Rachel Russo, a resident in the UC Davis Department of Surgery, has been selected as the 2016 Elks National Foundation Scholarship Programs Alum of the Year for her commitment to community service and inspiring others.
Given annually to a former Elks National Foundation scholarship recipient, the recognition comes with a $500 honoraria that is donated to the charity of the recipient’s choice (Russo selected Paws for Veterans) and the opportunity to serve on the Elks Scholar Advisory Board.
Russo received an Elks Most Valuable Student scholarship in 2001 at the beginning her undergraduate studies at the University of Central Florida. Following graduation, she served as a volunteer teacher and health care provider in rural Peru, returning to the U.S. to coordinate aeromedical evacuations of those injured during Hurricane Katrina. Those experiences inspired her dual interests in becoming a doctor and serving her country, so she joined the U.S. Air Force and enrolled in medical school at the University of Miami.
Currently assigned to David Grant USAF Medical Center, Russo is completing a UC Davis residency in rural and global surgery with the ultimate goal of becoming a trauma and critical care surgeon. She conducts research on ways to improve trauma care, including a study published this year that identifies ways to reduce bleeding, organ damage and hemorrhagic shock following trauma. Her research has been recognized by the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma and the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma.
None of her accomplishments would be possible without that initial vote of confidence from the Elks, according to Russo.
“That first scholarship taught me the importance of thinking less about what I wanted to do for a career and more about what kind of person I wanted to be,” she said. “It is a message that still guides me today."