health as well as a motivational speaker. Additionally, she plans to open a small gym that will offer personalized nutrition plans alongside her private practice.

Vazquez hopes to coordinate with patients from her medical practice to get them on a plan at the gym, as she has seen firsthand how effective this strategy is. Vazquez has helped her mother get off her diabetes medication by staying consistent with her nutrition and exercise.

“Cecile has been inspiring her peers to eat healthier and exercise!” Muñoz said. “I am excited to see where she will be attending medical school in the future! I couldn’t be prouder of my fellow Golden Eagle!”