"It is very inspirational to see men and women of color in different healthcare professions. I definitely feel like it makes me relate to them and I can see myself occupying the spaces in healthcare that they do!" - Current 4th Year Undergraduate Student
"Going through the application process is daunting and it’s nice to feel like there are more of us around! But through this whole process I have become aware that we jump through a few extra hurdles and sometimes few people on the path understand. It’s something I think a lot of people talk about but it’s not often put out there in the open- but it’s important that people know what to expect. A supportive program with good people is so important." - Current 4th Year Medical Student
Lamercie Saint-Hilaire, MD
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Hometown: NY-->Haiti-->South Florida
Education: Micromoleculer Biology and Women's Studies at UCSF. Medicine at Meharry Medical College with Health Policy Certificate from RWJF, residency and chief year at UCSF, UCSF Interprofessional Humanistic Teaching fellowship to be completed August 2018.
Why did you choose medicine? I knew I wanted to be a doctor since grade school, driven by the desire to provide for my family and to serve underserved communities. I am a first generation Haitian-American. I come from a poor background, and my family did not always have access to healthcare. My mother instilled in me a love of learning and from a young age I was fascinated by the human body and wellness. I truly enjoy caring for the whole patient and their entire family. I chose to pursue a career in Family Medicine for the challenge of managing a multitude of medical conditions, unrestricted by patient demographics, while providing humanistic care to underserved communities.
Where are you now? Assistant professor at UCSF
What do you love about your work? Through Family Medicine I can fulfill all of my passions: patient education, continuity of care, preventive and integrative medicine. I also enjoy teaching and mentoring the next generation of doctors. I currently develop curriculum and conduct research on physician unconscious bias and health care disparities. I love this work because it combines my passion for social justice and lived experience as a queer woman of color to fill a much needed void in academic medicine.
What are your hobbies and interests? I love to dance! I have heard that you can store your emotions and trauma in your hips and dance is my therapy. Throughout residency I used dance as a form of self care and community building. I enjoy Afro-Haitian, hip-hop, mirror dancing, vogue and interpretive.
Kenji Taylor, MD
Preferred pronouns: he/him
Hometown & education: Kenji was born and raised in rural Kansas and Pennsylvania, the youngest of four. He headed to the big city of Providence, RI to study Neuroscience, East Asian Studies and Entrepreneurship at Brown University.
Why did you choose medicine? Following graduation, his short-lived career in finance took him to Los Angeles, London and Tokyo, before he decided medicine was how he could directly help others who needed it the most. He attended the University of Pennsylvania where he developed a passion for health disparities, social justice and community medicine in West Philadelphia. As a medical student, he developed the Cut Hypertension program, a blood pressure screening, education and referral program based in African American barbershops. He has since spread the work to Atlanta, GA and now the Bay Area.
Where are you now and what do you love about your work? As a chief resident in family medicine at UCSF, he is excited about exploring the potential for innovative care models and technology in the community to improve access for underserved populations through the Cut Hypertension Program. He is also interested in HIV primary care, mentoring black men of color in medicine and medical education.
What are your hobbies and interests? For fulfillment outside of medicine, he loves being a new dad, playing the violin, traveling, spending time outdoors, and cooking with friends and family.
Micaela Bayard, MD
Hometown: Princeton, MA
Education: Brown University - BA in Human Biology with a Focus in Race and Gender Studies, University of Massachusetts Medical School - MD, New York Presbyterian - Queens - Internal Medicine Residency, Mount Sinai Medical School - Rheumatology Fellowship
Why did you choose medicine? I was trying to find every reason to avoid being a physician because both my father and grandfather were physicians. I truly wanted to create my own path. I had taken all my pre-med requirements but I just couldn't take the final step and apply. Because I enjoyed the focus group work I did for my thesis, I accepted a position as a research fellow at the NIH clinical center to work with the Adelante research team. My Project Investigator was using focus groups to look at barriers and bridges to Hispanics and African Americans with HIV/AIDS participating in clinical trials. One reoccurring theme during the focus groups was patients' need for racial/ethnic concordance in patient-physician relationships. They saw this as a major connector to better care. More than once a study participant said to me they wished someone like me could be their doctor, this really propelled my decision to choose clinical medicine.
Where are you now? I live in Queens, NY. I am currently an Attending and Assistant Professor at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Rheumatology, and have a Rheumatology practice at Mount Sinai Doctors in Queens.
I am building a practice that offers integrated autoimmune care, specifically for women living with Systemic Lupus Erythematous or Lupus. My vision is to have a practice that connects my patients seamlessly to other health professionals in nutrition, physical therapy, and mental health, as well as support groups and networks like the Lupus Foundation. I want my patients to feel connected through a health community that gives them a role as more than a patient - but as an advocate, learner, educator, and community organizer. I want my patients to be a part of building their best lives despite their diagnosis. (Find out more about Dr. Bayard's practice here.)
What do you love about your work? I love that everyday a patient says thank you. I have a million stories of patients saying they have never had a physician in the past who looks like them, or takes the time to make sure they understand their diagnosis and treatment plan. It makes all the long hours I spent studying, the never ending board exams, and the days where I wasn't sure about my career decision worth it.
What are your hobbies and interests? Anyone who knows me has been forced to listen to SOCA music with me. My family is from the Caribbean and I love spending time listening and dancing to SOCA music. I am also a former soccer player.
Farhana Ali, MD
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Hometown: Born in Bangladesh and then immigrated to Los Angeles, CA at the age of 3. Family later moved to Fontana, CA at the end of high school.
Education: UC Berkeley 2005-2009 - BA in Integrative Biology; UC San Diego School of Medicine 2011-2015 - MD; Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital 2015-2018 - Pediatric Residency; UC San Diego/Rady Children’s Hospital 2018-Current - Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition Fellowship
Why did you choose medicine? As someone interested in social justice, I realized I could be a medical advocate for people coming from disadvantaged backgrounds. I grew up in a low income, underserved household with 8 people in a 2 bedroom apartment, with all of us being undocumented. Healthcare and attention to health needs were sought only when absolutely necessary, not routinely and never annually. In the 8th grade my dad suffered from a major heart attack requiring open heart surgery for a triple bypass graft. After his surgery, he suffered a stroke as a complication, which left him mentally disabled. In addition to heart disease, he also suffered from high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes leading to kidney disease, and worsened neurologically where he is now demented, all before I graduated college. My father’s ailments were silent problems that magnified into morbid chronic diseases, where by the time we had an understanding of what was going on, it was too late to take preventive measures. As I continued forward in my education, it became obvious the discrepancy that lies in the understanding of health, access to resources, and presence of health care advocates within lower socioeconomic groups and immigrant populations. There also weren't many role models in medicine that were made up of women of color that were from the communities I am a product of. I knew this was the realm I wanted to work in, and later would appreciate that the role of a physician could have a bigger impact, both on an individual but also community and family level.
Where are you now? I am living in San Diego, doing my first year of fellowship as a pediatric gastroenterologist. My fellowship is a minimum of three years, potentially four if I pursue an additional fellowship in motility.
What do you love about your work? I love the population I work with - children with intestinal and nutritional diseases that pertain to organic, genetic, functional, and psychological causes. I work with a wide range of diverse populations, and have the opportunity to use my skillset abroad. I get to work with children and families at their earliest stages, providing me an opportunity to intervene early when dealing with patients as a whole. I have the ability to intervene acutely to fix a problem, but am also a long term provider and supporter for those battling with chronic, life long diseases. My field is one that is ever growing and changing, with a huge need, and provides me great intellectual fulfillment.
What are your hobbies & interests? I am an adventurous and active person, with a love for the mountains and travel. When I’m not at work, you can find me outside running, hiking, camping, or in a different country.
Dr. McLemore was recently featured on the new HBO late-night show, Random Acts of Flyness. Check out her commentary from 5:39-6:38 on allostatic load and health care disparities for Black women.
Monica R. McLemore, RN, MPH, PhD
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Hometown: Trenton, New Jersey
Education: She has a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing, from the College of New Jersey, a Masters of Public Health from San Francisco State University, and a PhD from the University of California, San Francisco.
Career: Monica R. McLemore PhD, MPH, RN is an assistant professor in the Family Health Care Nursing Department in the School of Nursing at the University of California, San Francisco. Her pronouns are she/her. She is also a clinician-scientist at Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) which is a program of the Bixby Center for Reproductive Health, both in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences also at the University of California, San Francisco. She is from Trenton, New Jersey, and a product of investments in public education.
Why did you choose science, research, and nursing? Dr. McLemore was born a preemie in 1969 and works in reproductive health, rights, and justice. Her multiple health issues as a child made her want to become a nurse and her first job as an RN was at the hospital where she was born.
What are your hobbies and interests? When not changing the world, she can be found watching music videos from the 80s or playing all sorts of games, including board and video games. She is an avid reader and is deeply ambivalent about being on a website called melanin in medicine, since medicine is a terminal field that has mastered all that is known in a particular clinical discipline that doesn't represent all of healthcare and she's a PhD, also known as a member of the knowledge producers. Precision in language matters and healthcare is bigger than medicine.
Matthew Brown, DDS Candidate
Preferred pronouns: He/him
Hometown: Los Angeles, California
Education: He graduated from Virginia State University, an HBCU in Petersburg, VA. Here he received a Bachelors degree in Biological Science. He now attends Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry, at the University of Southern California. He graduated from View Park Preparatory high school, a charter school located in South Central Los Angeles.
Where are you now? Currently he is entering his 3rd year of dental school. He has completed the first two years of dental school which mainly focused on the sciences (anatomy, physology …etc) and working on surgical hand skills. In his final two years of school he will be working with patients under the guidance of professors. “Everyday is an amazing learning experience. I know that I am truly blessed to be granted this opportunity to change others' lives."
What do you love about dentistry? As a dentist we can wear many hats and are allowed be a jack of all trades. Mental health can be a major aspect of health care and our smiles are the foundation of our confidence. I have seen the impact of a beautiful smile on individual’s self-esteem and poise. “It is important for me to help boost others' confidence. My goal is to meet a person who is ashamed or reluctant to smile and have them leave my office with a sense of hope and joy about their beautiful smile.
Almaz Dessie, MD
Preferred pronouns: She/her
Hometown: I moved around a lot, but I did some growing up in NYC, Miami, a small town in Connecticut, Providence, and Oakland
Education: BA in music theory and composition from Brown University, MD from Brown University with a scholarly concentration in Global Health, residency in Pediatrics at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland, fellowship in Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Brown University (RI Hospital/Hasbro Children's Hospital), Fellowship in Emergency Ultrasound at Columbia University Medical Center (NY Presbyterian Hospital)
Why did you choose medicine? Growing up, I excelled in science, but I wasn't a kid who always knew I wanted to be a doctor and had a fake stethoscope. The summer between my junior and senior year of high school, I had a counselor who encouraged me to apply for a summer program at MIT for underrepresented minorities in sciences. I had a really good time doing that, and met a lot of pre-med college students who got me interested in that. When I got to college, I developed a commitment to correcting the injustices in our world, but I didn't want to do NGO work or be a lawyer. I'm also a real artsy type so needed a career path that could tap into that. I went with medicine because of the social justice impact I could have as an individual, the joy of science and research, and there are definitely ways to be creative and innovative in my work as well.
Where are you now? Columbia University (Children's Hospital of New York of NY Presbyterian Hospital), Attending Physician and Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics in Washington Heights in New York
What do you love about your job? What's most unique about my specialty is I get to play at work. I carry around bubbles, stickers, and toys in my white coat to help the kids feel calm and build trust. All the joy regular people feel when they are around cute babies and little kids, I get to feel that many times a day. It's therapeutic and really special to hold a little baby and have their parents' trust. Especially in the pediatric emergency room, which most people assume is so sad, but kids generally bounce back pretty quick when they are sick. They mostly survive. I can really help them in a way we often can't in adult medicine. There are some sad cases for sure, but mostly, I go home feeling like I really did something good. My particular job now is mostly helped make a bunch of kids better every day. Everything comes through the ER and you never know what your shift will be; I see all the subspecialty problems, and sometimes I'm a primary care pediatrician too; there's crazy trauma and resuscitations sometimes, and other times I get to act like a primary care pediatrician. Whether it's a real emergency or what a parent perceives to be emergency, I help a lot of people in their moments of crisis. I feel lucky to have my job.
What are your hobbies and interests? I'm a creative type so dance - mostly African diasporic dance, which I have studied at various levels of intensity throughout my adult life. I also continue to love making music, have played on and off with a band, love to sing and play piano and perform. And traveling whenever possible, seeing as much of the world as I can.
Ana Delgado, CNM, MS
Hometown: Mérida, Venezuela
Education: BA in government from Claremont McKenna College, Masters Entry Program in Nursing (MEPN) and MS with specialty in nurse-midwifery from UCSF School of Nursing
What made you choose nurse-midwifery? I chose nurse-midwifery over other types of midwifery because I wanted to be able to serve women from all different backgrounds and in all settings, and that can be harder if you are not a nurse-midwife. And although becoming a nurse was not the draw, I have never regretted becoming a nurse. Nursing is a really cool discipline in and of itself. Coming from a background in political advocacy I am very at home with reproductive justice and the expansive vision that the framework gives us, allowing us to incorporate all kinds of people who are working in service to women and families, to truly work for justice, not just rights.
