My Pre-Health Experience!

I arrived at UCSB in 2014 with an interest in going into the healthcare field, but was rather lost in how to get myself there. My interest stemmed from my volunteer experience from high school where I had the opportunity to work with a team at a local hospital in San Diego, CA, to provide care to surgery patients. It was during this period where I became interested in pursuing a career in the medical field because of the relationships I had with not only the team I worked with but also the patients I have interacted with.

During my time as a volunteer there I encountered several patients who came from a vulnerable population. While I was helping them, I had the opportunity to chat with them and get to know each other. Even if we came from different backgrounds, we shared something common. (For example, one of them actually played the cello, too!). This prompted my interest in working with the underserved population. After coming to UCSB, I began to volunteer with Doctor Without Walls – Santa Barbara Street Medicine as a scribe and pack/logistics volunteer. Along with a team of healthcare professionals and volunteers, we provide free medical care to the local Santa Barbara’s vulnerable population. I have been volunteering since I joined because I always learn something and enjoy every clinic I attend. Working with the organization also allows me to learn more about how to help the vulnerable population, which takes a different approach than, for instance, helping patients in a hospital. In addition, as someone who has been involved in music, my music volunteer at a local hospital and senior home allows me to provide emotional support and interact with patients while giving me the opportunity to relax through playing music.

As a person going into the healthcare field, communication and leadership skills are undoubtedly important. Currently, as a Career Peer Advisor at Career Services and a tutor at Campus Learning Assistance Services (CLAS) at UCSB, I get to help fellow students with their academics and career-related questions and needs. At Career Services, I help with students who have questions ranging from resume/cover letter critique to finding internships and on-campus jobs, and even to landing a full-time job after graduation. Additionally, I help students who are interested in entering the healthcare field by creating pre-health resources to better assist them. At CLAS, students are able to join small group tutorials or to attend drop-in hours to receive assistance with their classes. As a tutor, I get to help them by guiding group tutorials and holding weekly drop-in hours for various courses, including biology, chemistry, physics, and statistics. Through the tutoring experience, I can better my communication skills by helping the students develop their own studying skills. Similar to my volunteer experience, it is the immediate gratification resulted from helping others that attracts me to enter a field that entails interacting and helping others at its core.

My desire for a career that also incorporates intellectual challenges in my daily life is fueled by research. I began with the UCSB EUREKA program, which allowed first-year students to get involved with on-campus research while participating in scholarly events and professional workshops. I have been very fortunate to be able to work with Dr. Kathy Foltz on a project that aims to understand how an anti-cancer drug interacts with a protein it targets. I also have the opportunity to work with Dr. Stu Feinstein on another project related to Alzheimer’s disease, where we try to understand the aggregation events that are related to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Certainly, the projects themselves are interesting and constantly provoke my scientific curiosity. However, what also makes me excited about a career involving research and teamwork is the people that I work with. Through lab meetings and collaboration with other students and researchers, I have found myself enjoying the team-oriented environment while working on exciting projects. In addition to the skills I have acquired through research, my involvement has driven me to pursue a career that entails research.

Currently, I am participating in an internal medicine shadowing program at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, where I get to follow internal medicine residents at various times and days to learn about a day in the life of the residents. It has only been two weeks, yet I have learned much more than I have expected. I get to observe how the physicians interact with patients as well as other physicians. I also have the opportunity to attend morning reports and conferences where residents and attending physicians discuss their patients, especially cases that provoke further discussions or even lectures. Although the residents are always busy, several aspects of their work make me more determined in pursuing a career in healthcare. This includes the teamwork and collaboration between the residents and other teams from different departments, the interaction with the patients and their family, and the intellectual stimulation from the discussions and conferences.

A career in the medical field can be thought of as a never-ending marathon. There is always a step after another. There is always opportunity to learn every day. There is always challenge awaiting at the next minute or hour. Because of my experience, both clinically and non-clinically related, I am excited to continue my journey to becoming a physician-scientist.