Why did you decide to major in PharmSci at UCI?
Originally in high school, I wanted to be a Biology major. But then I saw that a lot of the courses in Biology are very general subjects. For example, you’ll learn about an overview of animals or plant biology. I thought since I’m planning on going to medical school, I’d rather pick a major that would prepare me more than a typical biology program. I looked up UCI’s Pharmaceutical Sciences program and there were courses in pharmacology and pharmacodynamics, which are all topics that are really pertinent in medicine. And so I thought, “Why wait until medical school when I could learn about these subjects in my undergraduate career?” I immediately knew that this was the major I had to pick. I was able to learn more about drug design and how drugs work in the body, which most typical majors may not cover. Being able to learn about these topics so early on and having them reinforced later on is great and I feel more prepared for what’s ahead.
Did you have any challenges in regards to completing prerequisites for your graduate programs?
UCI’s PharmSci major really covers all of the courses that you would need to apply for almost any kind of graduate program. I’ve been fortunate that I never really ran into a problem where I was missing courses that prevented me from applying to a program.
What clubs/activities are you involved in at UCI?
I served as a PharmSci Peer Academic Advisor last year, and that was one of the most impactful positions I’ve ever had at UCI. You’re able to work with the entire undergraduate student body population, and so you really get to learn about the many different cultural backgrounds of people like where they come from and the different problems they face. I think this is a unique perspective that no other campus position offers. Having to be able to adapt and adjust to each student’s work-life balance and helping them through school has been eye-opening to me. Being able to help students and really making a difference in their life has been very rewarding.
What PharmSci faculty or staff member is most memorable and why?
In my freshman year, one of the PharmSci Student Advisors was Brittany Betancourt. Her whole philosophy was to make the student as comfortable as possible. She really ended up helping me in my freshman year adjust to classes and life as a commuter. She often advised me to speak with the Peer Academic Advisors because they knew and understood a lot of the issues students go through as well. Being able to speak with those peer advisors and seeing how much of a difference they made in helping me through my courses made me very grateful and want to give back.
Can you share about the free PharmSci book rental program you have started?
In the PharmSci Student Affairs Office, we have a giant bookshelf with different textbooks for subjects ranging in chemistry, biology, you name it. If students want to rent out a book, all they have to do is sign in. Free of charge. We just ask that the students return the books when they’re done so that other students may also use them in the future.
Near the end of my second year, I realized a lot of students here had a socioeconomic barrier to education. The cost of just purchasing textbooks is so immense that students sometimes have to opt in going through their courses without the books. I thought this was not ideal at all and that there needed to be a way for us to help them out. The library offers a free textbook rental program but it’s limited to only 2 hours. So I thought, why not design a program that’s going to help students get their textbooks free of charge. I was surprised this was never a thing until I proposed the idea. Around the beginning of my third year, I started collecting many books for the program and it has already made a huge difference for the students that have been renting them.
Our biggest problem right now is that we don’t have enough textbooks to meet the needs of our students. The main way we have been collecting textbooks is through donations, but I’m hoping we’ll be able to have fundraisers in order to buy more copies of the textbooks we need.
Do you participate in any volunteer work?
I currently volunteer as a tutor in an organization called School On Wheels. Our mission is to tutor underprivileged children all over California. Right now I am tutoring a class of around 10-11 Santa Ana elementary students. Many of these students typically don’t have access to food 3x a day or even to a stable home. What we’re there for is to help them with their homework everyday, answer any questions they may have, and to make them feel as comfortable as possible. These kids sometimes don’t even have the reassurance of their next meal. So to be able to just sit with them and ask them how they’re doing is a big comfort to them.
What do you hope to do after graduation?
I’m currently applying to many osteopathic and allopathic medical schools that are all over the nation. I hope that I will be able to complete my studies in medical school and pursue psychiatry in the future. I’ve gotten accepted to a few schools in the midwest that I’m really looking forward to possibly attending.
What is your dream for your future career in medicine?
I’d love to be able to work in a private practice that cares about underserved populations. I believe that I’ll be able to make a greater difference by working in an underserved community where there isn’t an excess of available physicians.