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TSK Scholarship Student - Amalie Alver

Date: Jun 01, 2022

Author: Kristina White, Marketing Specilaist, TSK Henderson

Staying home from school when they are not feeling well is a given for most kids. But staying home with a sick child simply was not an option for Amalie Alver’s immigrant cab driver father. Recently divorced and with sole custody of his children, he was the sole income earner for his family of five. Instead, he would take them to Sniffles and Sneezes. It was a program at their local hospital where parents in similar situations could drop off their sick children for the day. This early exposure to kind doctors and nurses, and her younger sister’s childhood bout with meningitis prompted an interest in medicine. But what sealed the deal for her was an influential high school biology teacher.

Amalie was in the gifted program through elementary school and middle school, but struggled in the first year of high school. When she walked into Mr. Galvas’ 10th grade biology class, little did she know that the trajectory of her life would change. It started with an essay about what culture meant to her. She wrote about the European origin of her family, and the music and art that came with that (Amalie is also a gifted singer and piano player). When Mr. Galvas called her to the front of the room, she was unsure what to expect. She was asked to kneel, and was knighted with a yard stick. The rest of her classmates were informed that her essay was the gold standard they all should strive to. Thus began a mentoring relationship that would cement a love for science and medicine which started so many years before.

For Amalie, the road to and through medical school would be anything but easy or straight. The moment of walking across the stage to become Dr. Alver would be the culmination of 15 years, multiple moves, rejections, waitlists, and a global pandemic.

Her higher education journey began in 2007 at the University of Washington in Seattle. Balancing working full time at a local restaurant and studying was not something that came easily to her. Consequently she failed out of physics and chemistry in her first semester, two classes that were prerequisites for the biology and pre-med classes she needed. So as she waited for a spot to open to retake these popular classes, she focused on learning to study while balancing work. Most of Amalie’s school costs were covered by grants and small student loans, but she had to work to pay her living expenses, which a lot of her pre-med classmates did not have to worry about. Amalie shared a small studio apartment with two other people, which made studying an even bigger challenge. But, she pushed through and graduated in 2012 with her Bachelor of Science in Biology and Bachelor of Arts in Swedish, with a Minor in Chemistry. 

Next would be medical school, right? Unfortunately, she wasn’t accepted into any of the schools that she applied to and she realized that her best course of action would be apply to a graduate program to earn her Master’s degree. She was accepted into a prestigious (and notoriously expensive) program at Boston University. Now she had the added hurdle of a very long commute. It would require two buses and a subway from where she could find affordable housing to the university. Not one to back away from a challenge, she realized she could get a lot of studying done while commuting on public transportation.

After graduating with her Masters in Medical Science from Boston University in 2016, Amalie moved to Las Vegas to be closer to her now husband, Felipe. She had been a bartender through her undergraduate years, so she was able to easily find a job at a Wolfgang Puck restaurant. It was her time as a bartender that she credits with what she believes will be a good bedside manner. Dealing with the public gave her the experience and empathy that she knew she would need in her career.

After years of applying for medical school (including multiple times during her time at Boston University) and experiencing the heartbreak of rejection and the purgatory of many waitlists, in 2017 she was accepted into six medical schools including UNLV. UNLV’s medical program was still in its infancy and if she accepted, she would be only the second graduating class. She went through a lot of soul searching trying to decide where to go. But a surprise she received the week before the deadline for making her decision put all of that soul searching to rest. While taking out the trash and checking her email (always a multi-tasker), she opened a message that would change her life. Amalie was informed that she had been chosen, based on need and merit, for a full ride scholarship provided by TSK Architects and Whiting-Turner. She said it is a moment she will never forget, and one that she initially had a hard time believing was even real.

When I asked her what the scholarship meant to her, she told me it meant she would graduate with a lot less debt than most of her colleagues, and that she would be able to help her father financially much sooner than she expected. You see, at age 76 her father is still driving a cab and doesn’t have any form of retirement. He was also diagnosed with prostate cancer two years ago, so being able to help him means everything to Amalie. In addition to that, the scholarship helped give her back some of the confidence she had lost during the years of rejections and waitlists. She told me it made her realize that everything happens when it is meant to, and the UNLV School of Medicine is where she was meant to be.

While getting into medical school was a long and trying journey, medical school itself would prove to be equally difficult. During the last few years of school, her class had to deal with a little something we now know as the global COVID-19 pandemic. One of the most crucial points of medical school is the rotations through different fields of medicine, something that could not be done during the height of the pandemic. Yet, despite this enormous setback, and all the struggles that Amalie had faced to get there, she did not give up, and still graduated on time. Not only on time, but with flying colors. She was inducted in to the AOA Honor Medical Society, one of the most prestigious recognitions a physician can receive.

On Friday May 6th at Thomas and Mack Center, I had the privilege of watching this amazing woman walk across the stage to become Dr. Alver. During the ceremony each graduate is hooded by a person of their choosing. Much of the time that person is a doctor in the family. But with Amalie being the first person in her family to graduate from college, let alone medical school, who did she choose? Her little sister, who is now a 3rd year medical student herself. Needless to say, I think their very proud father would tell you that all of his struggles have been paying off in spades!

Amalie, we at TSK are so proud of you and honored to have been a part of your story. We cannot wait to see where your career takes you, and we know if we ever need to head to the emergency room, we will be in good hands! Congratulations Dr. Alver!

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