18-year-old beats homelessness, leukemia to graduate with bachelor’s in neuroscience

Dollita Okine January 02, 2024
Constance, his mother said on GMA that she observed Salas' intelligence from an early age, which set him apart from her other children. Photo Credit: Dallas Salas/GMA

Dallas Salas has endured several hardships to finish his tertiary studies. The 18-year-old battled leukemia at an early age and experienced homelessness, violence, and crime in the family.

With his Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience from Arizona State University (ASU), he is now one step closer to realizing his dream of becoming a neurosurgeon. 

He told ASU “The reason I am on a path to neurosurgery is due to my family’s medical history. My grandfather died of a tumor, and my aunt had an aneurysm and other neurological complications. Also, my battle with leukemia provided me with a sense of understanding of what it’s like to be a patient. I want to use that as a way to help others.”

He was five years old when he was diagnosed with leukemia. “It was truly a wrenching and heartbreaking experience,” he said to GMA of living through the experiences. “I remember staying up at nights and just crying and just screaming.”

In 2010, his family lost their Scottsdale, Arizona, home due to arson, which Salas told GMA was a traumatic event.

“So I was out in California because we were taking a family trip. And we came home, we actually knew about it, because some neighbors called us and [we] came home, everything was destroyed. And it was pretty intense.”

He was raised by his mother because his father, who is currently incarcerated for “engaging in criminal activity,” was never really there when he was growing up. Salas said he is still in contact with his father, who he stated is scheduled for release in 2026, but he called their relationship “pretty lackluster.”

Salas found out recently that his leukemia had entered remission following the results of a bone marrow biopsy that showed no evidence of the illness.

He attributes his desire to study science and medicine to the agony he felt as a result of his early-stage leukemia diagnosis, as well as some other family medical history.

Salas revealed that Constance, his mother, was “a great motivator, she really inspired me to keep it going.” 

Constance said on GMA that she observed Salas’ intelligence from an early age, which set him apart from her other children. 

“All the time, he outsmarted me each and every time and I’m like, ‘wait a minute, he’s not like the others.’ So I raised him the same way that I raised them, however, with a stronger, more rigorous curriculum for parenting because his brain could take it.”

Salas’s mother expressed her hope that her son will use his skills to assist those in need in addition to his educational achievements.

“He’s always been passionate about the children that end up on the border in the camps. And so I look forward to seeing him stand up for those children…stand up for discrimination, stand up for rights.”

“I look forward to seeing him help people. I look forward to successful brain surgeries… so it’s going to be interesting. Watching him save lives, and make the world a better place,” she added.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: January 2, 2024


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