From elite gymnastics to medical school: Sabrina Vega sets the bar high
September 18, 2023
By Dayne Hopkins
“There was no question. The minute I got the acceptance here, I knew I was coming to Ann Arbor”. Those were the words of Sabrina Vega back in August 2021 when she started her master’s program in molecular and integrative physiology at the University of Michigan. Vega came to the university after completing a bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in public health from the University of Georgia, hoping to one day go to medical school.
She grew up in Carmel, New York, about an hour and a half outside of “The Big Apple” and at the age of four, began taking gymnastics classes. With a dream to become an Olympian, she would spend the next eight years training as a gymnast, and entering sixth grade, would move to homeschool to allow for a schedule that fit her training and competitive goals.
Over the next decade, through hard work, focus, and determination, Vega would find herself traveling all over the world competing as an elite gymnast. She held a spot on the USA national team for 5 years and helped the team win a world championship in 2011. After taking part in the 2012 Olympic trials shortly after, Vega fell victim to a few injuries and decided to leave elite gymnastics in pursuit of her academic career.
After applying to a few colleges and being offered a handful of scholarships, she chose to become a Bulldog at UGA because of their legacy of NCAA athletics and an academic environment that would be a stepping stone to becoming a doctor. Vega still competed and was a 5x All-American, but was able to focus more on enjoying gymnastics instead of it seeming like a job. Following graduation, she began applying to master’s programs and would eventually end up at the University of Michigan.
After grad school, she spent a year working at Michigan Medicine as a patient care technician where she gained valuable experience that would add to her academic resume, and would later seek out an opportunity that could bridge the gap between gymnastics and medicine to satisfy her desire to give back to that community. That’s when she stumbled upon an article featuring Steven Broglio, Director of the Concussion Center, that focused on the rate of concussions in gymnasts.
Vega sent out a few cold emails to the Concussion Center and eventually found the opportunity she was looking for. In the summer of 2023, she began working with the Concussion Center doing research related to concussions in gymnasts, while also helping out with concussion baseline testing offered through the center.
Vega is currently applying to medical schools and hopes to start that journey in 2024. She currently resides in the Ann Arbor area with her dog, Loki, and can’t wait for the fall weather so she can break out the cozy sweaters and watch the vibrant colors of Michigan. She hopes to inspire future student-athletes to explore the STEM field, as many shy away from the sciences because of the added difficulty in that space, especially when focusing on athletics.