Where are you now? I now work at ZSFG as the director of the inpatient midwifery service, assistant director of the Family Birth Center, co-director for diversity, equity, and inclusion for my division, and I still practice clinically catching babies at the Family Birth Center and providing prenatal care at Mission Neighborhood Health Center.
What do you love about your work? I love being part of the movement to transform maternity care away from the current system which is based in white, male supremacy and into a truly patient- and family-centered model based in giving power back to the community and lifting up the women themselves. As colleagues before me have said there is way more to healthcare and healing than medicine, and that needs to be recognized clearly if this transformation is to work. Particularly, midwifery is not obstetrics and the current elements of best practice in maternity care need to be recognized as essential elements of the midwifery model. See here for more info: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jmwh.12660
What are your hobbies and interests? what are your hobbies or interests? My main outside interests are my own family, my husband James and my two kids, Amelia and Luis. I also have the cutest dog on earth, a pug named Duende. Additionally, I like to read, exercise, and cook.
Denisse Porter-Inzunza, RN
Preferred pronouns: she/her/hers
Hometown: As an immigrant, this has always been a question that makes me pause and think of where I have been. I was born in Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico. I immigrated to the U.S. in 1988 and lived throughout Southern California. Redlands, CA became my most recent hometown as I met my husband there and was where I had my three children.
Education: My educational journey begins with a certification as a Medical Assistant. I then attended San Bernardino Valley College and obtained Associates Degrees in Biology, Chemistry, and Liberal Arts. I was then able to transfer to the University of California, Riverside where I obtained my B.S. in Anthropology. Most recently, I completed my nursing education through the MEPN program at the University of California, San Francisco which led to my license as a Registered Nurse.
What made you choose nursing? Choosing nursing reflects trials and tribulations of my personal lived experience and searching for a career path that kept at the forefront marginalized communities. In this country and around the world marginalized communities reflect a need that is more than biological, a need for someone to connect with their social and biomedical experience while at the same time the essence of who they are as a human being. Nurses have the unique ability of seeing patients for what encompasses who they are as humans. Through nursing I can make people my primary concern as an advocate. Whether it is through one on one patient care, policy, or research development, nurses work with multidisciplinary teams to come up with solutions that promote quality and efficient health for communities. To me, nursing is where science can meet medical anthropological perspectives that can be practiced in many social structures to address social and health inequity perpetuated by structural racism.
Where are you now? I live in San Francisco, CA with my husband and three kids. I am currently a second year Masters in Nursing student specializing as a Family Nurse Practitioner at the University of California, San Francisco. My clinical placements are composed of community clinics such as La Clinica de La Raza and Mission Neighborhood Health Center.
What do you love about your work? As a full-time mother and student, I am currently not employed. I will speak on what I hope to accomplish and where I see myself in the near future. I seek to be an advanced practice nurse with a lens beyond the disease and focused on the lived experiences that lead people to illness. As a medical assistant in a family practice setting I listened to the frustrations with healthcare and was limited to what I could do but was inspired to continue my education and gain the skill set needed to further assist people with their physical health problems while keeping in mind the social factors that affected their health. As a Family Nurse Practitioner, I will be in the frontlines of primary care and prevention. In this role I want to be a trailblazer of health disparity solutions, as someone who identifies as a first-generation Latina immigrant, while being mindful of how these solutions affect people. I seek to see people for who they are, for the work they do, and the stress factors they deal with. Growing up without a family practitioner led to a lack of preventative care for my family and I, thus, I want to advocate for families that need a providers they can identify and communicate with through the lifespan.
What are your hobbies and interests? I enjoy spending free time with my children exploring the Bay Area and being outdoors along the coast. I am interested in meeting prospective nursing students of color and being a mentor for those who identify as first-generation students. I am passionate about organizing with my peers for a more inclusive and equitable education through our student organization Nursing Students of Color at UCSF as well as through my position as President of the Associated of the School of Nursing at UCSF.
Marsha-Gail Davis, MD
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Hometown: I was raised on the beautiful isle of Jamaica. Interestingly, I was brought to Jamaica at the tender age of 2 days so my actual birth place is Brooklyn, NY. Wooodhull Medical Center to be exact. I also partly grew up in Philadelphia and Atlanta once I immigrated to the US.
Education: I attended the Swarthmore College where I studied Biology and Spanish. My greatest love has always been science as I am freakishly fascinated by nature and all aspects of it including the unfathomable perfection that is the human body. I also studied quite a bit of Spanish in college and am now able call my self fairly fluent or so my Spanish-speaking patients tell me. I’m Spanish certified at Yale, which means I don’t have to use a translator so I guess I would call that fluent.
What made you choose medicine? I have a very simple answer. I chose medicine because it combined my loves: people and science. It is a multifaceted profession that requires interpersonal skills, leadership skills, time-management skills, critical thinking skills and creativity. I can’t think of a more fascinating job where you get the privilege of learning about others intimately and having the power to change their lives for the better. I am also very passionate about prevention and through understanding how the body works, why it breaks down and how you can prevent that, I can confidently approach the problems of chronic disease to create solutions that help people live healthy lives.
Where are you now? I am currently in my last year of residency in the Yale Primary Care (Internal Medicine) Program. Only boss moves now :) It has been an incredible journey. As challenging as residency is, it has been a transformational experience through which I have seen myself grow, mature and evolve into the physician I want to be. I plan to pursue a Preventive Medicine Residency after I graduate next year.
What do you love most about your work? The relationships I develop with patients and seeing them improve their health. I am also very aware of the platform I have and the image I represent for those coming after me. Representation matters and I want to make sure I am doing my part to encourage the beautiful black and brown minds that have the potential to be the next anything including the next generation of physicians.
What are your hobbies and interests? I have many interests which include being my own stylist, reading an eclectic selection of books, creating art in all forms including sculpture, jewelry, painting and singing.
Olumuyiwa Akinrimisi, MD and MS Candidate
Preferred pronouns: he/him
Hometown: Long Beach, California
Education: Bachelors in Psychology. Masters in Healthcare Management candidate at Johns Hopkins University and University of California San Diego MD in progress
What made you choose medicine? I chose medicine because I not only wanted to be a physician but I wanted to make a valuable impact on my community. I am very passionate about serving the underserved and a lot of this stems from the experiences and obstacles I have faced coming from a low-income family. I had a natural love for science growing up and pursuing medicine was my way of making it out. Growing up in an under-resourced area, I know first-hand that there are a lot of undernourished talent. Furthermore, UCSD School of Medicine has given me the opportunity to create programs such as Health Professions Recruitment and Exposure Program (HPREP) to help provide the resources and opportunities to nourish the talent that tends to be forgotten.
Where are you now? I have successfully finished my first three years of medical school and I am currently living in Baltimore, Maryland pursing a Masters degree in Healthcare Management at Johns Hopkins Carey School of Business.
What do you love about your work? I love the versatility that comes with the world of medicine. I am able to learn so much about the mechanism of many disease processes and also strategically tie those mechanisms to how they affect our communities in the socioeconomic lens. The great thing about studying medicine is that it doesn't just stop at forming relationships with our patients but it expands to building relationships with the community. I have been able to use what medicine has taught me to mentor youth from underprivileged backgrounds, practice interviewing skills with premedical students, and teach communities how to properly prevent and manage chronic illnesses.
What are your hobbies and interests? After a long day of work I love to watch some basketball games, play some basketball, and make sure my fantasy basketball team is performing well. Other than basketball, I love dancing (currently trying to master salsa and bachata), cooking, hiking, and trying different types of ramen.
Cynthia Fambro, MD
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Hometown: Born in Cleveland, Ohio. Raised in San Diego, California
Education: Bachelors Degree in Sciences, from California State University San Marcos. Medical Degree from University of California San Diego.
Why did you choose medicine? I recall the overwhelming sense of hopelessness and despair that I experienced when my father confided in myself and my older siblings that he was battling with a drug addiction. I frequently attended Narcotic Anonymous meetings with him and heard stories of individuals from vulnerable populations, including loss of their families and declining health. In my Post-baccalaureate studies I had the opportunity to examine health disparities and the needs of the medically underserved and this played a definitive role in my decision to become a physician as it enabled me to serve in diverse medically disadvantaged communities.
Where are you now? Current Family Medicine PGY-3 resident at Harbor-UCLA
What do you love most about your work? I love that I have the opportunity to build therapeutic relationships with individuals from various cultural backgrounds. Additionally, I am always learning from my patients as they are very inquisitive and this encourages me to keep current on the most recent studies. I also enjoy working with different Attendings, as each of them has a different method for managing various conditions which allows me to develop and hone my skills.
What are your hobbies and interests? I enjoy all things health and fitness. I am a huge proponent of staying physically active, including through hiking, weightlifting, and doing yoga.
Gabriel Felix, MD Candidate and 55th National President of SNMA
Preferred pronoun: He/Him
Hometown: Rockland County, New York
Education: B.A. Psychology from Binghamton University
Why did you choose medicine? I decided to pursue medicine because I felt a calling to be someone who inspires and educates people about their health. I realized this after college when I was doing clinical research on people with disabilities at a non-profit organization. Along with my interest in the sciences and healthcare in general, I realized it was the only field I could imagine myself in that would intellectually stimulate me and put me in a position that would allow me to impact people positively using my knowledge.
Where are you now? I am currently a 4th year medical student at Howard University College of Medicine in Washington DC.
What do you love most about medicine? Beyond interacting with patients I love that medicine is constantly evolving and reminds me that there is always much more I can learn. I also love the interplay between medicine, economics, and politics, because it leaves me room to expand my impact outside of clinical practice.
What are your hobbies and interests? I currently serve as the 55th National President for the Student National Medical Association. In this role I get to steer the programmatic efforts of the organization to address health disparities and support premedical and medical students in becoming physicians. My goal is this position is to increase diversity in medicine by strengthening the pipeline from being a premedical student to medical school to becoming a physician. Outside of medicine, I enjoying traveling to new places and trying out new food. I've always had a passion for music and sing regularly at my church in Washington DC.
Sergio Alvarez, MD
Hometown: El Monte, CA
Education: Bachelors Degree in Cellular and Developmental Biology from UCSB; David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles; Current Resident in Emergency Medicine at UCSF-ZSFG
Why did you choose medicine? My passion for medicine started at a young age when I accompanied my younger brother to the emergency department after a head injury. The early memory of a compassionate physician has always been something that I have strived to become. In college, I was involved in molecular genetics and organic chemistry research and although this was interesting research, I felt that it lacked the human connection given to my family in our time of need. I then shadowed several emergency medicine physicians throughout college and realized that medicine would provide a career that would allow me to interact with people from all walks of life, require continual learning, and challenge me intellectually.
Where are you now? I am a 3rd year emergency medicine resident in the UCSF-ZSFG Emergency Medicine program. I live in San Francisco with my amazing wife and we are currently expecting our first child.
What do you love about your job? I truly enjoy evaluating and treating the undifferentiated patient and the critically ill in their time of need. Medicine allows me to break down socioeconomic, racial, and language barriers all in one place which is important to my values. I am humbled, challenged, and rewarded daily within this field. It is a privilege to posses the skills needed to evaluate and treat everyone that walks though our hospital doors.
What are your hobbies and interests? My hobbies include traveling, wrestling and exercising. I am an avid UFC, collegiate and freestyle wrestling fan and can frequently be found watching competitions on my phone or at a local bar. I also enjoy hanging out with my stumpy dog, Messi. My interests include sports medicine and emergency medicine ultrasound and I was on the 2018 SAEM SonoGames national championship team.
Christina T. Rosenthal, DDS, MPH
Preferred pronoun: She/Her
Hometown: Memphis, TN
Education: BA-University of Memphis, DDS-University of Tennessee College of Dentistry, MPH-Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Why did you choose dentistry and public health? Unbeknownst to me, I have always had a fascination with teeth. In lieu of eyes, I stared at mouths when conversing. When this weird form of communication was brought to my attention, I looked into it and found dentistry to be an ideal profession. Dentistry allows me to be both an artist and servant with the ability to restore broken teeth and confidence simultaneously. My life's primary objective has always been to serve, and dentistry allows me to do just that. The flexible nature of my profession also provides an avenue to do public health-related ventures such as health fairs, community programs, and my other passion, the Determined to be a Doctor Someday initiative.
Where are you now? I am currently serving as Executive Director of the Determined to be a Doctor Someday (D.D.S.) initiatives and practicing general dentistry in Memphis, TN.
What do you love most about your work? There are many, but I will list two. 1) When patients cry tears of joy because they are able to smile again or are relieved of pain makes dentistry so rewarding. 2) When participants of D.D.S. perform well on standardized tests, get accepted into their choice colleges and health professional schools, or send me messages about the impact I made in their lives, my purpose feels fulfilled.
