Psychiatry calls to chess champion Nelly Estrada

By Erica Molina Johnson / El Paso Times

Posted: 07/05/2009 12:00:00 AM MDT

The patience, foresight and decisiveness that helped Nelly Estrada become a champion chess player promise to help her succeed in medical school and launch a career in psychiatry.

“I have always been fascinated about the way the mind works,” said Estrada, 21. “Because I’m a chess player, I like to think about what is happening in our brains, why we think the way we think, why we express the way we express ourselves.”

She said psychiatry allows that exploration along with consideration of societal factors, not simply biological phenomena.

Estrada, who was born in El Paso and raised in Juárez, recently graduated from the University of Texas at Brownsville with a bachelor’s degree in biology. She attended the school on a chess scholarship.

Her dad taught Estrada how to play chess when she was only 10. She went on to win five Mexican national chess championships and one in the United States.

“(Chess) made me a better decision maker, so I think I can use that to be a better physician. And chess has taught me self-discipline and that you have to work to achieve your goals,” she said. “I can use that in every aspect of my life.”

In addition to focusing on chess and her studies, Estrada also took steps in Brownsville to prepare for medical school and a career in medicine by working in a pediatrician’s office.

“I was doing everything. I worked as a receptionist, as a medical assistant. I was taking vital signs and giving vaccines, drawing blood out and doing influenza tests,” she said. “It’s going to help me because I’m going to be less nervous because I’ve done it already.”

Estrada hopes to remain in El Paso to practice medicine.


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