Hello! My name is Leila Milanfar and I’m a proud member of the Baldwin Class of 2020!

I have lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for my entire life, which made the move to Durham, North Carolina quite a big change for me. As I prepare for my first real winter, I just want to express my gratitude to my parents for settling in Menlo Park, where it rarely drops below 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

I have many other things to thank my parents for, of course, one of which is the incredible diversity they bring to my identity. My dad is Iranian and my mom is Mexican and, yes, you should be envious of the rich, mind-blowing foods I’ve been served my entire life. My childhood memories are of my grandma’s kitchen overflowing with the scents of koobideh kebab or chicken tamales. They are of our little house, saturated with family and echoing with bickering and laughter. They are of my Mexican mom arranging the Haft-Seen Sofreh for Persian New Year and my Iranian father helping me with Spanish homework. They are of the two maps we proudly display in our living room, one of Mexico and one of Iran.

Just as they mixed their cultures into my childhood, my parents also mixed and balanced their interests as well. My mom is an English major with a passion for art, and my dad is an electrical engineer working at Google. I grew up building electrical circuits and testing knee reflexes on Saturday mornings, then gaping at the beauty of Nutcracker ballerinas and Legion of Honor artwork in the afternoon. They taught me that there is no difference between artist and scientist; both are simply trying to understand and portray the world that surrounds and permeates humanity.

My personal interests stem from the celebration of differences my family has ingrained in me; I am pursuing an M.D. by completing a two degrees in Evolutionary Anthropology and Theater. In my view, healing encompasses both scientific and abstract ideas. Not only must you, the physician, be able to correctly identify the chemical or biological malfunctions of a human body, but also, you must be able to connect with the human mind attached to that body. Empathy and trustworthiness are powerful tools in medicine and must be developed and honed with just as much enthusiasm as scientific skills.

I am proud to be a part of the Baldwin Scholars because the program allies me with powerful, intelligent, awe-inspiring women with whom I can continue my pursuit of knowledge. During our time at Duke, we will take steps towards better understanding ourselves and each other, and grow into yet another generation of dynamic female professionals.