Major(s): Neuroscience and Behavior, Psychology

What is your current role? What was your journey in arriving there?
I am currently a medical student in the Class of 2025 at Harvard Medical School. The journey to medical school had many twists and turns. As an undergraduate student at Wesleyan University, I studied Psychology and Neuroscience & Behavior while also pursuing premedical coursework. I thoroughly enjoyed learning the principles and systems that govern the body. As a Ronald E. McNair Fellow working in the Naegele Lab, I began familiarizing myself with the biochemical circuitry underlying disease. I became more informed about the elaborate anatomy of disorders and how a few microscopic changes can beget lifelong illness. Simultaneously, I became very curious about the social and environmental factors that diminished health and exacerbated illness. I considered the growing impact of medicine within an expanding biopsychosocial model of health, specifically how to address widespread health challenges impacting the public, particularly underserved communities. My interest in public health ignited further after enrolling in courses at Wesleyan, such as Health Psychology, Race and Medicine in America, and The Health of Communities.

After graduation, I began a Master of Public Health (MPH) at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. As a student in the Department of Sociomedical Sciences, I explored the various social influences that shape health equity, empower communities, and ultimately, inspire public policy. In my Health Promotion, Research, and Practice certificate coursework, I applied my passion for designing, implementing, and evaluating health programs and interventions informed by both theory and evidence.

After graduating from Columbia University, I began working full-time with the Office of the Medical Director within the New York City Department of Homeless Services. Specifically, I worked to implement various projects for the Collaborative for Homeless Healthcare aimed at increasing access to healthcare for individuals experiencing homelessness.

These experiences after graduating from Wesleyan University were essential to my growth as a student and as a professional. I gained a detailed understanding of our healthcare system and the needs of vulnerable and underserved communities. The need for widespread action made it further clear that I wanted to address these issues not only from the outside-in, but also from the inside-out. I had been exposed to healthcare environments through my volunteering and extracurricular activities, and had learned how much it fulfills me to work with patients and marginalized populations. I felt that my desire to work directly with populations who are impacted by the very issues public health seeks to address could be valuably integrated with my public health knowledge to develop me into a physician who is ready to make a widespread impact. For these reasons, among many others, I decided to apply to medical school and become a physician!

What do you enjoy about your work? What do you struggle with?
What I love most about the being a medical student (and eventually a physician) is the patient care. It is personally meaningful when I am able to support an individual during their most vulnerable moments. I am constantly reminded that individuals have stories that begin before they become “patients” and that the journey to medicine is bound by social determinants. Committing myself to the field of medicine means a lifetime of learning and helping others achieve and maintain their greatest resource: health. Although I am still deciding what specialty I want to pursue, I am certain about the type of physician I would like to be. In particular, I plan to use my understanding of the social determinants of health to become a physician who is empathetic, knowledgeable, and thoughtful about patients and their care. I hope to use my medical degree to affect change in communities that need it the most, particularly low-income communities of color. As an Afrolatina I hope to become part of the changing face of medicine.

I think that one of the biggest challenges that the field of medicine faces is the lack of diversity in providers. Unfortunately, Black and Latinx individuals make up less than 10% of the physician workforce, respectively. There is still so much progress that needs to be made to increase the diversity of physicians in the United States, specifically by recruiting medical students from these backgrounds, making medical education more affordable, decreasing barriers to applying to medical school, and learning to value applicants from diverse cultural backgrounds more holistically. In the meantime, we must push forward, and I continue to work on breaking the glass ceiling above me. Becoming the first physician in my family will shatter that ceiling, but more importantly, I hope it will open opportunities and inspire other individuals from similar identities.

How did your time at Wesleyan influence your career choice/journey?
Wesleyan provided me with the space to explore my interests in their entirety. The open curriculum gave me the opportunity to freely experience new subject matter and course work. I was able to take premedical coursework, while also enjoying Latin American literature classes, American studies courses about race, and psychology studies in the context of the law. The options were truly limitless. Wesleyan was also the place that I began striking up a strong interest in public health due to courses like Health Psychology, Race and Medicine in America, and The Health of Communities. I was intellectually stimulated to think bigger and broader about the implications of science and medicine in a world riddled with inequity.

Outside of the classroom, Wesleyan provided endless opportunities to explore different career paths and learn about the different ways that one can apply their interest in science. As a research assistant in the Naegele Lab, I learned about the underlying mechanisms of seizure suppression in a mouse model of temporal lobe epilepsy. I investigated the neural circuitry between transplanted GABAergic interneurons and granule cells of the dentate gyrus in epileptic mice through 3-D reconstruction of neurons and synaptic input. This research opportunity was made possible by the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, which supports underrepresented and historically disadvantaged students in attaining doctoral studies through involvement in research and other scholarly activities. I also had the opportunity to conduct research through the Community Health Center in Middletown, specifically working on a project to increase the identification of youth with PTSD in order to refer them to treatment, including trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT). These experiences outside the classroom gave me perspective about the topics I was interested in and demonstrated that there are so many diverse paths within any field of interest.

Do you have any advice for students thinking about entering your industry?
My advice for any students interested in medicine is to relentlessly pursue your authentic interests. The process for applying to medical school is incredibly exhausting and nuanced. At times, you may feel like you have to fit yourself into a perfect box in order to be the candidate you think that medical schools want (e.g. having 2000+ research hours, 5+ distinct shadowing experiences, A’s in all your science courses, etc.) The reality is that your application will be stronger if you are simply yourself. Take up extracurricular activities that actually interest you, not just the ones that you think would look good on a resume. I was not a perfect student at Wesleyan (there was at least one C+ on my transcript) and many times throughout my career, I realized it would be more fulfilling to do something I found interesting and tangentially related to healthcare (e.g. serving as a homeless outreach specialist) than shadowing another physician just to say I did it. No matter what, maintain your authenticity and follow your passions. That will serve you and make you a better doctor!



Updated as of February 7, 2024