AAMC President speaks to students
AAMC President speaks to students

This story first appeared in “Making the Rounds with Founding Dean Dr. Barbara Atkinson,” April 30, 2019.

As Dr. Darrell Kirch, President and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges, spoke to UNLV School of Medicine students recently about physician burnout, the high stress of academia, and his own burnout during medical school, Danielle Arceo listened intently.

His anxiety and depression during his first year of medical school, Dr. Kirch said, were on the verge of derailing his career aspirations. His fear of being judged negatively and the stigma associated with depression kept him from seeking help.

Fortunately, he said, an empathetic administrator steered him to the treatment he needed and he’s gone on to enjoy a remarkable and long career.

“Don’t suffer in silence,” Dr. Kirch said.

Arceo, a first-year medical student who’s seriously thinking about psychiatry as her medical specialty (she’s also considering pediatrics), was impressed by Dr. Kirch’s presentation.

“The thing I appreciated most from Dr. Kirch was his discussion on mental health. Even though culture as a whole is normalizing (struggles with) mental health, I believe there’s still a lot of stigma within the medical field about seeking help for things like depression and anxiety. The medical field harbors a lot of strong independent people. Who wants to admit that they’re burned out and struggling with the stressors their career choice involves? Having Dr. Kirch, a man who’s had an obviously successful medical career…share his story of his struggles with depression is basically the same as telling everyone, ‘Hey, it’s OK to be human.’ I’m human, and I’ve struggled with depression — and it’s neat to see someone in leadership share that they’ve gone through a similar experience, too.”

The more you talk with this 23-year-old woman, one of Cleto and Sheila Arceo’s seven children, the more you want to know about her. And the more you come to appreciate yet again the remarkable caliber of student enrolled in Southern Nevada’s only allopathic medical school — articulate, conscientious, insightful, caring, compassionate, industrious, knowledgeable.

Just what you want in a doctor.

A Las Vegas native who graduated from Pensacola Christian College in Florida, Arceo was homeschooled in the same three-bedroom house that her family still lives in. “All of us siblings were close both literally and figuratively,” she laughs. Arceo says her stay-at-home mother worked outside the home as an engineer for the U.S. Department of Energy for six years prior to having a big family. She believed homeschooling would be best after realizing a college classmate who had been homeschooled was able to engage in conversation with the professor more than any of her peers. She also says her parents (Arceo’s father is a NV Energy Sr. Systems Protection Administrator) wanted to homeschool their children so they could teach a worldview consistent with the Christian faith.

Arceo, a full scholarship student who now lives in an apartment close to campus, says that until sixth grade, her mother largely directed her education with the help of a homeschool curriculum first used nationwide in 1972. After that, she used the lesson plans herself. In 10th and 11th grade, she d took biology and chemistry courses available online through the homeschool curriculum.

“The family physician I shadowed has been an incredible mentor and encourager to me — from MCAT to interview advice, to life advice about reaching out for help when I need it. He’s been a great example of what a good doctor embodies.”

Photo: Dr. Darrell Kirch, President and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges, and Dr. Barbara Atkinson, Founding Dean of UNLV School of Medicine. Courtesy of UNLV School of Medicine

Back to All