Top Stanford medical student killed in
California mountain fall
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[September 22, 2016]
By Dan Whitcomb
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A "superstar"
medical student at Stanford University was killed after plunging down a
steep slope while climbing a nearly 14,000-foot (4,267-meter) California
mountain peak, police and the university said on Wednesday.
Maria Birukova, 26, slipped and fell some 800 to 1,000 feet as she
sought to ascend Bear Creek Spire in the John Muir Wilderness over the
weekend with her climbing partner, the Inyo County Sheriff's Office
said. Her body was recovered on Tuesday.
"Maria was one of our superstars," Stanford professor Dr. Paul Utz said
in a statement on the university's website. "We in the program are
devastated that she won't now be able to fulfill her other dream of
becoming a physician-scientist."
Utz said that Birukova, a native of Moscow who came to Stanford after
graduating from Yale University with a degree in biomedical engineering,
was an avid climber and mountaineer.
"In fact, she struggled to choose whether to attend Stanford or the
University of Utah for her graduate training because in Utah the
mountains are so close," he said.
According to the university, Birukova was awarded the Bio-X Bowes
graduate student fellowship earlier this year in recognition of her
groundbreaking research into the treatment of antibiotic-resistant
She also served as a consulting project manager for the volunteer-run
Stanford Healthcare Consulting Group and was a 2015-16 Graduate Voice
and Influence Program Fellow through Stanford's Clayman Institute for
"The medical school community has suffered a tremendous loss," Dr. Lloyd
Minor, dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine said.
[to top of second column]
An Inyo County Search and Rescue helicopter searches Bear Creek
Spire, in the Sierra National Forest, California, U.S. in this
September 21, 2016 handout photo for the body of Maria Birukova, a
medical student at Stanford University who was killed after plunging
down a steep slope while climbing. Inyo County Search and
Rescue/Handout via Reuters
Birukova's climbing partner saw her lose her footing and fall as
they were attempting to traverse the route to Bear Creek Spire on
Sunday, the sheriff's department said, but by the time he reached
her at the bottom of the steep chute she was deceased.
Search teams attempted to recover her remains on Monday but were
deterred until the following morning by high winds on the mountain,
according to the sheriff's department.
Bear Creek Spire is a 13,726-foot-high peak in the Sierra Nevada
Mountains southeast of Yosemite.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb, editing by G Crosse)
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