Essay by Aria Champiri

Aria Champiri won the $600 Diana Mossip Scholarship for 2023.

When I was six months young, I was diagnosed with Dandy-Walker malformation (DWM). This condition consists of a buildup of fluid in the cerebellum area of the brain and can cause deformity, decreased IQ, paralysis, and even premature death. When my parents first heard the diagnosis, they were terrified. The doctor said even the slightest head trauma could harm me in a major way (could cause the fluid sac to burst, enlarge, etc). Fortunately, I didn’t have any life-threatening symptoms, however, there are people with DWM who suffer from severe disabilities. On February 11th, 2013, my life took another turn, for the worst. My father had mentioned how he felt some discomfort in his left arm earlier that day, but his job was physically demanding and my mother thought it was just a common occurrence of soreness. Unfortunately, my father passed away due to heart disease. He had a heart attack across the room from me that night. The combination of this tragic loss and living with DWM sparked my interest in the sciences; mainly chemistry, biology, and anatomy. In high school, I participated in the Biology Club, took career-oriented courses with the Coastline Regional Occupational Program, and read daily about breakthroughs in medicine, particularly, neuroscience. I also enjoy watching medical conferences. My interest was solidified when I shadowed Dr. Jafar Mehvari, a neurosurgeon in my hometown of Esfahan, Iran. I observed an extended bifrontal craniotomy procedure to remove a meningioma, while the patient was awake! I was awestruck by Dr. Mehvari’s focus, determination, and precise movements needed to remove the tumor. I saw how the topics that inspire me came together to save a life. Even if I did not have DWM, I would still be interested in science. Yet, the marvel of living with little-to-no symptoms makes the academic topics much more personal and intriguing; it feels natural to empathize with patients, motivating me to pursue a career in the medical field. In my first year at Irvine Valley College, I am taking advantage of the opportunities around me. I co-founded the Neuro Alliance club for which I am the Vice President. Our club consists of weekly sessions in which we talk about our passions (namely neuroscience!) along with organizing events such as toy drives, research, and volunteering opportunities related to the medical field in our area. I also volunteer through California’s College Corps program at Hicks Canyon elementary school working with primary grade children from kindergarten to 3rd grade, planning to volunteer over 450 hours throughout the school year. As a permanent member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society, I am leading the marketing team for this year’s college project, in which our team promotes PTK events throughout our campus using a variety of methods such as flyers, advertisements, and announcements. Academically, I’m maintaining a 4.0 GPA in courses like General Chemistry, Biology, and Calculus with over 24 semester units completed at my college and 26.5 AP exam units from AP courses taken in my high school. Despite dealing with the loss of a parent, disease, immigrating to the other side of the world, and leaving everything behind, I’ll continue to work hard and achieve my dream of becoming a Pediatrician.


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