What are your hobbies and interests? spending time with my family, reading, traveling, performing community service
David R. Williams, PhD, MPH
Preferred pronouns: he, him, his
Hometown: Castries, St Lucia
Education & Career: Professor David R. Williams is the Florence and Laura Norman Professor of Public Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Professor of African and African American Studies and Sociology at Harvard University. His prior academic appointments were at Yale University (6 years) and the University of Michigan (14 years). He holds an MPH from Loma Linda University and a PhD in Sociology from the University of Michigan. Dr. Williams is an internationally recognized authority on social influences on health. He is the author of more than 400 scientific papers and his research has enhanced our understanding of the complex ways in which race, socioeconomic status, stress, racism, health behavior and religious involvement can affect health.
Awards & Honors: He is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was ranked as the Most Cited Black Scholar in the Social Sciences in 2008. In 2014, Thomson Reuters ranked him as one of the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds. He has also received Distinguished Contributions awards from the American Sociological Association, the American Psychological Association and the New York Academy of Medicine. Dr. Williams has served on numerous national committees, including eight for the National Academy of Medicine. He has also played a visible, national leadership role in raising awareness levels of the problem of health inequalities and identifying interventions to address them. He or his research have been featured by some of the nation’s top news organizations.
What are your hobbies and interests? spending time with family and friends, reading, international travel, community service
Antonio Moya, MD, MPH
Preferred pronouns: he, him, his
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Education: UCLA undergrad, UCSF medical school (PRIME-US), Harvard MPH, New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Neurology Residency
Why did you choose medicine? Dr. Moya is interested in stroke prevention and treatment among underserved communities; telemedicine to facilitate neurology education, referrals, diagnostics, and treatment; and Asian Pacific Islander immigrant health disparities in neurology.
Where are you now? UCLA National Clinician Scholars Program
What do you love most about your work? Dr. Moya is interested in using quantitative and qualitative research methods to understand disparities, in particular advocating for the disaggregation of data amongst Asian subgroups. He would also like to focus on how to leverage telemedicine as a multilingual platform to increase neurology care for immigrant, non-English speaking patients.
What are your hobbies and interests? live music, jazz, running and traveling the world
Erica Manrríquez, MD
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Hometown: Fountain Valley, CA
Education: BS (Human Biology) - UC San Diego, MD - UC San Francisco, OBGYN Residency - UC San Francisco
Why did you choose medicine? To be an advocate for communities of color in their relationship with health and the healthcare system. I always found biology and physiology fascinating and, as I learned more about environmental and societal effects on a person's health and vice versa, medicine seemed like the perfect blend of advocacy and intellectual interest for me. My particular love for the operating room was borne out of an old passion for watercolor, drawing and any art of the like.
Where are you now? I'm in my final year of OBGYN residency at UCSF and applying into gynecologic oncology fellowships. This means 3-4 years of subspecialty training in cancer surgery, chemotherapy and the general care of women with GYN cancers.
What do you love about your job? First and foremost, taking care of women in what can be a very vulnerable space. Secondarily, I love the operating room, which has become a very reflective and creative space for me.
What are your hobbies and interests? Dancing and music! I also love to run, hike and be outside enjoying the California landscapes.
Emilio Ramos, MD, PhD
Hometown: Chula Vista, Ca and Tijuana, BC, MX
Where are you now? Pathology Resident, UCSF
Why did you choose science and medicine? I grew up along the border and never thought about college until the end of high school. In my mind, I wanted to be a second generation garbage man and follow our family tradition working alongside my Dad and his brothers. I loved the blue uniform. That all changed with a great mentor (high school history teacher) who decided I could be a first-generation college student instead. In the 15 years since starting college, I have done things I never imagined possible and mentors have helped me every step of the way. In a way, the garbage man thing still worked out. I work as a resident in Pathology and wear a blue uniform when we are examining specimens and bodies from patients who have received care in the hospital. My hope is to pay all the experiences and mentorship forward and encourage others to continue to follow their dreams.
Dr. Ramos would like you to check out Brain Camp , an immersive mentorship experience for underserved high school students in San Francisco run by UCSF medical students and faculty.
Julia Richardson, OD Candidate
Preferred pronouns: She/her
Hometown: I grew up in the small town of Mansfield, Ohio. I moved to Tahoe City, California in 2009 and then to San Diego in 2012.
Education: BFA in Studio Art, concentrating in Photography and a minor in Arts Management from Miami University in 2009. Currently an OD candidate at the University of California Berkeley School of Optometry
Why did you choose optometry? After college, I worked as a coordinator for youth arts & media programs centered around social justice. Some of our projects covered the inequality of access to healthcare and it was in these projects that I think initially piqued my interest in pursuing a career in health. I had always been interested in health and medicine, and had a lot of personal experience with optometry growing up with amblyopia and very high myopia. I found optometry was a way to connect the artist in me to help others appreciate the world's beauty, while also work as an advocate to improve access to eye care.
Where are you now? I just started my second year of optometry school at the University of California Berkeley School of Optometry.
What do you love most about your work? Seeing someone's face light up when they put on a pair of glasses and see the world in a whole new way!
What are your hobbies and interests? When I'm not at school or studying, I love to sew my own clothes & accessories, play piano, bake, and spend time outdoors.
Angele Labastide, MD Candidate
Preferred pronouns: She/her/hers
Hometown: San Juan, Trinidad and Tobago
Education: B.S .Health Sciences, UCSC (2010), M.D. UCSD School of Medicine (2019)
Why did you choose medicine? I was first inspired to think about serving society when I was doing missionary work in rural Guatemala as a teenager. At the time I didn't really have the vocabulary or conceptual framework to describe health disparities, but I could tell that there were pockets of the world in which people were not thriving. At the time , I felt inspired to make a difference , but was frustrated by my lack of practical skills to do so. I first became interested in the complex dynamics of the human body through medical illustration.
The pursuit of a skillset I can use to serve communities in need and my growing curiosity about the dynamics of the body has ultimately brought me to medicine.
Where are you now? I am a 4th year Medical Student at UCSD. I am applying for the 2019 cycle of Internal Medicine Residency programs.
What do you love most about your work? Abundant opportunities to do work that I believe in, a platform to inspire the next generation of young learners, and uplifting moments of human connection.
Hobbies: visual art, community yoga, running club
Interests: Global Health, Underserved Medicine, Mentorship, Youth Development
Javier Galvan, MD and MPH Candidate
Preferred pronouns: he/him
Hometown: I was born in Orange, CA but have lived in Livermore, CA since I was ten.
Education: I attended Las Positas Community College for two years after a four-year enlistment in the United States Marine Corps. I then transferred to San Francisco State University where I graduated with a BA in Biology. I am a PRIME medical student at the University of California, San Francisco. I am studying Public Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Why did you choose medicine? I chose medicine serendipitously. For my deployment to Afghanistan, the military trained me as a Combat Lifesaver and I ended up falling in love with physiology and decided I would leave the service to study medicine. I did not know what it meant to want to be a physician, but I was steadfast in my decision. As a community college student, I spent a summer at Stanford’s School of Medicine Summer Health Careers Opportunity Program where I met medical students and physicians who looked like me. It was here where I realized that I was looking for a mentor to help me along the way. One particular physician here took a particular interest in me and encouraged me to pursue my goals and helped me along the way.
Where are you now? I recently finished my 3rd year of medical school and took a gap year to earn my master’s degree. I am currently studying Public Health as a Sommer Scholar at Johns Hopkins.
What do you love most about your work? I love giving back to my community. My favorite part of what I do is being a role model for people who look like me. At UCSF, I had the privilege to take part in multiple summer programs for youth in the San Francisco Bay Area. Through this experience, I started a one-week brain theme summer camp called Brain Camp. I am a firm believer that our youth are our future and believe we should invest more in making sure they are prepared to live productive lives.
What are your hobbies and interests? I love creating and giving back! In my spare time, I make my own skin care products. I created my own company called Bee Life to help cover some of the cost of medical school. I am also working on a Podcast with another fellow classmate to discuss topics in medicine from the patient’s viewpoint.
Michelle Guy, MD
Preferred pronouns: she/her/hers
Hometown: Born in Panama City, Panama and grew up in St. Louis, MO
Education: University of Michigan B.A in Comparative Literature; University of Missouri—Columbia School of Medicine; Cambridge Health Alliance/Harvard Medical School Primary Care Residency and Chief Residency.
Why did you choose medicine? My family left Panama when I was 3 years old, so my mother could pursue her dream of becoming a doctor. Being around a hospital setting growing up, I was always drawn to a career in medicine; but I also considered teaching as a career. Finding a career in academic medicine was not a straight path but I feel lucky to have my dream job.
Where are you now? Clinical Professor of Medicine at UCSF
What do you love about your work? I love caring for patients. Getting to know them and their families over years is an amazing gift. Also getting to work with medical students and residents in a clinical setting is a lot of fun and pushes me to continue learning. I’ve personally struggled with my weight all my life. In 2015 I received a 2nd board certification in Obesity Medicine. I understand on a personal level the impact weight has on our day to day life. Being able to help patients with over-weight and obesity is a great privilege.
What are your hobbies and interests? I love tennis, playing, watching, talking about it! Tennis is great for me because it gets me outside and connecting with friends. I hope I can continue to play into my 80’s. I love living in the Bay Area where I can play tennis outside year round.
Rosny Daniel, MD
Preferred pronouns: He, him
Hometown: Huntington Beach, CA
Education: Occidental College '09, UCSF Med School '14, UCSF-ZSFG EM Residency '18
Why did you choose medicine? I love science and view medicine as an honorable profession that is incredibly interesting to practice.
Where are you now? Medical Education Fellow at UCSF and Pool Doc at Kaiser in the bay area.
What do you love most about your work? I love doing emergency medicine - every day is a new challenge and there is always something exciting happening in the emergency department. I get to work with amazing folks and meet new people from every walk of life every single day I am at work.
What are your hobbies and interests? Soccer, basketball, running, HIIT, cooking, public speaking, mentoring, personal finance, live concerts at small venues, dogs, travel, stand up comedy and much more!
Teresa Gomez-Bramble, MD, MPH
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Hometown: Inglewood, CA
Education: Claremont McKenna College - BA Biology and Spanish, Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine - MD, MPH, University of California, San Francisco - Family and Community Medicine Residency.
Why did you choose medicine? My life experiences growing up in a low-income underserved Latino community, attending a magnet math and science high school that fostered students’ interests in science-based careers, and volunteering as a medical translator for Spanish-speaking patients throughout college all contributed to finding my passion for serving others, which led me to pursue a career in medicine. I am interested in caring for vulnerable patient populations, particularly Latinx immigrants, as I find that I often have the biggest impact on their lives given our shared language, culture and life experiences.
Where are you now? I recently completed my family medicine residency and have continued my training as a chief resident at UCSF. In this role, I hope to further develop my leadership and teaching skills, while supporting and advocating for family medicine residents during their training.
What do you love most about your work? As a family medicine physician, I love that everyday in primary care is a different and exciting day - well child exams, annual physicals, chronic disease management, procedures, end-of-life care discussions. I love the patients I care for and am privileged to get to know them intimately as I learn about their lives, families, fears, hopes, aspirations, etc.
What are your hobbies and interests? I enjoy running, hiking, spending time with my husband, 7-month old baby boy, family and friends, and exploring the bay area through new restaurants, hikes, festivals and local weekend getaways.
Milana PeBenito, MD
Preferred pronouns: She/her
Hometown: Honolulu, HI
Education: Residency in Family Medicine at UCSF, MD at UCSF, BS at UCSC
Why did you choose medicine? I choose to practice medicine because I want to be of service and work towards justice in a field that stimulates my mind and energizes my heart.
Where are you now? Currently I’m pursuing a fellowship in Maternal and Child health at UCSF Fresno.
What do you love most about your work? My favorite thing about my work is the opportunity to support folks through challenges and to reflect back to them their own resiliency, especially in times of childbirth, childrearing, addiction, and loss.
What are your hobbies and interests? For fun I like to float down slow moving rivers, do sweaty yoga, and cook delicious food with friends.
Claudia Barrera, RN, MS
Preferred pronouns: She, Her, Hers
Hometown: Pico Rivera, CA
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Biological Sciences, from the University of California, Davis. One year ago, I completed the accelerated nursing program at the University of California, San Francisco (USCF), Master’s Entry Program in Nursing (MEPN), and received my Registered Nurse license.
