Originally published in the Cal Sports Quarterly Magazine
By Tim Miguel - Cal Athletic Communications
If you look at Nicole Beck’s fifth grade yearbook, you’ll see the word “neurosurgeon” written under what she wanted to be when she grew up.
A sophomore on the California lacrosse team, Beck has been motivated to enter the medical field since she was a child. Her desire was fueled even more after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when Beck was in high school. Beck’s fascination with how doctors successfully treat people combined with her mother’s experience was all the inspiration she needed.
“I was always intrigued by doctors and how their work could actually save lives,” Beck said. “That was always so surreal to me - that a team of people could put their skills together and save the life of someone else - it is just so powerful. Then when I was in high school, my mother got sick with breast cancer. I remember her going to the doctor’s office every week and having multiple surgeries. This experience made me realize what a strong purpose in life that doctors have. They get up every day and make such a difference.”
Beck decided she wanted to major in integrative biology after spending her high school senior project shadowing her mother’s reconstructive surgeon Dr. Brian Buinewicz. Then last summer after her freshman year at Cal, she researched pediatric lung transplants at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. A native of Horsham in eastern Pennsylvania, Beck also worked with an oral and maxillofacial surgeon – Dr. Russel Bleiler – studying treatment of issues related to the head, face, jaws and mouth. The undertaking convinced her that she should pursue dental school in the hopes of becoming an oral surgeon.
Beck credits both doctors she worked with for inspiring her.
“I really have to thank both of them for being such wonderful role models and mentoring me as a young student trying to figure out what path to take,” Beck said. “They both have been instrumental in guiding and encouraging me.”
Lacrosse head coach Ginger Miles has seen Beck flourish in just one year with the program. She’s aware of Beck’s academic and athletic demands, and she been impressed with how well Beck manages everything.
“It’s certainly not easy being a student-athlete at Cal, but Nicole is proving that not only can you do both, but you can do both incredibly well,” Miles said. “She hasn’t let the academic challenges dissuade her from her high career aspirations and continues to push herself academically. Nicole is a testament to what one can achieve and gain from the academic opportunities at Cal.”
Beck admits it is very challenging and demanding juggling academics and athletics at Cal, but she gets plenty of help from teammates - particularly Brynn Gasparino, Michele DeVincent and Lizz Lavie – who motivate and push her to succeed.
While she considers the decision to attend Cal and join the lacrosse team the best choice she’s made in her life, following her lofty goals beyond Cal may be the best decision she could make for others.