On Father’s Day 2009, Cameron Price boarded a plane for Washington, D.C., where he went through a day of orientation with the Peace Corps. After that, he flew to South Africa, then hopped on a bus to neighboring Swaziland.
He didn’t know it then, but he had just taken his first big steps toward becoming a physician.
Now one of the 135 students in the Class of 2020, he will be the fourth in his family to pursue a medical degree from the UA College of Medicine – Tucson. His father, Tucson pediatrician Patrick Price, MD, graduated with the Class of 1983. His stepfather, Steven Galper, MD, graduated in 1998 and practices neurology, psychiatry and pain medicine. Cameron’s brother, Colin Price, MD, graduated in 2014 and is in his third year of general surgery residency in Denver.
But back to 2009.
A month before he began serving with the Peace Corps, Cameron received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Northern Arizona University.
“I knew I wanted the opportunity to travel after school, and I was hoping to get out of Arizona for a while,” he recalls. “Nothing against my homeland, I just had immense wanderlust.”
In Swaziland – a kingdom that has the highest estimated prevalence of HIV-infected adults in the world - he worked as a Peace Corps health volunteer, mostly with the Baylor College of Medicine’s International Pediatric AIDS Initiative.
“They were the only pediatricians in the country, and the only pediatricians qualified to work with kids with HIV,” Cameron says. “They started a psycho-social support program, and kids would come together to get their meds and we played games. We tutored them and taught them anything from health-related life skills, to how to use Microsoft Word. It was a good way to get a crash course in global and public health,” Cameron says.
“They call the Peace Corps the toughest job you’ll ever love. But the rewards, when they come through, are pretty spectacular. A couple of the kids I worked with got into the University of South Africa, and one of them, a girl I tutored, now is working as a hydrologist with a Swaziland utility.
“And it was a good way to figure out what I wanted to do with my life,” Cameron says. “It was while I was in Swaziland that I realized I wanted to become a physician.”
But he didn’t rush into it. After three years in Swaziland, Cameron returned to the UA to begin studying for a master’s degree in public health. He was inspired by the stories of students in the MPH program who had worked with his mother, Carol Galper, EdD, former assistant dean for medical student education, on her HIV education grant, and with the CUP (Commitment to Underserved People) and Rural Health Professions Programs.
While studying for his MPH degree, Cameron began working with the Petersen HIV Clinics at Banner – University Medical Center Tucson, through the College of Medicine – Tucson’s Division of Infectious Diseases. After he graduated, he worked with the clinics full-time, as an early intervention specialist, getting patients into care and helping them get stabilized with medications and insurance.
Inspired also by his father’s work as a pediatrician, Cameron wants to become a pediatrician specializing in infectious disease.
“I secretly want to be Sean Elliott,” he says with a grin. “Not the basketball player. The pediatric infectious disease expert.”
“I like kids a lot,” he says. “I really enjoyed the kids and teens I worked with in Swaziland. Kids just want to have fun and get better and be kids. And their bodies, for the most part, want to get better. it’s very rewarding to work with kids and give them something they might not otherwise have.“