Why did you choose to become a nurse practitioner? From a young age, I knew that I wanted a career in health care. As a young adult and through patient conversations, I came to learn about the health disparities and inequities they faced when navigating the complex American health care system. I could not be complacent and felt the need to voice these issues affecting patients as well as make a change. It was during my last work experience that I worked with several Nurse Practitioners, and I came to understand the profession through my interactions with them. I most appreciated that the education for this profession prepares you to be a leader, while training you to think beyond the patient’s symptoms or diagnosis and deliver holistic care to patients. Another reason I chose an NP career was because I wanted to be involved in patient care at the health care provider level. I am a bilingual Latina and have second-hand witnessed the difference it makes in patients’ manner of communicating when a health care provider is relatable to them and speaks their native language. Also, in all of my health care work experiences, I could not help but always notice the lack of Latino health care providers and grew tired of seeing this difference; this became a motivating factor and here I am. Lastly, I knew an NP career would allow me to be an advocate for patients of diverse ethnic and gender identities, and a mentor for future and younger students of color who are first generation like me.
Where are you now? Living in San Francisco while completing my clinical training at the San Francisco VA, and working on my last year of the Master’s Degree in Adult Gerontology-Primary Care Nurse Practitioner at UCSF.
What do you love most about your work? Developing rapport with patients and having the privilege of earning their trust as a novice NP student trainee. I also love that I get to partner up with patients as their team member along with other interprofessional health care providers, so that together we can address the different factors influencing the patients’ health concerns and stressors.
What are your hobbies and interests? Usually getting outdoors and hiking locally to unwind from the week. Concerts and traveling when I can afford to, and checking out food places in San Francisco since I’m a SoCal native. As a curious learner, I also enjoy reading non-fiction, or articles about health care topics that I am interested in such as, Health (Care) Disparities, Palliative Care, and Cancer Survivorship.
Enabit Gebremariam, RN, PHN, BSN
Preferred pronouns: She/Her/Hers
Hometown: Santa Rosa, CA
Education: Saint Mary’s College of California: Pre-nursing and a BS in Nursing from Samuel Merritt University- Oakland, CA.
Why did you choose nursing? My parents are Eritrean immigrants, making English a second language in our household. I was raised in a household where my culture has played a defining role in my values, ethics, and constant desire to help others. This is due to being a part of a culture where having a selfless mindset is the priority. The concept that there is more to life than my personal wants and needs; the fact that I can contribute to the lives of others by simply offering a helping hand. With this in mind, I am always more than willing to help those around me. I was 7 years old when my mother was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes. From that moment on I became her translator for all of her doctor appointments. For over 10 years her Diabetes was uncontrolled and I remember seeing her develop anxiety prior to doctor appointments. A majority of the staff working with her was not culturally competent, nor took the time or effort to be. Over time her health status had depleted and I realized that it wasn’t because she was careless, but because she and I did not understand her condition and the increased risk of co-morbidities. Ultimately, I began to take on her struggles as my own. Improving and understanding her health became my goal. This experience in itself has shaped me into the person I am today. Being a nurse is much more that just a job, it’s a calling. Nursing means taking a holistic/patient-centered approach when caring for individuals of various backgrounds. In ways, my mother was my first patient; she helped me see my passion to help others, and how I can advocate for those in need of a voice.
Where are you now? I currently live in Oakland, CA. I am a Registered Nurse at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, where I specialize in providing acute care for adult medicine; post surgery, orthopedic, palliative, and oncology patients.
What do you love the most about your work? I think in any discipline of health care, we are exposed to people in sometimes what is their most vulnerable state. As a nurse, spending numerous hours at the bedside is a humbling experience. Being a part of their healing process: mentally, physically, emotionally is not only rewarding, but it always helps put life into perspective.
What are your hobbies and interests? Outside of the hospital, I spend my time mentoring and tutoring students of color who are seeking guidance and pursuing a career in health care. I am active in my community; I help coordinate health fairs and health screenings. In addition to community service, I love music, movies, dance, traveling and anything that has to do with food or sleep.
Lindia Willies-Jacobo, MD
Preferred pronouns: she, her, hers
Hometown: I was born and raised in Panama. Immigrated to the U.S. in 1983 and have been in San Diego since
Education: B.A. Biochemistry and Cell Biology UCSD. MD-UCSD
Why did you choose medicine? I knew that I wanted to be a doctor from the time I was 5-years old. I was initially fascinated with the human body. This fascination persisted, but also morphed into a deep desire to assist with healing, and to be of service to others
Where are you now? I joined the faculty at UCSD in 1996, and I am still there. I am a Professor of Pediatrics, Assistant Dean for Diversity and Community Partnerships, and Director of PRIME-HEq
What do you love about your work? There is not a lot about my work that I don’t love. If I had to pick one thing, it would be, without a doubt, mentorship of students and trainees at all levels of their personal and professional journey. I was the beneficiary of mentorship at all levels of my training and career trajectory, and I have always told myself that if ever given the opportunity, I would be certain to give back.
What are your hobbies and interests? I enjoy reading, running, cooking and traveling.
Tara Gomez-Hampton, PhD
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Hometown: Pasadena, CA
Education: BS, Molecular Biology UCLA; PhD, Biology Caltech
Why did you choose science and research? I have always been interested in understanding how the body systems work. As a child, this interest led me to studying the insects and plants in my backyard. As I grew older, it expanded to doing real bench science in laboratories.
Where are you now? Medical Affairs Manager, Biosense Webster a Johnson & Johnson company
What do you love most about your work? I am fortunate to think about how the question of "how does this work" translates into functional medical devices that offers cures.
What are your hobbies and interests? I enjoy photography, genealogy, scrapbooking, and civic engagement
Alma Sanchez, MD, MPH
Preferred pronouns: She/her
Hometown: Hollister, CA
Education: B.S., B.A. @ Duke University; M.S. @ Barry University; M.D., M.P.H. @ Tulane University
Why you chose medicine? I chose medicine because I thought it would be the best way to give back to and uplift my community. I grew up in a migrant farm worker family and saw how difficult it was to navigate living in a new country let alone the medical field. I saw when they walked out of the doctor’s office, not sure if they were truly understood. I’m here to make sure that they are. That their voice is heard and that they receive equitable care. I also lost a parent due to illness at a young age and that initially drew me towards medicine.
Where are you now? I'm in a transition period between residency and fulfilling my NHSC scholarship. I have the option to stay local or to relocate to anywhere! That is very exciting and I am very much looking forward to providing primary care wherever it is that I end up.
What do you love most about your work? I love when patients feel empowered and take an active role in their health. I love the teaching moments. My colleagues are also wonderful to work with and learn from.
What are your hobbies and interests? Exercise, world travel, baking, social justice
Adeola Oni-Orisan, MD, PhD
Preferred pronouns: she/her/hers
Hometown: Ann Arbor, MI
Education: BS in Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology at Yale University; MD at Harvard Medical School; PhD in Medical Anthropology at UC San Francisco/UC Berkeley
Why did you choose medicine? Choosing medicine, for me, meant choosing family medicine. I returned to medicine after several years away pursuing a doctoral degree in anthropology, with a new sense of urgency to infuse my clinical practice with a critical lens toward imbalances of power, histories of dispossession, legacies of trauma, and the diversity of human experience and knowledge that is routinely disregarded or delegitimized. Family medicine allows me to do this because like anthropologists, family physicians attend to how complex interactions between structures, institutions, and people bare on human experience. Through family medicine, I have the opportunity to partner with patients, families, and communities around issues related to their health on a personal level across the spectrum of their lives and on a broader level in terms of research and advocacy.
Where are you now? Family Medicine Resident at UCSF
What do you love most about your work? I am only a few months in, but I already love working with San Francisco General Hospital's patient population. Working in a resource-limited setting is challenging in ways that I hadn't anticipated, but also rewarding in many more ways.
What are your hobbies and interests? Lately, I have been enjoying exploring my new home in San Francisco, learning as much as I can about the community organizations, feeling inspired by beautiful murals, trying out neighborhood restaurants, and reading about local histories of resistance.
Manuel Campa, MD
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Education: Bachelor of Science in Physiological Science from UCLA; Medical Degree (MD) from the Charles R. Drew/UCLA Medical Education Program; Residency and Fellowship training at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center
Why did you choose medicine? I was raised in the home of two public school educators who valued education and helping those in need. My interest in the sciences led into various opportunities exploring research, physical therapy, sports medicine, and global health. Ultimately my awareness around social inequities in health is what propelled me into the field of family medicine and primary care.
Where are you now? Medical Director, Adult Primary Care Clinic at LA County + USC Medical Center
What do you love most about your job? I am blessed to work in my home community and care for patients through their journeys of health and illness. I enjoy my work as the leader of an incredible group of multidisciplinary healers who strive to provide the best care possible for the patients of Los Angeles County.
What are your hobbies and interests? I love spending time with my wife and children, in particular exploring the social and cultural landmarks and history of Los Angeles (we have passes to all the museums!). I have remained a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers, Dodgers and UCLA Bruins… despite limited time to actually catch a game.
Dr. Damilola Toluwalase Akani, MD, MPH
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Hometown: Born in Lagos, Nigeria. Spent most of my childhood and early adulthood living between Nigeria and England.
Education: Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences from Imperial College London. Medicine at University of California San Diego School of Medicine. Master of Public Health with a concentration in Global Health from Harvard School of Public Health. Residency in Pediatrics at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington D.C. to be completed in 2020.
Why did you choose medicine? When I was applying to undergraduate programs I knew I wanted to be in a scientific field, but could not decide between a life spent delving deeply into research or medicine. I had always told my family I wanted to be a doctor form a young age. However, after completing my undergraduate degree in biological sciences, I realized that medicine was the one field that perfectly combined all my various interests. I loved learning about disease processes and management. I loved interacting with people particularly in the areas of counseling and mentorship. I loved having variety. I can see 10 patients with the same respiratory illness but have a completely different experience dealing with each one. Lastly, I knew I wanted the chance to make a real difference people’s lives knowing that health is a right, though it is often treated as a privilege and a commodity with many underserved and disadvantaged populations bearing the brunt of suffering.
Where are you now? I am currently a second year pediatric resident at Children’s National Medical Center. I am also on the community health track, which prepares residents to work with underserved and disadvantaged populations.
What do you love about your job? 1) The kids! I love my patient population. Even on those hard days, seeing my patients reminds me of why I do what I do and often brings a smile to my face. 2) The racial, ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic diversity of the population. Working in the only stand-alone Children’s Hospital in D.C. means that we get to work with a wide range of patients from all walks of life. We also have a significant international population as well. 3) My colleagues. Help and support are always nearby. I cannot appreciate them enough! 4) Being in D.C., in a program that places premium on advocacy in child health, means that there are numerous opportunities for me to grow my interests in global health as well as a wide range of mentors able to help me reach my goals.
What are your hobbies/interests? I’m a true foodie! I’m up for most things concerning food! I enjoy cooking and watching cooking shows. I love eating out and trying new foods. I also love to travel, when I have time.
Bernadette Lim, MD Candidate
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Education: BA in Human Evolutionary Biology and Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Harvard; MD/MS Candidate at the Joint Medical Program with UCSF School of Medicine and UC Berkeley School of Public Health
Why did you choose medicine? I'm passionate about bringing healing and justice to underserved communities. Medicine gives me the powerful opportunity to not merely be a physician seeing patients in the hospital, but more importantly be an advocate for injustices I see affecting communities and neighborhoods who are often not represented or underrepresented in these ivory towers. I want to become a doctor who you will not only see in the clinic dedicated to giving direct care to the underserved, but also an activist who is creating programs/initiatives/free clinics, leading protests, and pushing the status quo towards addressing important issues that are voiced by the communities who are in need of the most care.
Where are you now? I'm in my second year at the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program! We are a dope, tight-knit social justice-oriented medical school program based in the East Bay, which has such an incredible history of community health and activism.
What do you love most about your work? As a medical student, I've already been exposed to extreme joys and sorrows of patients' lives. This is a continually humbling experience that helps remind me how fragile, emotional, and sacred life is. It is an honor to hold space and be a place of support for patients during their most vulnerable times as a life calling.
What are your hobbies and interests? I'm a creator and artist that dabbles in a lot of passion projects. Most recently, I'm the founding student organizer of theFreedom School for Intersectional Medicine and Health Justice. I'm writing a Masters thesis on Filipino youth health disparities. I also run several programs I created in the East Bay for youth combining health education, activism, and photography, am starting a podcast for WOC in Medicine, write poetry, avidly play the piano, and listen to R&B/soul music.
Alicia Morehead-Gee, MD
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Hometown: Inglewood, CA
Education: I got my bachelor’s degree in human biology from Stanford University and my medical degree from the Charles Drew University-UCLA Medical Education Program. I completed residency in internal medicine at UCSF, through the San Francisco Primary Care Track, with a focus on health equity.
Why did you choose medicine? In college, I wasn’t quite sure what career I wanted to pursue, but I knew that I liked math and science. My parents’ friends had told me to become a doctor as a young kid, and that encouragement helped guide me towards majoring in human biology at Stanford. After graduation, I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to do clinical medicine or biomedical research. Luckily, I found a program at the NIH (called the Postbaccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award [IRTA]) that allowed me to get some experience working in medicine and conducting clinical research. I enjoyed my time in clinic so much that I applied to medical school during my second year in the research program! During my time in the program, I really appreciated the women who talked to me about their health experiences, allowing me to get a glimpse of what it was like to be a doctor. I continued to value those interactions as a medical student; now, as a physician, these personal moments are the best part of my job.
