Mom’s Rare Condition Spurs SRA Scholar to Career in Medical Research

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DAVIS (KPIX) — Steven Palomares is smart — wicked smart. The UC Davis senior is majoring in global disease biology with a minor in quantitative biology and bioinformatics.

So it’s no surprise Palomares spent the summer interning at Genentech. His passion for science is deeply personal with his own mother’s health being his primary motivation.

“My mom has a family history of this condition called arterial venous malformations,” Palomares explained. “So those are essentially abnormal blood vessels that are found in the brain or in the spine.”

Left untreated, the condition is life-threatening. Palomares has it too. His body’s blood vessels form abnormal configurations that can disrupt blood flow from the heart to the brain.

Palomares had surgery for the condition and he says that — aside from occasional migraines — his health is good now. But his mom suffered two strokes and almost died. All of this was happening right around Palomares’ 16th birthday.

“Fortunately the surgeons at a Highland hospital here in Oakland were able to save her life,” Palomares said. “She’s still with me and my family today. She is disabled. She’s wheelchair-bound and she’s paralyzed from her right side. It was definitely a tough time … we didn’t know if she was going to make it or not.”

Palomares’ mother did survive but her illness had a deep economic impact on the family. Palomares’ parents — both immigrants — had worked hard to build up a family restaurant business. His father came to the U.S. as a teenager from Mexico; his mother left Laos with her family when she was a child. They met in the Bay Area and started a family. The restaurant came later but medical expenses for Palomares’ mom added up and the family was forced to sell the restaurant to pay bills.

Then Palomares’ father became his wife’s caretaker.

“Me and my family we had to sell the cafe so that we could make up the costs and my dad ended up being a caretaker for my mom,” explained Palomares. “It was definitely a transition for us and it was quite tough.”

Through it all the family remained close. They cheered Palomares on as he graduated high school and then headed to college. He’s now starting his senior year at UC Davis and he’s planning on a job in research after graduation. One area of interest he wants to pursue is, intriguingly, mosquitos.

“I’m interested in malaria and other mosquito-borne illnesses,” Palomares said.

Another worthy pursuit for this natural-born scientist in a post-covid world.

“It’s all part of … adapting to this ever-changing world,” Palomares said. “Technology advances and as such we can only adapt.”


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Arteriovenous Malformation

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