1) Describe an episode that put you under a great deal of stress. How did you handle the episode and the stress? Reflecting upon it, would you handle it the same or differently and why?
I belong to a program at UC Berkeley called the Biology Scholars Program. It is an intensive enrichment program for disadvantaged and underrepresented undergraduates who are interested in careers in the life sciences. The Biology Scholars Program (BSP), sponsored by the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, enriches its members’ undergraduate experience by providing opportunities to learn about and participate in the biological sciences. Members gain access to a wide variety of resources including academic guidance, tutoring, personal support, internship opportunities, preparation for professional programs and a sense of community. One of those resources is a test bank, which provides its members with past exams from a variety of science courses. Those are supposed to be privy only to the members of the program.
I recently uncovered that one of our members was selling these very same exams via the school website to people outside of the BSP community. The fact that people outside of our program were receiving these past examination papers did not bother me much. What really disturbed me was that the culprit was profiting from a resource that is normally free.
It was a difficult decision to make because I was personally close to the person doing this. I was in a dilemma – I also wanted to protect the integrity of the program along with all of its benefits. I could not even seek help from others. It was a question of making a value-driven decision, which potentially puts our friendship at stake. However tough it may have been, I finally chose to go by what my conscience told me. I brought it to the attention of the Director and the Assistant Directors. Appropriate disciplinary action was taken and there were no major implications to the program and the organization.
If I had to deal with a similar circumstance in the future, I would still have made the same choice, of abiding by the principles and values that I have earned through my upbringing. While it may be easy to decide on the contrary, it will be strongly against my core values and principles. And since I have always lived by and made principle-driven decisions, I have not felt regret or resentment having made such a decision, because I am aware that with all conscience, I am doing what I ought to do.
2) How would you like to be described by your patients: What are the particular skills and attributes you think you have that will make you a good physician?
I would like my patients to perceive me as a leader in my field, someone who has authentic medical expertise and the willingness to share this to the underprivileged. I have been actively involved in volunteer activities, including the American Red Cross Blood Mobile which has allowed me to interact with a multicultural community, and to use my proficiency in the Spanish language in helping patients comprehend instructions or clarify their issues. Moreover, I have served as tutor-mentor for Tutor Experts and the Making Changes Freedom School, whose main thrusts are the youth development and proactiveness. It was a privilege to have imparted these messages to my students. This has entailed preparing activities that would help them deal with critical juvenile issues such as drugs, peer pressure and violence. These have helped strengthen my resolve of pursuing a medical degree. My experience with less fortunate communities have made me aware of their dire needs and circumstances, and have developed in me a passion for serving the poor and a strong sense of altruism.
I feel that my experiences brought about by my minority status have molded me to become a stronger and more mature individual. Because of my family’s financial constraints, I have been compelled to seek both part-time and full-time jobs to sustain my education and my family. But these experiences, instead of putting me down, have only been temporary setbacks. Because of these experiences in diversity, I have learned how to persevere and to be more goal and results-driven. These virtues are critical for physicians for them to be able to draw strength from me.
I have always placed high premium in good interpersonal relations, so this is again another skill that I have to possess as a doctor. Many times, patients do not only look for someone who can cure them physically, but also a person who listens and in whom they can draw comfort from.
I would also like my patients to remember me as someone who has a heart for the poor and for minorities. I myself am of Mexican heritage, and this has taught to me to persevere despite adverse circumstances. Because of the financial difficulties that came with my minority status, I have learned to be an individual with fortitude, someone who does not get easily disheartened. This strength is something that my physically suffering patients can capitalize on; I want to be seen as someone whom they can draw strength from.
3) What do you feel should be your contribution to society?