Where are you now? I’m a research fellow in the National Clinician Scholars Program (NCSP) at UCLA, which is a health policy & health services research fellowship dedicated towards advancing healthcare through scholarship and advocacy. I’m interested in improving HIV prevention efforts for Black women in Los Angeles, so the NCSP is giving me the training on how to conduct research in a way to change health policy and better address this health disparity. I’m meeting so many community leaders and physician researchers through the program, so I’m hopeful that we can work together to make change!
What do you love about your work? Can’t get any better than the relationships. Doctors get the rare opportunity to listen to a person’s hopes, fears difficulties, and successes (sometimes in just 15 minutes!). We then get the chance to give encouragement and advice for a living. I love to just listen and learn from my patients.
What are your hobbies and interests? I love to travel! I had a chance to work for a month in Kenya earlier this year, and it was one of the best parts of my residency. I really enjoy learning about different cultural traditions (and trying different beaches) when I travel. I also love to meet my friends in different areas of the US and world. On the less interesting side, I like to watch reality tv and go to the gym.
Michelle Ramirez, MD, MPH
Preferred pronouns: Her, She
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Education: Stanford University (09/2001 – 06/2005), BA, Spanish and Portuguese; Minor, Human Biology, Harvard School of Public Health(08/2013 – 05/2014), MPH, Health Policy and Management Concentration, University of California, San Diego School of Medicine(09/2010 – 06/2015) MD, Orthopedic Surgery Residency Program.
Why did you choose medicine? My path to medicine and orthopedic surgery may have been unexpected and untraditional, yet I believe I and other people like me have a unique perspective and special skills to offer. Physicians must understand the science of medicine, and everyone involved, from physicians to patients, must understand the art, the human connection. I chose medicine in order to use my knowledge not only to physically heal, but also to connect with and empower patients. My background as a first generation Mexican-American and experience have given me the perspective to understand patients in their entirety: their beliefs, culture and resources and have placed me in a unique position to offer skilled care that is culturally competent and just.
Where are you now?
Atlanta, GA completing my fourth year, out of five, in my Orthopedic Surgery Residency
hat do you love the most about your work?I chose orthopedic surgery specifically because I am able to use my hands, knowledge and skill to build and create. I enjoy fixing and reconstructing living structures in order to heal patients and improve their quality of life.
Atlanta Medical Center, Wellstar (07/2015 – 06/2020)
Mahader Tamene, MS
Preferred pronouns: she, her, hers
Hometown: St. Paul, MN
Education: Masters of Science in Global Health
Why did you choose public health? Growing up, I learned how being poor, Black and immigrant affects access to affordable quality food, safe public space, and continuous primary care for folks in my community. Public health served as the tool of knowledge and application by which I could effect justice in my community.
Where are you now? I am a Senior Project Manager at Boston Medical Center, working on a community-based pediatric behavioral health integration implementation initiative called TEAM UP for Children.
What do you love most about your work? I most enjoy being able to think of, design, implement and test interventions to improve access to mental health and substance use services for folks often precluded from care.
What are your hobbies and interests? I enjoy listening to music, reading a book, and indulging in some good TV every once in a while.
Catalina Cuervo, MD, MPH
Preferred pronoun: she/her
Hometown: Bogotá, Colombia followed by many years of living and learning in Texas
Education: A Bachelor's Degree in Biology, from The University of Texas at Dallas, a Masters of Public Health from The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and a MD from the The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center - Dallas. I completed residency in Family and Community Medicine from The University of California San Francisco/ San Francisco General Hospital. I am a proud product of public educational institutions!
Career: I am a primary care doctor in the Bay Area, currently working in Oakland for the community health center La Clínica de La Raza.
Why did you choose primary care and public health? I discovered early on that I feel most fulfilled personally and professionally when I am supporting others through challenging transitions in their lives and relationships. Family medicine allows me to share a broader lens with patients to explore how relationships, environments, and community affect their experiences and wellbeing. My public health background expands this perspective by acknowledging the structural, cultural, and political forces that shape our public and private lives.
What do you love about your work? I love listening.
I am constantly humbled by the private parallel narratives of people all around me. I learn about the strength and resilience of the human spirit, and take great pride in my responsibility to create shared spaces for patients to feel heard, understood, and supported. This is especially true for me during challenging transitions in childhood, adolescence, motherhood, migration, grief, and death.
What are your hobbies and interests? I love having varied hobbies! Knowing that we only live in the present, I challenge myself to bring that attention to the way I enjoy my time. It’s simple but profound for me to follow whatever will bring me joy in that moment - may it be enjoying music, sport, travel, art, or food with my family or friends, or cultivating quiet rest.
Ron Labuguen, MD
Preferred pronouns: he/him/his
Hometown: Virginia Beach, Virginia
Education: B.A., University of Virginia; M.D., University of Virginia; Family Medicine Residency and Facuty Development Fellowship, Virginia Commonwealth University
Why did you choose medicine? For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a doctor. It’s definitely a calling – part of what I feel I’m here on Earth to do. I was inspired by my pediatrician, my mother (a retired ICU nurse), and my aunt (an anesthesiologist). I like how the practice of medicine brings science and human relationships together for the purpose of maintaining and improving the health of people and their families. It’s as varied as are people and their health issues, and I like the challenge that presents.
Where are you now? I’m now a Clinical Professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. I practice at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, where I am the Medical Director of the Adult Urgent Care Center.
What do you love most about your work? Every day is different, and every encounter I have with each person is unique. In the same day I can work with clinic staff as we see patients, teach medical students and residents, and contribute to the running of our hospital and clinics as an administrator. Working as a family physician as a clinician, teacher, and administrator presents opportunities to live out my life’s calling, to meet the challenge of seeing what I can do to best make a positive impact on the lives of others and their loved ones. It’s a stimulating and fulfilling profession.
What are your hobbies and interests? spending time with family (all kinds of activities, and just hanging out), reading (I like nonfiction but appreciate a good novel every now and then), sports (both spectating and participating, especially basketball), music (all kinds, both listening and playing)
Angel Rosario, BS, MPH Candidate, MD Candidate
Preferred pronoun: He/Him/His
Hometown: Harlem, New York City
Education: Bachelors Degree in Psychology and Biomedical Sciences from State University of New York (SUNY): University at Buffalo; Current MPH candidate at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Current MD candidate at the University of California San Francisco.
Why did you choose medicine? When I stepped out of my home in Harlem’s projects in New York City as a child, I quickly became aware of the social disparities that were specific to my community. The anger and confusion borne from witnessing inequities across neighborhoods was painful; it was one which was deepened further during a healthcare volunteer trip to Uganda during college. There, I was able to appreciate the undeniable link between poverty and illness which existed, not only in the village that I worked in, but in my own Harlem community. More importantly, I realized that when we worked across multiple sectors of society that there was a huge potential to eliminate both individual and structural illness. Upon graduating, I moved to Los Angeles where I worked for six years with AltaMed Health initially as an AmeriCorps volunteer, later as an HIV Clinic Testing Supervisor, and finally as a Primary Care/HIV Clinic Administrator. These experiences highlighted to me the power of the physician as a critical player in healing at structural and individual levels. It was then that I decided to commit my life to eliminating health and healthcare disparities by leveraging patient narratives.
Where are you now? I recently completed my third year of medical school and am currently at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health obtaining my M.P.H. in Health Management.
What do you love about your work? I am humbled in having the privilege to hear the joys and sorrows of our patients’ lives. I do not know of many other professions where people can be so forthcoming with other about the personal details of their lives. Listening deeply to patients invigorates me, makes me feel purposeful, and connects me to the concept of humanity.
What are your hobbies and interests? Dancing (Hip-Hop, Salsa, Bachata, Merengue), going on VERY long walks (casually walked 26 miles from downtown Long Beach, CA to downtown Los Angeles on a random Saturday), jogging, traveling, spending time with friends and family.
Diana Robles, MD
Preferred pronouns: She/Her
Hometown: Nogales, Arizona
Education: Bachelors in Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard University, Class of 2010, MD at Stanford University, entering class of 2010, graduating class of 2015 (1 year off doing research, community outreach, and teaching)
Why did you choose medicine? I was first attracted to the marriage between life sciences and clinical impact. Over time my interest in community outreach, mentorship, and health disparities has strengthened my love for medicine.
Where are you now? I am in my final year of residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at UCSF. I am pursuing a fellowship (additional sub-specialty training) in Maternal-Fetal Medicine, focusing on high risk pregnancies.
What do you love most about your work? As an OBGYN, I love serving as an advocate for some of the most marginalized and underserved women in our society. I appreciate the opportunity to pull from my own life experiences and the challenges of my community and bring those topics into focus in academic spaces
What are your hobbies and interests? I love to be outside with a warm beverage and a beautiful view. You can find me at a café, park, under a tree, on a hilltop, lake side, or beach. I also enjoy some more indoor hobbies like crochet and water coloring.
Arthurine Zakama, MD
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Hometown: Monrovia, Liberia and Minneapolis, Minnesota
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Medicine, Health, and Society from Vanderbilt University in 2013. Doctor of Medicine from Duke University School of Medicine in 2017.
Why did you choose medicine? I chose medicine because I have always been passionate about taking care of people and being there for them in difficult moments in their lives. Additionally, as I learned more about health disparities, the focus of equal care for all patients became the dominant driver of my day-to-day patient care experiences and why I chose OBGYN. I saw that WOC nationally were getting worse care than their Caucasian counterparts and I wanted to work towards alleviating that disparity.
Where are you now? I’m currently a second year resident in Obstetrics and Gynecology at UCSF.
What do you love most about your work? Caring for women. I enjoy hearing their stories and forming connections through the good, when they bring a new life into the world, and the challenging, when addressing end of life care. I also enjoy the ability to be an advocate for underserved women. It’s a form of caring that I think is critical to the work that I do.
What are your hobbies and interests? I enjoy relaxing near the ocean or the bay, traveling, and exploring the area via restaurants and hiking.
Ian Simpson-Shelton, MD and MAS Candidate
Education: Undergraduate: Biochemistry from St. Mary’s College of Maryland, Currently MS4 at UC San Diego completing a masters degree at UC San Diego in Leadership of Healthcare Organizations.
Why did I choose medicine? I have always admired those who gave back to their community. Physicians not only have the ability to improve healthcare within their communities, but more importantly they have an ability to positively influences the lives of youth. It was not until my Jr. year of college that I understood my love for the sciences and passion for community service were intertwined. Long story short, I chose medicine because I want to prove people wrong. Prove to them that I could, show black youth they can, and demonstrate to the medical community that we can improve health outcomes in underserved communities through undergraduate medical education/training.
Where Am I now? UC San Diego M.A.S. in Leadership of Healthcare Organizations.
What do you love about your work? The patients and our UCSD HPrEP high school students. They are the source of inspiration and truly help put a smile on my face every single day. I feel honored to be in the position that I am in today and I cannot wait to pay it forward.
What are your Hobbies and Interests? Real Talk, I’m some what of a jock so I like sports. I gave up baseball after college, but now I play tennis. I also enjoy looking for new music artists to listen to live. HOWEVER, there will never be another Backyard Band or TCB.
Efren Bose, MA, PharmD
Preferred pronouns: he, him, his
Hometown: Santa Clara, CA
Education: BA, Ethnic Studies & Chemistry, UC Riverside ‘95, MA, Sociology, UC Santa Barbara ‘98, PharmD, UCSF ‘13
Why did you choose pharmacy and academia? I chose pharmacy after dropping out of my PhD program in the mid-2000s after my mom passed away during my final qualifying exams and I lost interest in it. I had interest in being premed in college but crashed out of the major at UCR because I was dealing with my coming out issues and figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. While my interest in the sciences was strong, ethnic studies filled a void in my learning that was missing; my experiences as a queer Filipino American male suddenly were validated and appreciated and I was interested in going into academia to help provide voices for those of us who belong in multiple minority communities. While in my PhD program at UCSF, I started hanging out with the members of PUSO, the professional students’ club for Filipinx Americans, and realized that my heart was more into being a clinician. I did my postbac in pharmacy, and ended up getting back into UCSF for pharmacy where I graduated in 2013. While at UCSF, I did a lot of advocacy for multiple groups; I helped coordinate the first ever student run course on trans health issues in a professional school in the country. I was president of PUSO for two years. Currently I am pharmacist in charge at Marin Community Clinic—San Rafael, a safety net primary and urgent care clinic for Marin County. I provide clinical and technical support for physicians and nurses in helping them provide clinically appropriate and affordable care for the underserved of the North Bay. I am also clinical adjunct faculty at UCSF School of Pharmacy and Touro University California College of Pharmacy and an adjunct lecturer of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State where I teach a course on Asian American community health.
Hobbies and interests: swimming, video games, music, karaoke, exploring restaurants, bridging the gap between clinicians and lay people, decolonization, learning and appreciating the impact revolutionary and radical love has on communities of color, intersectionality.
