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Public Health Student to Receive CSU Trustees’ Award and $7,000 Scholarship

Student Nathalie Zamora, in a denim shirt and yellow tee, smiles in a portrait on campus.
Written By Jay Thompson

A Cal Poly public health senior with a concentration in culture and society in health who plans to become a medical doctor has received a 2022 California State University Trustees’ Scholar Award for Outstanding Achievement.
The Outstanding Achievement Awards are presented annually to one student from each of the CSU system’s 23 campuses. Like her counterparts throughout the state, Nathalie Zamora of Monterey Park, Calif., was selected for superior academic performance, personal accomplishments, community service and financial need.
The 21-year-old will receive a $7,000 scholarship as one of the state’s William Randolph Hearst Scholars. She and the other awardees will be publicly recognized during the CSU Board of Trustees meeting in Long Beach on Tuesday, Sept. 13.
“It is a great honor to be even nominated, as well as humbling. I could not be here without my support systems here at Cal Poly and back home in L.A.,” Zamora said. “The work I do at Cal Poly has allowed me to uplift myself by uplifting my community; the effort I put in stems from their encouragement. My community and my support system have created a safe space for me to grow and learn.
“My goal is to become a medical professional, particularly a practicing physician. I am leaning toward going into the field of either family medicine or pediatrics. I also really enjoy helping with research, so I have been recently thinking about getting a M.D.-Ph.D. degree.”
A 2019 graduate of Alhambra’s Mark Keppel High School, Zamora was attracted to Cal Poly’s Public Health program. “I really wanted something well-rounded that still would benefit me in the long run,” she said. “Public health seemed to encompass what I was looking for: One learns about health and also the biological and social factors that play into an outcome.”
A first-generation university student who is Latinx, Zamora said that her parents, while supportive and proud of her dream of becoming a physician, were unable to assist with critical medical school applications or with helping her find internships or consulting on the next move is in her academic career.
Cal Poly helped to “open my eyes about what is possible,” she said. “Most of my close peers have provided this support. I’ve been able at Cal Poly to make connections with professors, staff and even students who have this knowledge and can help me achieve my dreams.”
During orientation in September of 2019, Zamora participated in the Cross Cultural Experience WOW option, which helps underrepresented students become more connected to peers, celebrating diversity while cultivating a community as they transition to university life on the Central Coast. That led her to the Poly Pipeline Mentorship Program that connects first-year students with upper-class student leaders for individual and group mentoring.
With her experience from those groups, in her sophomore year, 2020-21, Zamora served as an intern for Student Diversity and Belonging. There she worked to “bring inclusion, support and assistance in creating bonds within students.” That year, she was selected as a Poly Pipeline mentor and became active in Public Health Club while following her pre-med study track.
“I have always been shy and anxious,” she said. “There is much more diversity where I came from in L.A., and the rising Salvadorian population made it easier to have social support and understanding there without really having to put myself out there. In San Luis Obispo, it’s not as easy.”
She found her community at Cal Poly. “I am so grateful,” she said, “to the friends and professors I have met here who have helped me have conversations surrounding the meaning of Latinidad, diversity, accountability, having privileges even as a minority, and other topics that are important to me as a person of color. It has developed the way I think about communities and the positive impact these conversations have — even pertaining to health.”
In addition to her advocacy for students of color, she was excited by the opportunity to conduct student research in 2022 during her junior year.
In January, she became a research assistant for Assistant Professor of Public Health Marilyn Tseng, investigating the nature of Latina enclaves and their relation to low susceptibly of breast cancer. Under the California Breast Cancer Research Program, Tseng’s study aims to bring new data about breast cancer while collaborating with community-based organizations to more fully understand low cancer rates in Latinas.
In July, Zamora was selected as a Frost Research Fellow assisting Suzanne Phelan, a kinesiology professor whose principal research interest is in the behavioral treatment of obesity and methods to promote weight control in the time surrounding pregnancy.
“As a part of the Frost program, I was able to work for both the Healthy Mamas program and Cal Poly Center for Health Research’s Women’s Mobile Health Unit,” Zamora said. “The Healthy Mamas Research Study is investigating how successful a weight maintenance intervention is among pregnant women who are obese before pregnancy.
“I was able to build on my professional development working in office setting. I contributed to food provision logistics and conducted anthropometric measures, urine analysis and ultrasound visits to study the health of women and their babies. The CHR Mobile Health Unit provides free health care to uninsured women in the Northern Santa Barbara County.”
Through these research contributions, Zamora hopes to “gain knowledge about what it means to help the community and think about the bigger picture in terms of the health of a population, which as a future doctor would enable me to treat patients compassionately, correctly and with a deeper understanding.”
The CSU Trustees' Award is the university system’s highest recognition of student achievement. Each award provides a donor-funded scholarship to students who demonstrate superior academic performance, personal accomplishments, community service and inspirational goals for the future. The awardees have demonstrated a deep commitment to making a positive impact on their generation, as well as those who come after them.
“These 23 remarkable scholars wonderfully exemplify the ideals of the California State University,” said CSU Interim Chancellor Jolene Koester. “Their inspirational stories are connected by a common thread of intelligence, perseverance, resilience and the transformative power of higher education. Our communities, state and nation — indeed, our world — will long reap the benefits of their academic, professional and personal achievement.”
More than 420 students have been honored with the Trustees' Award since the scholarship program was established in 1984 by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation. In 1999, the Hearst Foundation partnered with the CSU Board of Trustees to supplement the endowment with contributions from CSU Trustees, CSU Foundation board members and private donors. The 23 scholarships awarded this year will total more than $180,000 in scholarship funds. Each student scholarship bears the name of a donor.