Growing up in a moderate income area near San Diego, Arnold Cuenca had an interest in and aptitude for science in high school. But as he contemplated potential careers, he, like most of his peers, was encouraged to enter the military or take a job right out of high school -- paths most of his peers chose. His mom was a nurse, though, and that got him thinking about being a doctor.
"Other than my mom, I had nothing to encourage me to become a health professional -- I didn't know what medicine was," says Cuenca.
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies has had the kind of impact that most scholarly authors can only dream about for their works. First published by W.W. Norton in 1997, the book won a Pulitzer Prize the next year for its author, Jared Diamond, a professor of geography at the University of California at Los Angeles.