An Unlikely 'Rebel'

November 10, 2015
Brenda Her in a lab

Don't be misled by Brenda Her's kind demeanor and petite stature. The second-year medical student, Dean's Scholar, and Tae Kwon Do green belt is a force to reckon with.

The oldest of 11 children in a traditional Hmong family, Her says she was raised under a different set of expectations than her brothers were.

"Hmong culture is patriarchal: women are expected to cook, clean, and care for the children," she says. "But I realized that my strength was doing well in school." That not only fired her intellectually but also served as a refuge from domestic responsibilities.

Her's parents nudged her toward becoming a nurse, but it was an organic chemistry class that really got her thinking about medical school.

"And it was a little bit of a rebellion," she adds with a smile.

A sense of belonging

Her has found a home at the U of M and in the Twin Cites, she says. "I love how diverse it is; I love learning about different cultures. I especially like working with people from underserved communities."

Proud of her Hmong heritage, Her hopes to set an example for other Hmong youth, including her younger sisters, inspiring girls to achieve and showing them the importance of preserving their culture in the 21st century.

"I want to help build a bridge between the younger generation and the older generation. I love hearing my grandparents' and my parents' stories. They have a lot to teach us, like how to work hard in life, how to take advantage of every opportunity."