National Hispanic Heritage Month with Monica Padilla

Monica Padilla

The UCI School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with highlights of students and faculty of Hispanic and Latin heritage.  

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. Originally started as a heritage celebration week in 1968, the observation was expanded to a full month in 1988. The celebration starts mid-month because Sept. 15 marks the independence anniversary of five countries: Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. It is followed by Mexico’s Independence Day on Sept. 16 and Chile’s on Sept. 18.  

Monica Padilla, a first-generation student in UCI’s PharmD program, is featured in this Q&A roundup. She shares her family’s Nicaraguan and Guatemalan background and offers advice to other Latinos in academia.

Padilla received her bachelor’s degree from California State University, Northridge, in Environmental and Occupational Health.  

Q: Tell us where you grew up and a little about your family. Were your parents or any other family members in health care or the sciences?

I am the youngest of five daughters to immigrant parents. My father was born in Nicaragua, and my mother in Guatemala. Between my parents, the highest education level they completed was some college. I am a first-generation college student and the first in my family to pursue a professional degree in the healthcare field. A coworker of mine told me about the new UCI School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences and how it is part of a great university that serves its students and helps them achieve their goals and aspirations.

Q: What inspired your studies?

I started my career in healthcare, working as a Pharmacy Technician in 2010. At the time, I didn’t think that I would continue the path of a pharmacist. Over time and with my growing years of experience, I grew fonder of the profession. I saw that it is an evolving field in health care and that pharmacists play an integral role in patient care. I know that I can be a great asset to this profession while also expanding my knowledge.

Q: How did your heritage or ethnicity influence your studies and research interests?

From a young age, cultural differences were apparent to me. I understood that we all had our own beliefs and traditions that our parents passed on. At times I felt the pressure to study harder and prove that I could get good grades compared to other classmates, of different ethnicities, in my classes.

Q: How did you become interested in pharmacology or pharmacy?

I started working at a non-profit organization that has a variety of programs that serve different individuals. In these programs, there are many services available for underserved and underrepresented individuals and families. That’s when my passion for pharmacy grew; I enjoyed seeing the unique and important role pharmacists played as healthcare and medical professionals.

Q: What is your favorite Hispanic tradition, dish, or destination, and why?

My favorite Hispanic dish is my mother’s Guatemalan tamales. She makes the best tamales; this family tradition and recipe has been passed down from her mother and grandmother. This makes the tamales even more special and delicious, and I hope I will soon be able to pass this tradition on to my children.

Q: What evokes pride in your culture?

The family bond that Hispanic families have is unlike any other. There is nothing that family wouldn’t do for each other. I take pride in this.

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