Castañeda fulfilling a long-time dream with medical school

The idea of becoming a physician was planted in Eduardo Castañeda at 7 years old through interaction with his mother’s cardiologist. He took it upon himself to show Castañeda around the hospital including the intensive care unit and an unoccupied operating room.

“This small interaction was enough to fuel my interest in medicine for the years to come. Being an immigrant from poverty, seldom does anyone take an interest in making an impact in the lives of people like me,” Castañeda said. “I was fortunate to have life changing people that guided me and mentored me from a very young age.”

Castañeda grew up in Guatemala and moved to North Carolina with his mother. He attended South Caldwell High School and earned an associate degree from Caldwell Community College in 2010 and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2012. He received a Dream Scholarship for his associate degree and earned a Covenant Scholarship to complete his undergraduate degree at UNC.

He was selected as a Brody Scholar in 2023 and is one of the 85 students in the Brody School of Medicine’s class of 2027.

Castañeda held on to the desire to become a physician, though his career took another direction and he became a high school science teacher. Much like his mother’s cardiologist did for him, Castañeda focused on shaping young minds and planting seeds that allowed students to flourish.

“I am passionate about teaching. I was a high school science teacher at Faith Point Academy in Cary – a school aimed at educating underserved minorities of the Triangle,” he said. “I was a youth leader to the same students. This helped to form a strong bond between teacher and student, as well as mentor and mentee.”

While he worked as a teacher and mentor, Castañeda organized trips for students to visit North Carolina State University, UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University. “It was important to show these young minds the possibility of a future college education. For them to have a vision in their mind of what college looks like,” Castañeda said.

Castañeda, a 2027 Brody Scholar, with his mother following the White Coat Ceremony. (Contributed photo)

He mentored by example and earned a Glaxo Smith Kline scholarship to fund cancer research and complete his master’s degree in biological sciences at North Carolina Central University in 2022.

“Being a Brody Scholar is a commitment to service that embodies the vision of the Brody family and the Brody School of Medicine at ECU,” Castañeda said. “(It’s) a vision that aims to uplift the underserved, be of service to one’s community, and equitable health care for eastern North Carolinians. I resonate with the vision, mission and purpose of this institution.”

Based on his experiences living in Guatemala and serving as a caregiver for his mother, who lives with him in Greenville, Castañeda is interested in family medicine and cardiology.

“There is a tremendous need for bilingual physicians, specifically Spanish-speaking physicians,” he said. “It is predicted that by the year 2050, Latinos will represent 1 of 4 Americans. Yet there are very few Spanish-speaking physicians being trained to meet this strong demand.”

Castañeda hopes to be an active member of the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) and would like to visit local community colleges and become a mentor for underserved minority population in eastern North Carolina. He plans to study abroad trip during his M1-M2 summer in Guatemala to serve the local population of the village he grew up in.

He is interested in being involved in research and wants to learn more about publishing, data analysis and translational medicine (research from lab to potential treatments).

In addition to his medical education, Castañeda enjoys studying philosophy and theology. “Learning about the figure that is Christ through the lens of historians is something that interests me,” he said.

Castañeda is also planting and gardening and grows his own bonsai trees. He said he enjoys taking part in the growth and shape of his trees.