Diego A. Juarez Viveros, PharmD
Preferred pronouns: He/Him/His
Hometown: Oxnard, CA
Education: BS Biochemistry and Cell Biology, UCSD, 2008, Doctorate of Pharmacy, UCSF, 2013
Why did you choose pharmacy? I have always been fascinated with math and science because I like the way that they challenge my mind. I like solving problems that require rationality and critical thinking, so I was always drawn to math and science. I chose pharmacy because it a field that allows me to apply rational thinking in a practical manner and help people along the way. When I applied to pharmacy school, my main motivation was to bridge the language and cultural gap that exists between clinicians and their patients. I could see how my background and perspective could be helpful in bridging this gap. I could see patients relating to me on many levels and this allowing them to trust me more and thus receive better healthcare.
Where are you now? Currently I am working in an independent retail pharmacy in the Los Angeles Area, mainly with Armenian and Spanish-speaking patients.
What do you love most about your work? Despite the fact that the majority the patients I work with come from a different culture, I am still able to relate with many of them. Having come from an immigrant family who speaks a different language, I find a lot of similarities between my Armenian patients perspective and my own. Many of the barriers of language that they experience are similar to the ones that my Spanish-speaking patients experience. I can empathize with their barriers and can understand where my patients are coming from. I enjoy the level of trust and respect that patients express when we communicate. In an independent setting, I am able to follow a patient’s care more closely and focus more on their care.
What are your hobbies and interests? I am strongly invested in reinforcing and empowering the language and cultures of indigenous people. After having read a lot of history, taking a DNA test, and through my involvement in cultural activities, I have rediscovered my identity and feel compelled to learn about it. In the last 5 years, I have reached fluency in Nahuatl, the largest native language in Mexico. I teach this language every Sunday at La Plaza de Culturas y Artes. I also plan to learn P’urepecha, which is the original language of my birth place, Michoacan. I also explore my cultural identity through my art with Tapestry Crochet. With Tapestry Crochet, I express my perspective using colorful yarn and I have recently started exhibiting my work. On my free time, I work on my art projects, a video tutorial series, and a Tapestry Crochet book. I am also quite fascinated with computer programming and I am learning to make my own iOS applications.
Robby Turk, MD and MBA Candidate
Preferred pronouns: He/him/his
Hometown: Aurora, CO
Education: Received my undergraduate B.A(s) in Biology and Business Administration at University of Redlands in Redlands, California. Currently pursuing my MD as part of the PRIME Health Equity program at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and my MBA at UVA Darden School of Business.
Why did you choose medicine? I chose medicine because of my love for orthopedic surgery. After my own personal injuries as an athlete, I came to truly understand just how much mobility and independence can define both identity and quality of life for so many people. I decided I wanted to dedicate my life to make sure those who rely on their mobility and physical functionality as a means to grow, learn, and interact with the world around them have the chance to do so, even when adversity hits. In this journey, I gained a respect and love for all fields of medicine. Regardless of the specialty, there is no other profession like medicine. We get to intervene at arguably the most critical points of people’s lives and help those who need it most. What more could you ask for?
Where are you now? Currently I am in Charlottesville, Virginia attending the UVA Darden School of Business. I’ve chosen to pursue a full-time MBA program in conjunction with my MD education because I know the field of medicine is changing rapidly, and in order to ensure underserved populations in medicine are not left behind, we as physicians must be ready, willing, and able to advocate for our patients in an industry with limited resources, contradicting incentives, and a complex and volatile nature. The ability to deal with uncertainty, leading people and organizations, and having a strong fundamental understanding of resource scarcity, allocation, and valuation will be a necessity to successfully navigate this landscape as a physician-leader. These are among the many skills I am improving upon at the Darden School of Business.
What do you love most about your work/studies? In medicine, I love the variety. You see and help people from all walks of life. I also love being in the position to help others at the most critical juncture of their life. In the grand scheme of things, I love to be able to identify a problem and fix it, which is why I have so easily gravitated to orthopedic surgery. In business, I love the unique perspectives I am exposed to on a daily basis. I love interacting with people and engaging with diverse and global viewpoints that help me understand just how big the world is. I love the challenge of taking a road less traveled and having to keep the confidence that all the hard work, patience, and loans (yes, many, many loans) will one day be worth it and that I will achieve the ends I have sacrificed for. Most of all, I love the moments where friends, acquaintances, and even people I have never actually met have told me that my actions have in some way inspired them to continue pursuing their passions and achieve their own goals. Although I hardly feel worthy of such regard, it is part of what I love about the challenging road I have chosen.
What are your hobbies and interests? I love basketball. I have played my entire life and as a former collegiate athlete I love to stay in touch with the game. My hope is to one day help athletes transfer the qualities they learn to be successful in their sport to the real-world where these same qualities are essential in living a successful and happy life. I also love reading, listening to music, and eating (all kinds of food…mostly Chick-Fil-A). With the bit of extra free time in business school, I plan on expanding my hobbies, including but not limited to playing guitar, golfing, fishing, traveling, cooking (will be a hard one), and binge-watching shark tank. I am also in the process of starting a blog titled Business in Medicine to try and help future physicians understand why the business side of medicine is essential to understand in order to ensure the future welfare of our patients and deliver the best care possible.
Roxana Navarro, MD Candidate and LMSA Southeast Co-Director, 2018-2019
Preferred pronouns: Roxana, Roxy (nickname)
Hometown: Hialeah, FL
Education: Bachelors in Biology, Currently MS3
Why did you choose medicine? I chose medicine because I wanted a career that would allow me to be involved in both patient care and academia. As a physician, my goal is to improve general well being through education and early intervention as well as fostering a patient-physician relationship based on honesty, trust, and effective communication. In addition to helping others lead healthier and happier lives, I also want to pass on my skills and knowledge to future physician and encourage them to be life long learners, educators, and professionals that are dedicated to improving and advancing medicine.
Where are you now? University of Miami Miller School or Medicine.
What do you love most about your work? What I enjoy the most about third year is being able to interact with patients in a deeper and more meaningful way. Aside from getting a thorough medical history, I enjoy having conversations with patients and getting to know whats their hobbies and interests are. Listening to a patient's story and journey helps me understand and appreciate different perspectives that are invaluable to the art and practice of medicine.
What are your hobbies and interests? On my spare time I enjoy exercising, cooking, baking, and painting my nails. I also enjoy watching Sci-Fi movies, wine tasting, and spending time with family and friends.
Tayla Ash, MPH, SD
Preferred pronoun: She/Her
Hometown: East Providence, RI
Education: BA in Psychology with a minor in Applied Developmental Psychology from UCLA, MPH from the department of Social & Behavioral Sciences at Yale University, SD in Social & Behavioral Sciences and Public Health Nutrition from Harvard University
Why did you choose public health? Fascinated by young children since I was a child myself, I worked in 2 different daycares while I was an undergrad at UCLA. After observing how the diets of toddlers differed based on the socioeconomic status of their families, I became increasingly interested in how differences in diet and other lifestyle behaviors impact child development, and designing and implementing interventions to help families, particularly families at-risk for obesity and other adverse health outcomes, enable optimal development and well being for their children.
Where are you now? Brown Presidential Diversity Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Brown University department of Behavioral & Social Sciences
What do you love about your work? I love interacting with (and learning from) the people my research is designed to help. Many researchers find recruitment and data collection daunting, but it helps me feel connected to my work, and provides a level of insight that cannot always/simply be found in the literature. More broadly, I love doing health disparities research, and feel both privileged and honored to design studies that aim to represent (and hopefully improve) the lived experiences of vulnerable populations.
What are your hobbies and interests? My favorite things to do include traveling to new places and spending time with my nieces and nephews. I love watching football, play in a flag football league myself, and also play softball.
Joshua Ocegueda, MD, MS
Preferred pronouns: He/him
Hometown: Suburbs of Los Angeles County (Diamond Bar, CA)
Education: UC San Diego: Human Biology, BS and Economics, BA., UC Berkeley - UC San Francisco Joint Medical Program: MS in Health and Medical Sciences from the UCB School of Public Health and MD from the UCSF School of Medicine. I also graduated from PRIME-US (Program in Medicine for the Urban Underserved). My masters work focused on working with Spanish-speaking fathers in the SF Bay Area to identify ways of better supporting Hispanic fathers. Scripps Mercy Family Medicine Residency in Chula Vista, CA: currently in progress until 2021
Why did you choose medicine? My desire to care for others stems from my grandparents as they were my most influential role models growing up. I witnessed their care and compassion early on as they not only took on raising me and my older sister, but also selflessly cared for two of my disabled aunts that required 24/7 care. So caring for others has always felt very organic to me. I directed my desire to care for others towards medicine because I grew up in a Spanish only speaking household with multiple family members that had disabilities, and where me and my siblings relied on low-income services like Medi-Cal (Medicaid in California). In interacting with the healthcare system I saw too many shortcomings and I wanted to change that system. Ultimately, besides changing the way the system works, I hope I can help contribute to a changing face of medicine in such a way that can better support our amazingly diverse communities locally, nationally, and internationally. I am half Black and half Mexican, the first in my family to graduate college, and the first to enter the medical field. Throughout my journey in medicine, I hope to inspire other folks from under-served/under-represented backgrounds to pursue their higher-education dreams and careers.
Where are you now? I am living in San Diego and completing my residency at the Scripps Mercy Family Medicine Residency in Chula Vista, CA
What do you love about your work? I chose family medicine because I loved working with all age groups and feel part of the work we need to do in preventative medicine is address an entire family’s healthcare needs at the same time by looking at the bigger picture of their healthcare (ie both individual, family, and community level interventions). I am very excited to start my residency at Scripps Mercy here in Chula Vista because of the focus on underserved communities, adolescents, and obstetrics, in addition to being close to the border where I can work with Spanish-speaking communities on both sides of the border. At the end of the day, I am honored that I have the privilege of listening to people share about their lives and that we can work together to help keep them healthy.
What are your hobbies and interests? Professionally my interests include: pediatrics, adolescent medicine, obstetrics and women’s health, parenting support, mentoring, medical education, public policy, and global health. Personally my interests include: spending time with my wife, going out with family and friends, exploring new food places, learning about new tech, watching movies, and being outdoors either cycling, hiking with our dog, or being in the ocean.
Veronica Palomino, MD, MPH
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Hometown: Rio Grande City, Tx (El Rucio Ranch)
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Biology from The University of Texas at Austin, Medical Degree from UT Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, Masters in Public Health from San Diego State University, Family Medicine Residency from The University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City Kansas, Preventive Medicine Residency at The University of California San Diego, and Underserved Medicine Fellowship from The University of California San Diego
Why did you choose medicine? I am a healer at heart. I started healing wounded animals in childhood on the ranch where I was raised. Then I developed an intellectual curiosity when I took health and anatomy in middle school. Every clinical experience from high school to the present has confirmed that medicine was the right balance of healing, being of service, and intellectual stimulation.
Where are you now? I am currently Program Faculty at Family Health Centers of San Diego, Family Medicine Residency and Founder/Executive Director of Latinas In Medicine, Inc. a nonprofit organization committed to promoting medical degrees through Latina pipeline development.
What do you love most about your work? I love being of service; whether it's healing my own diverse patient panel or developing the next generation of healers through teaching and mentorship.
What are your hobbies and interests? Outside of work, I am most committed to my spiritual growth, being an extraordinary wife and stepmom. I love being active, especially in Bikram Yoga. I love reading holy books and the consciousness work of Dr. David Hawkins MD, PhD.
Gilberto Lopez, MPH, ScD
Preferred pronouns: he/him/his
Hometown: Born and raised in California's Central Valley, in the town of Gustine.
Education: I have an AA in general education from Modesto Jr. College; BAs in Anthropology and Chicano Studies from Fresno State University; MA in medical anthropology from Southern Methodist University; MPH from Johns Hopkins University; and ScD in social and behavioral sciences from Harvard University
What made you choose science, public health, and academia? Overall, I have always been interested (and mad) about social inequalities growing up... why do certain people get to have a lot of some things while others have very little? Why do certain groups get sick, and die, at younger ages? Growing up in an immigrant farmworking community, and to undocumented parents, I was especially interested in finding answers to these questions. Public health allowed me to systematically and rigorously search for answers, and identify ways of improving disparities.
Where are you now? I am currently a research assistant professor at the University of Rochester where I work in cancer control. One of my interests is in improving quality of life, for the medically underserved, after cancer diagnosis. The side effects of cancer treatment (fatigue, insomnia, pain, etc.) are negative for everyone but their burden disproportionally affects some populations more than others. However, clinical trials have shown that certain behavioral interventions (e.g., yoga, exercise, and mindfulness) might help lessen this burden... the challenge is to find culturally acceptable and accessible ways of bringing these interventions to those most affected. A second area of work is in immigrant health, with a focus on immigrants who work in what the WHO terms "3D jobs," jobs that are dirty, dangerous, and demanding. Immigrants are disproportionately employed in these jobs and suffer higher rates of occupational related injuries and illness. My work looks at patterns of disease and injury within these occupations, with a focus on agriculture, in order to develop appropriate interventions.
