Cancer. The word itself strikes fear in our hearts. Most of us know someone who has been affected by this insidious disease, and Baylor College of Medicine student Victor Albornoz Alvarez is no exception. But what makes Victor stand out is his quest to save his brother, Hugo, from osteosarcoma – the most common primary bone tumor in adolescents and young adults.
Victor has been around physicians and nurses nearly his whole life. At three years of age, a mudslide destroyed his home in Venezuela. A helicopter had to fly his family to a nearby city, where the constant background movement of doctors and nurses piqued his curiosity and etched itself into his memory. While living in Venezuela, Victor’s brother, Hugo, fought his first battle against cancer and achieved complete remission.
This experience would ultimately shape Victor’s future. “I just love the idea of being the hero because you want to help other people, and the more you can do, the better,” he said. His life mission became learning everything he could about head and neck cancers like osteosarcoma and helping other aspiring medical scientists like him gain access to the world’s leading experts.
Victor and his family later moved to the United States. There, he earned his degree in Biomedical Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin, where he learned about the incredible advancements pioneered by Baylor College of Medicine. Baylor became his first choice for medical school, and he was accepted in 2018.
Victor's acceptance into medical school was a happy occasion, but around this time, he noticed that the right side of his brother's face had become swollen. At first, two of Hugo’s biopsies came back inconclusive, but Victor knew that something was deeply wrong. His instincts were right – his brother's cancer was back.