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Salutatorian: Allison Marie Martinez

Allison Marie Martinez

Photo by Irene Fertik

Allison Marie Martinez has always preferred the sciences to subjects like history and English.

“I like the exactness, I guess,” said Martinez, 21. “I’m a little bit of a perfectionist.”

That’s an understatement.

Martinez, who is about to graduate from the Department of Nursing Program with a 4.0 grade point average, is co-salutatorian of the 1999 USC graduating class and co-valedictorian of the nursing graduating class.

As co-salutatorian, Martinez will sit on the stage during the May 14 commencement ceremonies with USC President Steven B. Sample and other dignitaries. As co-valedictorian of her nursing class, she will give a speech at the separate nursing commencement ceremonies later that day.

“I was never expecting to be co-salutatorian for the entire university, so it was really exciting,” Martinez said. “It was a huge honor.”

On a recent weekday afternoon, Martinez apologized if she appeared tired after pulling the 12-hour night shift at Huntington Memorial Hospital as part of her clinical training. But if she was tired, she hid it well.

During a 45-minute conversation, Martinez was articulate, animated and humorous, talking about her work and plans with a confidence, clarity and vision that belie her age.

Her interest in science began early, she said, fueled by her father’s work as a pharmacist.

“I’ve always been drawn to the health professions,” she said.

By junior high school, Martinez knew she would work in some health-related field. By her junior or senior year at Arcadia High School, she knew she would go into nursing.

After graduating on May 14 – and after passing her state board exams – Martinez expects to start out as a floor nurse, working in all areas of a hospital except the emergency room, intensive care unit or psychiatric ward.

Then, Martinez wants to work as a critical care nurse in an intensive care unit or emergency room.

She likes the challenges those jobs present, and working in an emergency room would expose her to a wide variety of patients, illnesses and injuries, she said.

Martinez said she plans to apply to four hospitals – Huntington, Methodist, City of Hope and USC University Hospital.

After working as a nurse for a couple of years, she wants to go back to graduate school and study to become a nurse practitioner, Martinez said.

“I know I need to do that pretty soon because if I put it off I’ll never go back to school,” she said.

As a nurse practitioner, she will be able to do about 80 percent of the tasks of a primary care physician, Martinez said, including prescribing medication and performing some medical procedures.

Martinez said she has thought about becoming a physician but doesn’t want to spend several years more in school and wants to have time to devote to raising a family some day.

“I’m not ruling it out completely, but right now I do not see medical school in my future,” she said.

One of her greatest strengths as a nurse is her thoroughness, Martinez said.

“I really like to do a lot of the procedural parts, like starting IVs and giving shots – all the stuff patients love!” Martinez said, laughing. (Her future patients can take heart in that she prefers the “dart” technique of administering injections rather than the slower, more painful insertion.)

Her other top strength, she said, is her compassion for her patients. The best part of the profession is when a patient appreciates what she is trying to do, Martinez said.

Her nursing curriculum required her to follow a patient through the operation room procedure. Martinez’s patient was having a knee artery bypass performed.

“He was so thankful for my company,” Martinez recalls, smiling. “That’s when it’s all worth it – and if you can save a life, that’s a bonus too.”

While Martinez has worked hard to excel as a nursing student, her studies have not smothered other aspects of her life.

She has found time to play centerfield on a USC softball club team, traveling to places such as Santa Barbara, Ventura and Palm Springs for tournaments.

She also enjoys a host of other outdoor activities including surfing, hiking, camping and skiing, as well as church activities.

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