What do you love most about your job? There are two things I love most about my job. First, I get to study ANYTHING I want. The autonomy that comes with being a professor is such an amazing luxury that I do not take for granted... very few jobs allow you such flexibility in work. Second, I love research, especially applied research. I am blessed to be in a career where I can use my brain to address problems my heart is passionate about.
What are your hobbies and interests? Outside of research, my greatest passion is helping increase representation in the academy. Especially with people of color, 1st gen college students, and low-income scholars. Addressing disparities in who is doing the research is as important as addressing disparities in health outcomes. Other interests of mine include eating, walking, and sleeping (in that order).
Eric Ottey, MD, MPP
Preferred pronouns: He/Him
Hometown: Born and raised in San Diego, CA
Education: MD: PRIME-LA/Charles R Drew University Program at UCLA; MPP: UCLA; BS: UC Riverside
Why did you choose medicine? Health is a limiting factor and a stressor for everyone. This is worsened in minority or low income communities where life itself is just harder. As a physician I can mentor young people to help create the change we need in our communities. While we work to create a better future I can make an impact daily with kind, conscientious care coaching people through their good times and bad.
Where are you now? Currently a Family Medicine Resident at John Muir Health Family Medicine Program in Walnut Creek, CA
What do you love most about your work? I initially wanted to work with children because I have always felt incredibly hopeful when working with and mentoring young people. But I came to learn that I enjoyed the stories every person has, young and old. As a family doctor I am privileged to learn the stories of every one of my patients, and I am able to help them as they achieve their dreams. It's a wonderful thing.
What are your hobbies and interests? When I'm not working I enjoy watching sports, especially basketball and American football, and movies, especially the MCU. I enjoy being active outside hiking or inside cooking. My interests outside of medicine include learning more about social policy and how I might impact the world politically.
Cecil Benitez, PhD, MD Candidate, and Chief Financial Officer of LMSA, 2018-2019
Preferred pronouns: She/Her
Hometown: Born in Durango, Mexico and grew up in Los Angeles, CA
Education: Bachelors in Physiological Science at UCLA, PhD in Developmental Biology at Stanford University
Why did you choose to pursue a PhD? Growing up, I always found science fascinating but did not know what opportunities existed with a science degree. At UCLA, I was fortunate to be part of a program called PEERS that exposed first-generation college students to scientific research. Through research, science became less about memorizing and more about critically thinking. With support from the MARC U*Star program, I began to envision my future as a scientist. In graduate school, I used a developmental biology approach to study how insulin-producing cells form in the mouse embryo. I was excited to contribute to medical knowledge while also working on a disease that largely impacts the Latino community.
Where are you now? I am currently finishing up my Medical Degree at Stanford University and aspire to be clinical academician.
What do you love most about your work? I love that I am able to apply the critical thinking skills that I gained from the PhD to the field of medicine as it relates to patient care.
What are your hobbies and interests? I enjoy a hodgepodge of activities including: hiking, golfing, swimming, yoga, reading, and spending time with family and friends. I also enjoy learning how to play musical instruments- I am currently learning how to play the violin.
Zoë Julian, MD, MPH
Preferred pronouns: she/her, they/them
Hometown: Teaneck, NJ
Education: BSE in Biomedical Engineering, Washington University in St. Louis; MD, Emory University School of Medicine; MPH, Rollins School of Public Health
Why did you choose medicine? After a brief stint as an engineer for a medical device company, I quickly realized that I never got to interact with those who ultimately benefited from my work. It was then that my previous curiosities about medicine matured into a professional pursuit.
Where are you now? I'm currently finishing up my last year of residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at University of California, San Francisco. I've benefited from some incredible mentorship, and been able to conduct research on climate of equity and inclusion across residency programs, design justice-oriented curriculum in sexual and reproductive health, and pursue a Certificate in Health Equity Studies. With regard to next steps, I'm really looking forward to additional training in health equity research while continuing a clinical practice in general obstetrics and gynecology in service of the communities I'm most committed to.
What do you love most about your work? The opportunity to serve women and folks from my community through some of the most vulnerable and intimate times in life, to create safe spaces, continues to sustain my passion for my work.
What are your hobbies and interests? Mentorship, day parties, building community, eating with loved ones
Ana Ortiz, MPH, MD Candidate
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Hometown: Born in Mexicali, BC, Mexico. Grew up in Escuinapa, Sinaloa and Modesto, California
Education: Bachelor in Engineering Sciences and secondary certificate in Global Health and Health Policy at Harvard College. Master of Public Health from Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health with a concentration in Maternal Child Health.
Why did you choose medicine? When my family moved to the U.S when I was seven years old, we were undocumented and had to go through many of hoops to get the services that we needed. I quickly became my family's interpreter at doctor's visits, trying to access social services, and in a multitude of other settings. From those experiences I knew early on that I wanted to pursue a career where I could be of service to families and communities like mine. In college, I realized through volunteer work at Boston Medical Center that I could combine my passion for service and science through the field of medicine. By the time I graduated college, I was still undocumented and was not able to apply to medical school. Instead, I worked in engineering. While doing more technical work was a lot of fun, I missed the connection to patients and the hospital work environment. When I became a permanent resident, I jumped at the opportunity of applying to medical school and ended up in the PRIME Health Equity Program at UC San Diego School of Medicine
Where are you now? I am currently a fourth year medical student at UCSD and applying to residency.
What do you love most about your work? I love everything about medicine. I gain positive energy from getting to know patients and figuring out how to best serve them in the context of their socioeconomic experiences. I love the operating room and working to improve technique. It is very satisfying to offer straightforward medical treatments that make a difference for patients. I equally enjoy working through complex medical dilemmas for individual patients and in the broader healthcare system. I love the constant learning and teaching.
What are your hobbies and interests? I love staying active: gym, dancing, paddleboarding, a little surf. I am also always looking for new experiences, whether it's trying new food or going to new places.
DaShawn Hickman, PhD, MS, MD Candidate and Student National Medical Association Speaker of the House, 2018-2019
Preferred pronouns: he/him/his
Hometown: Columbia, SC
Education: DaShawn received his BS in Biomedical Engineering from Yale University in 2009, his MS in Biomedical Engineering from Case Western Reserve University in 2017 and just completed his PhD in Pathology at Case Western Reserve University as part of a Medical Scientist Training Program (dual degree MD/PhD program) .
Why did you choose medicine? For as long as I can remember I wanted to be a doctor. As a military family, we were privileged with great access to healthcare. As a healthy child, I grew up with my siblings getting sick and breaking bones, but they would always get better after a trip to the doctor. I wanted to be the person that could make people better. As I advanced in my education, I excelled in and enjoyed my science courses the most. During undergrad, I had the opportunity to do research and fell in love with research. Unable to decide between being a doctor and a research scientist, I decided to enter a dual degree MD/PhD program so that I could see patients and perform translational biomedical research to help my patients.
Where are you now? I am currently in Cleveland, Ohio at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. I have recently completed my PhD in Pathology and have re-entered my third year of medical school.
What do you love most about your work? I love the opportunity to take care of people and to help them become better. Many patients coming to you at their most vulnerable and as physicians we’re able to build trust, hopefully diagnose their ailment and treat them.
What are your hobbies and interests? I love to dance and choreograph dances of all types (especially hip-hop). I enjoy the outdoors and traveling. I love serving on the board of directors for the Student National Medical Association (SNMA), as a past Chairperson of the Board of Directors and the current Speaker of the House of Delegates I have the ability to help shape the policies and programs for the SNMA which have a mission to support current and future underrepresented minority medical students, address the needs of underserved communities, and increase the number of clinically excellent, culturally competent and socially conscious physicians.
Randy Jackson, MD
Preferred pronouns: he/him
Hometown: Somerset, New Jersey
Education: Bachelor of Science in Public Health from Rutgers University, Edward J. Bloustein School of Public Health, New Jersey; Doctor of Medicine from Rutgers, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Jersey; Family Medicine residency training at the Saint Louis University Family and Community Medicine Residency Program, St. Louis Missouri
Why did you choose medicine? I chose medicine because it offers me the ability to affect change in so many ways. As the first person in my family to graduate from high school, I was quite unsure how to pursue higher education and apply to medical school. My upbringing had been riddled with violence, drugs, and dysfunction. I knew that the career I chose had to focus on helping people who also dealt with similar issues. I was initially rejected from college and essentially had no opportunity at pursuing my dreams. I discovered the Educational Opportunity Fund program at Rutgers University which allows access to education to first generation college students from economically underserved backgrounds. Through this program I found mentorship and access to resources which exposed me to the field of medicine. During my undergraduate studies I was able to participate in the Office of Diversity and Academic Success in the Sciences (ODASIS) program which offered tutoring, shadowing opportunities, and ultimately an escape from where I came from. With the help of these programs I was able to pursue a career in medicine and also learned just how important it is to work with the underserved. I began teaching and tutoring all through college and medical school with the hopes of ultimately working in an underserved city and practicing medicine at an academic institution. These experiences are what motivated me to join a residency program that focuses on that same kind of work. I have been allowed to work in a vastly underserved community and start mentorship programs for underserved students within the city. As a person who enjoys learning, teaching, and caring for the underserved, this career allows me the opportunity to do all of that and much more. I come from a less than fortunate background and was able to navigate this path with the help of programs designed to bridge the gap and diversify medicine. I am now primed to continue the work of those who helped me gain access and inspire students who have a passion for science and math.
Where are you now? Currently, I am a PGY-2 Family Medicine Resident in the Saint Louis University Family Medicine Residency Program, St. Louis Missouri.
What do you love most about your work? I chose the field of Family Medicine because it allows me to work with a wide array or age groups and socioeconomic backgrounds. I can start my day off with a newborn check, followed up with a knee injection, and then end the day managing heart failure. Being able to address nearly any complaint that walks through the door is something that I truly enjoy about this field. Our clinic, Family Care Health Center, is a Federally Qualified Health Center which means we accept patients who are both uninsured and underinsured. The opportunity to care for those from disadvantaged backgrounds is where my true passion lies, as it gives me the ability to care for those who share a commonality with my own family. We are able to offer access to community resources, behavioral health counseling, and high quality care. I also have the opportunity to continue with research projects focused on public health and addressing social determinants of health. Along with clinical medicine and research, I am allowed chances to work directly within my community. I have helped to build community based mentorship programs for underserved kids and speak at an array of schools about the importance of education and support. The fact that I can do so much from so many different perspectives is what I love the most about my job.
What are your hobbies and interests? I played sports for most of my life and I enjoy coaching and working with kids. I saw what my coaches did for me and how they shaped me and wanted to continue that trend.
I have interests in sports and addiction medicine. Understanding the complexities that accompany those who struggle with addiction is fascinating. When I am not working I do enjoy experimenting in the kitchen. I love watching cooking shows and trying to put my spin on recipes.
Damilola Olatunji, MS, MD Candidate, and Student National Medical Association National Treasurer, 2018-2019
Preferred pronouns: Her/She
Hometown: Damilola was born and raised in Nigeria and moved to Atlanta, GA at the age of 10.
Education: Damilola earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Brown University in 2011 and a Master of Science degree in Physiology and Biophysics from Georgetown University in 2014. She was also involved in clinical research at the National Institutes of Health (Pediatrics and Developmental Neuroscience Branch, NIMH) from 2011 - 2015 investigating clinical subtypes of Autism.
Why did you choose medicine? "For me, medicine is a calling. I love learning about the physiology of the human body, then using that knowledge to positively impact the lives of those in need of medical care. I also enjoy and appreciate the chance to be a leader and advocate for individuals that tend to be forgotten in society. The opportunity to become a physician is a privilege one that I do not take for granted."
Where are you now? Damilola is currently a 4th year medical student at The Ohio State University College of Medicine
What do you love most about your work? "So far in my medical career, my favorite aspect of my daily work has been the opportunity to connect with patients that come from many different backgrounds with many different experiences. I love building relationships with patients in order to nurture a level of trust that allows me to be able to provide the best medical care I possibly can. As a soon-to-be Obstetrician and Gynecologist, I look forward to being a voice and source of support for every woman I'm privileged to care for. I am excited about the opportunity to empower my future patients by educating them about their bodies and encouraging them to become comfortable with taking control of their health and well-being."
What are your interests and hobbies? "I appreciate the power of music and its therapeutic nature. I'm also falling in love with exercise - slowly but surely - specifically cardio on the elliptical (which is all I ever seem to do). I'm a fan of several TV shows and make it a point to immerse myself in them as a get-away from reality from time to time. Lastly, I love traveling with friends and family to experience the many different cultures the world has to offer."