I feel that my best contribution to society would be my selfless service to the underprivileged through a career in medicine. I have had very memorable community service experiences, particularly with Making Changes Freedom School, where I served as tutor-mentor to youths. This has entailed preparing activities that would help them deal with critical juvenile issues such as drugs, peer pressure and violence. At first glance, the role of a tutor may seem simple; however, when one analyzes the implications of teaching a child and the values that you impart to him or her during the process, this whole picture of simplicity changes – into one of grave responsibility and maturity. The role has entailed autonomy and initiative on the part of the tutor, since you are tasked to custom-design the work / lesson plan of your student. I have mainly dealt with very young learners, ranging from elementary to junior high and high school levels. These students are very impressionable indeed, and learn not only the theoretical concepts that you convey to them, but also the manner, the values and the way you communicate to them in the process. I call it a ‘ripple effect’. When I come down to thinking about it, these youngsters, having had a close relationship with me as a teacher and brother, may carry on these values even until adulthood. This role has instilled a very strong sense of leadership and accountability in me, and has made me realize that I share part of myself to these kids during our frequent learning interactions. Another would be my membership the Chicanos in Health Education, in which I helped organize the annual Raza Health Fair; this allowed me to develop leadership skills and at the same time reinforce my interest in the healthcare profession. My membership to the Center for Science Excellence has given me the opportunity to share my knowledge in Chemistry and microbiology to fellow students through tutoring sessions. My volunteer experience with the American Red Cross Bloodmobile has allowed me to interact with a multicultural community, and to use my proficiency in the Spanish language in helping patients comprehend instructions or clarify their issues. These have made me strengthen my resolve to continue teaching, but this time focusing more on medicine; simultaneously, I also want to pursue medical research. These experiences have convinced me all the more to pursue a medical degree because service to others has given me an immense sense of self-fulfillment. My desire to niche on medical research, particularly in diabetes or organ transplantation would make concrete my intention of making a tangible difference in people’s lives. Most of my loved ones are afflicted with this disease, and I would like to help them tangibly by finding medical solutions for the issues that confront this disease.
4) Select an area of medicine that you think you might be interested in and tell us the characteristics someone in this area of medicine should posses?
At the moment, I do not have any specific area of medicine in mind. However, I am strongly inclined towards pursuing medical research and to teach. Both these preferences may be addressed by perhaps, specializing in either pediatrics or internal medicine. I am also particularly inclined in carrying out medical research in diabetes or organ transplantation. On a personal note, most of my relatives are inflicted with this debilitating disease (i.e. diabetes), and I have seen the suffering and the misery that it has caused my loved ones. In working hard to finding medical solutions for diabetes, I will be able to concretely alleviate the suffering of those who have the disease. I grew up in the United States with only an aunt and uncle, as extended family. This then felt very isolating. I looked and engaged with them as if they were my grandparents. Over time, my devotion and love for them has been so manifest that they became much like my grandparents. Being a first generation Mexican-American introduced for the first time to diseases that afflict families who share my Latino heritage, mainly diabetes. Five years ago, my uncle died from this debilitating disease due to inaccessible healthcare. Through the years, I have witnessed first hand how this disease manifests itself in different ways if it goes untreated. This disease has plagued my family including other family members – my brother, sister, and mother. I have a strong desire to find and create ways through clinical, social and technological dimensions to advance diabetes healthcare through scientific discovery. It is with strong hopes that I am applying at the University of Illinois in Chicago School of Medicine, wanting to be equipped with the best technical medical expertise to pursue this thrust. Another area of great potential which I would like to explore is organ transplantation, of which I have had exposure during my internship. The organ transplant exercise, in some sense, lends you a sense of renewal – seeing people take on their second lives, and knowing that you were part of this miracle.
Should I pursue a pediatrics specialization, I am expected to demonstrate a profound liking for children, patience, and maturity. This shall certainly come out naturally because I have been thoroughly exposed to youths through my tutoring-mentoring stints, and I enjoy this immensely. I am pleased seeing them learning from me of being edified by my example. Patience is also a value in this area, because children have very specialized and peculiar needs as patients, and I should be able to understand and deal with these with patience. This virtue, in particular, will make doctor visits pleasant for my children-patients, and will ensure that they are not averse towards the experience.
On the other hand, should I decide to pursue internal medicine, patients expect me to have very good people skills, to maintain good interpersonal relationships with my patients. When patients develop trust and confidence in their physicians, the processes of diagnosis and treatment are facilitated. I should also be a very good listener and easily be able to establish rapport with them. This will make them very comfortable in their dealings with me, not only as a physician, but as an individual – perhaps even as a friend or mentor. Above all these, technical expertise still counts substantially.
5) Describe an advantages and/or complications you encountered during your progression in education. Please include any noteworthy achievements and/or obstacles. (Examples: Acute or chronic illnesses, employment, financial difficulty, managerial role in household, etc.)
I take pride in my minority roots; both parents are Mexican immigrants who have lofty dreams for their children. Such roots have had profound impact in my education, where several times I have been compelled to stop from schooling and take on part-time or full-time jobs because of financial constraints. My thorough exposure to laboratory research work has strengthened my resolve to pursue a medical degree.
I take pride in my academic achievements and scholarships, among them being included in the Dean’s list at the University of California in Berkeley majoring in Public Health; being a National Dean’s list from 2004 until the present; a member of the National Scholars Honor Society; a member of the Chicanos in Health Education; a member of the Biology Scholars Program. I am also a recipient of several scholarships, including the Kennedy-King Memorial College Scholarship, the Hispanic College Fund Scholarship, among others.