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Lathrop co-valedictorian wants to follow dads medical footsteps
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LATHROP – Medical school is still four years away for Hargum Kaur Oberai.

But, already, the Lathrop High School co-valedictorian of the Class of 2012 has her heart set on pursuing in college any of the three medical specialties: rheumatology, cardiology, and gastroenterology.

In her case, the old maxim applies – the fruit does not fall far from the tree. Her father, Brijinder Oberai, is a doctor at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Manteca where he has worked for the last seven years.

But the UC Davis-bound Spartan graduate said her decision to becoming a doctor was not because her father is one. Neither was she pressured by her parents into that career direction.

“He inspired me; I want to become a doctor,” the 17-year-old newly minted graduate said of her father’s influence in her career choice.

“Nobody forced me. My dad said I can do whatever I want to do, but I like science too much. I’m interested in specializing, maybe, in rheumatology or cardiology, or maybe, gastroenterology,” she said, adding, she finds each of these specialties “interesting.”

At UC Davis, she plans to major in biology preparatory to going to medical school.

Davis is one of four University of California campuses where she sent college applications. The others were UC Irvine, UC Santa Cruz, and UC San Diego. All sent her letters of acceptance. But before she made her final decision, she went and toured all of the schools.

“I chose (Davis) because I felt like I could spend the next four years there when I was walking on campus. I can be an Aggie (the college mascot). I thought that I could fit in there,” Oberai explained.

She said she sent applications only to colleges in California “because I wanted to be in the state.”

It would also place her closer, geographically speaking, to home and to her close-knit Indian family. Her parents came from Mumbai (Bombay) in India. Oberai was actually born there. She was five years old when the family came to the United States. She has a younger brother, Harsimar, 8, who will be in fourth grade in August at Mossdale Elementary School. Mom, Harvinder, is a homemaker.

“Dad wanted to give me a better life in this country, and since he is a doctor, he came here for better opportunities as well,” Oberai said.

Her parents, she said, have been her role models. “They have always been encouraging with everything I’ve done (in school). They believed that I could do anything,” said Oberai.

But “a lot” of her teachers at Lathrop High School have inspired her as well. In her valedictory speech during the graduation ceremony held in Lathrop High’s stadium, she mentioned the names of some of the teachers who “were willing to help me” even after school. One of them was “Mr. Jeff Baldwin, a math teacher who taught calculus.”

Another teacher whom she found inspiring was Shannon Easter, a science teacher who taught Advance Placement Biology. “I loved her passion for her subject,” Oberai said.

She received two college scholarships – one from Lathrop High’s Go Green Club, and the other from the Jeff Gonzales Memorial Scholarship.

Oberai said graduating as co-valedictorian was not something that she entertained during the earlier years of high school.

“I didn’t try to be valedictorian. I just wanted to do well in school and go to college. But I realized I could be valedictorian at the beginning of my senior year,” said Oberai who will have the whole summer after her high school graduation to pursue her hobbies – reading, drawing, spending time with family, going shopping and taking walks at the park.

At the same time, she is looking forward to flying off the coop and becoming more independent as she gets ready for college.

“I’m excited. I’m looking forward to meeting new people and making friends and becoming more independent,” said Oberai who will be turning 18 in December.