Beloved Stanford medical student killed during climbing accident

STANFORD UNIVERITY (KGO) -- Stanford students and faculty are mourning the loss of a fourth year medical student who died Sunday in a climbing accident.

Maria Birukova's body was recovered Tuesday.

The 26-year-old's professors say she was one of their superstars on campus. Her passion for research was matched by her passion for climbing.

"She always had a pervasive smile on her face and a positive attitude," said Dr. Charles Prober, senior associate dean of for medical education at Stanford University.

Prober said he first met Maria during orientation. He says her research on campus was a combination of immunology, microbiology and bio-engineering.

"It was really aimed towards ultimately the prevention and treatment of complicated infections," Prober said.

Outside of academics she spent as much time as she could rock climbing.

"This was something that she cared deeply about. In fact, I learned that she was weighing accepting an offer to go to Utah vs. accepting an offer to go to Stanford, somewhat based upon the proximity to climbing opportunities," Prober said.

Balance ultimately guided her decision.

In her medical student bio, Birukova wrote, "I found it important that the current students I met were able to lead balanced lives and were encouraged to pursue their interests outside of academics."

Birukova was climbing with a partner in Inyo County Sunday when she lost her footing and fell 800 to 1,000 feet. A CHP helicopter assisted in the recovery operation.

"All the students are devastated," Prober said.

Birukova was a fourth year grad student in the Medical Scientist Training Program pursuing an MD/PhD.
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