Medical school: Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, 2016
Residency Training: Washington University in St. Louis/ St. Louis Children’s Hospital
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I’ve wanted to be a doctor since I was a little kid. My own wonderful experiences with doctors prompted me to pretend to be a pediatrician as a child, and I begged my parents for a toy stethoscope so I could listen to their hearts and lungs.
Did you have any fears going into medical school?
I took a year off between college and medical school to work as a research coordinator and submit my applications. I was afraid that taking time off from school would affect my study habits, which it definitely did. It took me a month or two to get back into the swing of being a student, but I wouldn’t trade my work experience for anything. It was valuable for me to learn about clinical research from an administrative perspective and begin to understand the effort that goes into preparing for institutional review boards, grant proposals, and research trials.
What made your medical school the right fit for you?
I really love VCU’s focus on the applicant as a whole person rather than just a collection of scores. I went into medical school knowing I wanted to become a pediatrician because I love the idea of developing long-term relationships with my patients and their families. VCU does a great job of creating opportunities for students to explore primary care, and I was very excited to join the I2CRP (International, Inner City, and Rural Preceptorship) program to learn more about urban primary care and social disparities affecting health care access.
Did you have to change any of your study habits?
Yes, it felt like I lost a lot of my study habits in just one year! I had to figure out what learning methods worked best for me and what study environments I benefited most from. I experimented a lot with studying at home, finding silent study spaces, and the campus library. It turned out that, as opposed to my undergraduate years, I learned well in a group environment. For nearly two years, I had a study group every weekend with two of my best friends, in which we reviewed the previous week’s material and discussed important concepts with each other. Small study groups worked really well to cement my knowledge after studying alone, and I wish I had known that earlier.
Please describe your participation in extra-curricular activities, volunteer work, research, or study-abroad opportunities during medical school.
I’ve been learning to speak Spanish since elementary school, and I was able to study abroad in Argentina during my junior year at NYU, as well as take a Spanish conversation class for medical professionals during my senior year. During my first two years of medical school, my clinical preceptorship was during evening clinics at Crossover Health Ministry in Richmond. Many of my patients were Spanish speakers with limited English proficiency, and I learned that there was a great benefit to being able to communicate directly with them. It helped me gain their trust as their student doctor and allowed me to more closely relate to them. I also was able to participate in an HOMBRE (Honduras Outreach Medical Brigada Relief Effort) trip under Dr. Mark Ryan to the Dominican Republic, during which speaking Spanish was a definite boon.
By the end of my third year of medical school, I had spoken with Spanish speakers nearly every day of my clinical rotations, and I was confident that my peers would see the value in learning to speak Spanish in order to reach out to their patients. I was able to build on the work of two students in the year ahead of me, Irving Phillips and Patrick Lam (Class of 2015), to continue teaching a Medical Spanish elective during my last semester of medical school as part of my I2CRP Capstone Project along with the help of my peer Deborah Me (Class of 2016). I thought it was critical that my peers begin to learn a language that a vast minority of the U.S. population speaks. Although my peers will continue to use health care interpreters and interpreting technology, their beginners’ ability to speak clinical Spanish will help them establish rapport with their patients and hopefully spur them to continue to improve their Spanish.
What helps you manage your stress and stay motivated?
Working out and staying fit, reading and journaling before bedtime, baking, and binge-watching TV shows are the best ways for me to manage my stress. I always have to remember to fall back on those activities if I’m feeling stressed because it’s more worthwhile for me to take an hour out of my schedule to relax than to push through tasks while being anxious.
My peers kept me motivated throughout med school; I love hearing about the amazing things my classmates have accomplished. From running marathons to founding mentorship programs to completing additional degrees, everyone is ambitious and driven, and I find that to be very inspiring.
What did you enjoy most about medical school?
This is a classic residency interview answer, but the people. I made friendships that I hope will last throughout my lifetime, and I would not have enjoyed the medical school experience as much without them. My friends made classes, studying, and rotations so much more fun and acted as an amazing support system for me when I needed them.
What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing a career track similar to yours?
I hope to incorporate my interests in pediatrics, hematology-oncology, medical education, and the Spanish language all into one career, and my experiences in medical school taught me that it just might be possible. I would advise future medical students to explore topics that you’re passionate about and then find mentors whose interests overlap with yours. Seeing how a role model has pursued their passions serves as great inspiration, and they can offer advice on how to get started, how to juggle multiple projects, and how to succeed in a challenging field.