Toddchelle Young, MPH and Student National Medical Association Premedical Board Member, 2018-2019
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Hometown: New Haven, CT
Education: BA in Sociology, Population Health Certificate from Georgetown University; MPH in Sociomedical Sciences, Social Determinants of Health Certificates from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health
Why did you choose medicine? My interest and pursuit towards a career in medicine goes back as long as I remember due to my family basically living in the hospital because my oldest brother has Sickle Cell Disease. I always wanted to “fix” him, and this encouraged my questions to his physician about his treatment. Questioning, shadowing, interning, and assisting with research with his Hematologist from middle school to college was helpful in providing answers to my curiosities and instilling the fire for a career in medicine. Having saved my brother's life from a gunshot wound in the middle of Emergency Medical Technician-Basic training in high school, this pivotal experience among a few others confirmed for me that medicine was the best career to pursue.
Where are you now? I currently work at Georgetown University as Director of Research, overseeing the research efforts for the Designing the Future(s) of the University Initiative and for the Hub for Equity and Innovation in Higher Education. I am also preparing to apply to medical school.
What do you love most about your work? I love that have the opportunity to interact with students, and also that I oversee research projects where I can observe the immediate impact our work. I also get to use my quantitative and qualitative research experiences, as well as institutional knowledge and professional and public health experiences, to inform research to improve curricula, equity, and access for all students at Georgetown.
What are your hobbies and interests? I enjoy traveling to different countries, as I have a deep appreciation of people's interactions within their societies through food, language, music, dance, and health practices. I braid hair a few times a week, I enjoy mentoring, trying new food recipes, and spending time with my family.
Ignacio Becerra, MD
Preferred pronoun: He/Him
Hometown: Stone Mountain, Georgia, => Guaynabo, Puerto Rico => Tucker, Georgia.
Education: I graduated from Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, completed my Family Medicine Residency in 2016 and my Chief Residency in 2017.
Why did you choose medicine? Medicine has traditionally been run by one large, homogenous group that has all the power. At the same time, the world is becoming more and more diverse. I went into primary care to fill workforce shortage of LatinX doctors. I can't tell you the number of patients who are so happy to be able to speak to me in Spanish.
Where are you now? I am an Associate Physician at Kaiser Permanente in Vallejo practicing full scope outpatient family medicine.
What do you love most about medicine? To be able to practice medicine is a privilege, and being able to ask about the intimate, personal questions within a couple of minutes of meeting someone never ceases to amaze me. Learning about people’s day to day lives and their context is both fascinating and helpful for me to be able to figure out a customized solution for the problems they present to me.
What are your hobbies and interests? I love to unwind by playing blitz chess – a form of mental meditation for me as it allows me to focus on just one thing. I also grew up playing and watching most sports, especially basketball.
Cleveland Piggott, MD, MPH, and Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado Department of Family Medicine
Preferred pronouns: he, him, his
Hometown: Suwanee, GA
Education: BS Biology and BS Psychology from the University of Georgia, MD and MPH from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, NC. Family Medicine residency at the University of Colorado Family Medicine Residency.
Why did you choose medicine? My mother has a big heart, and she imparted in me a passion for service early in my life. I became interested in science when I had a great high school biology teacher. Through a lot of great mentors, I found medicine was my passion and the best way for me to be both intellectually stimulated and serve my community. Family medicine was a perfect fit for me because I love the scope of care and finding ways to impact my community outside of the exam room.
Where are you now? I’m an Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado Department of Family Medicine.
What do you love most about your work? I love working with learners from med students to residents. It energizes me and pushes me to be a better doctor. Additionally, my colleagues are amazing people and I love working with them to provide the best care possible for our patients and community.
What are your hobbies and interests? I love promoting diversity, equity and inclusion. Additionally, I’m passionate about improving leadership skills of young learners and promoting integrated behavioral health in practice. Outside of medicine, I enjoy ballroom dancing, visiting national parks, and snowshoeing.
Ariel Franks, MD
Hometown: St. Louis, MO
Preferred pronouns: She, her, hers
Education: BA in Sociology at Yale, MD at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
Why did you choose medicine? I chose medicine for the same reason most do, I wanted to “help people.” In college I thought about various ways to do this—through education, through social work—but landed on medicine because I discovered I really enjoyed learning about human pathophysiology and sharing health information with people. Medicine also felt for me a good vehicle to fight for social justice, be that for racial minorities, LGTBQ populations, gender minorities, immigrants, people living with HIV...anyone who is marginalized or overlooked by our society in some way. I wrote my senior thesis on the interpersonal interactions between maternal health providers and patients of different races, and this solidified my decision to go to medical school. I chose Family Medicine because I realized I loved everything and wanted it all—women’s health, complex adult medicine, pediatrics, procedures—and a field that factors in the bio-psychosocial context as its organizing principle seemed a natural way for me to join the fight for health equity. Eventually I want to work towards helping providers recognize their different implicit biases and learn to separate them from medical decision making
Where are you now? I am a 3rd year resident at UCSF Department of Family and Community Medicine. As an attending I hope to find jobs that allow me to do the full scope of Family Medicine (primary care, obstetrics, inpatient medicine, abortion care) for a diverse and underserved population.
What do you love most about your job? I love the connections with patients that you can get with longitudinal care. It’s such a privileg to get to see people over time and learn about their lives and their families, and to witness them accomplish goals and reach different milestones.
What are your hobbies and interests? I enjoy urban gardening, exploring the world of New Age-y things, detective and murder mystery TV shows, dancing, and yoga
Virgie Fields, MS
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Hometown: Emporia, Virginia
Education: Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering, Virginia Commonwealth University; Master of Science in Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Why did you choose public health? My experience growing up in a rural community with a Cambodian refugee and a veteran with multiple health issues as parents helped shape my desire to improve people's quality of life, particularly for those marginalized communities. During undergrad, I became interested in exploring careers that encompassed aspects of research, medicine, and social justice. Public health assesses the health of a population, identifies the issues, investigates the causes of those issues, and devises strategies to solve/improve/prevent them. This involves the coordination of several sectors of society and often leads to policy changes. I felt this was exactly what I wanted to do.
Where are you now? I am currently a Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAI) Epidemiologist at the Virginia Department of Health in Richmond, VA.
What do you love about your work? As an epidemiologist, I ensure the statewide collection, monitoring, analysis, and distribution of HAI surveillance data. I most enjoy being able to use data for action - working with hospitals and other healthcare facilities to investigate outbreaks and reduce infection rates using the data we collect. I also enjoy being part of a team and working with our partner organizations, using our different ideas and experiences to create solutions.
What are your hobbies and interests? I enjoy listening to music, watching movies and binge-watching TV shows, spending time with friends and family, trying different foods, and traveling to new places.
Darren Gordon, MD/PhD Candidate and Student National Medical Association Region V Director, 2017-2019
Preferred pronouns: He/Him
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Education: Undergraduate at University of Michigan and MD/PhD at the University of Toledo College of Medicine and Health Sciences
Why did you choose medicine? I have had a faint, yet ignorant understanding of medicine in high school. But once I got to college and realized the opportunity I must truly make an impact on the life a person, I decided to continue with Medicine. One of my deepest interests is in Neural Controlled Prosthetics, but as a physician I want to work to help create and connect the neural interface of the body to an external board in order to make universal prosthetic connectors (a human USB).
Where are you now? I am in an MD/PhD program, currently, in my second year of the PhD. I completed M1/M2 year along with Step 1.
What do you love most about your work? The research field is extremely diverse in topics to address and ways to address those topics. The stringency and sometimes ruthlessness of researchers is intense, but is necessary to drive complete, sound, and accurate research.
What are your hobbies and interests? Hanging out with friends, Kayaking, Roaming Social Media, Running, Cooking
Jessica Valdez, MD Candidate
Preferred pronouns: She/her/hers
Hometown: Calabasas, CA
Education: BA in Biology at the University of San Diego, graduate of the UCSF Postbaccalaureate Program, current MD candidate in the Program in Medical Education for the Urban Underserved (PRIME-US) at UCSF School of Medicine.
Why did you choose medicine? My journey toward medicine began early with my fascination of science, the human body, and the appeal of continual learning. I came alive learning about how systems work from an atomic level to that of an organism. Eventually, I became fascinated with a different aspect of medicine: the embodiment of compassion and the essence of connection. I believe people need all-encompassing care that heals not only physical symptoms but also the social and psychological aspects that accompany disease.
This union found significance for me when coping with my father’s terminal illness. He was diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy, which left him immobile for 10 years before he died. Watching doctors care for my father and my family became paradoxical. Some treated us well, others forgot we were people. And all the while, I never once encountered a physician who looked like me, who was able to speak Spanish, who was able to provide my entire family with peace in the midst of chaos. This experience motivated me to commit to a life of relieving suffering and preserving life for others, especially those who are invisible in our society. Healing starts with structural change. And for me, the way I visualized myself in embodying this change holistically, was through medicine. And here I am.
Where are you now? I am currently in my second year of medical school and will soon be transitioning into third year rotations in January.
What do you love most about your work? I love people. And what that means to me is that I love learning from people’s stories, I love connecting with people over their goals, their strengths, their weaknesses, their hardships, their lives. I have such love for human beings, and I feel so honored that I have the opportunity to be able to provide them with a little bit of strength, even though in reality, they are the ones who are giving me strength. To quote the poet, Cleo Wade, “I did not come into this room to see the world through your eyes. I cannot do that. I came here to listen not merely with my ears, but with my heart. Tell me your story, and may I leave loving more and knowing better. May I leave here carrying you in my spirit as I walk out of this room and into another.” This is what healing work is all about.
What are your hobbies and interests? I love to find different ways to express myself, whether that be through writing poetry, singing, running, meditating, or simply being with my loved ones. It changes daily but what it’s really about is staying true to myself, following my heart, and getting back to my roots.
Vanessa Cobian, MD, MPH
Preferred pronouns: she, her
Hometown: Vista, Ca in San Diego County
Education: Undergrad at Columbia University, Post-baccalaureate at UCLA/Charles Drew,
Medical School at University of California, San Diego, Master’s of Public Health at Harvard, Residency at Scripps Chula Vista Family Med
Why did you choose medicine? I wanted the opportunity and privilege to make people feel better, feel cared about, feel less alone and feel as though they are part of humanity. I wanted to help patients reach their dreams by partnering with them to prevent the development and worsening of diseases.
Where are you now? Primary care physician in Temecula, CA.
What do you love most about your work? Being a part of a patient’s journey to help themselves. I love it when I see a patient during a follow-up visit and they tell me they successfully quit smoking or lost weight or had a baby! It is so rewarding.
What are your hobbies and interests? I love to read anything from autobiographies to love stories. I also enjoy watching Game of Thrones and Marvel movies. My favorite hobby is taking my nieces and nephew to Disneyland.
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Hometown: San Francisco, CA. Born and Raised
Education: Certified Addiction Treatment Specialist. Currently pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology with a Minor in Social and Behavioral Studies
Why did you choose healthcare? I am currently a Health Worker Supervisor and I didn’t actually choose the job, the job really chose me J I’ve worked in the Health Care field for over 20 years in multiple capacities, and all of my prior positions have involved direct care and services, where I have been on the front lines. This opportunity presented itself that would afford me the chance to work behind the scenes while assisting in the development and training of a staff of people who would now be on the front lines, offering services to our patients, and their families and communities.
Where are you now? I am currently working at the Family Health Center
What do you love most about your work? I love working with people. I am a person who believes in encouraging, supporting, assisting, caring and providing for those who are in need. I am constantly looking to promote health equities, and opportunities for better health outcomes to our most vulnerable populations. It is a passion and a purpose that I’ve had since as long as I can remember.
What are your hobbies and interests? I am a person who is constantly evolving and looking for opportunities to be a better me. I love bike riding, dancing, reading, horror movies, and spending time with my family and friends.
Amma Boakye, DO Candidate and Student National Medical Association National Secretary, 2018-2019
Preferred pronouns: She, her
Hometown: Dayton, OH
Education: BS: Exercise Science, Wright State University, Dayton, OH
Why did you choose medicine? I was drawn to the sciences as a child because I felt like they were the halfway point between the objective logic of mathematics and the the subjective reasoning of the arts. My mother's a nurse, and she would take me along with her to work and I would chat it up with the residents and eat as much jello as I could handle. I loved the hustle and bustle (well, hustle and bustle to me, at the time) of the nursing home and watching my mom take care of patients, and she encouraged my natural curiosity of the human body. I went through most of my schooling figuring I would be a doctor some day, but had a year and a half where I didn't get into medical school and had to reevaluate my options. By that point I had been working at photography for some years and figured I'd like to start a business doing that or see if I could get photojournalism somehow. After a couple of weddings and some engagement sessions here and there I got the sense that I should be doing something more so I waited it out, worked on my application, and got into medical school. Looking back, I realize that I didn't want my hobby to become my full time job. It'd be awesome to marry the stories I hear in medicine with photojournalism though. I'm still working it out.
Where are you now? I am currently in Indianapolis, IN at the Marian University College of Osteopathic Medicine in my final year of medical school. I'm applying internal medicine-pediatrics this fall with the hopes of being a med-peds hospitalist. I think it'd be really awesome to teach students someday, and I'm interested in health advocacy and global health. I'm fleshing out where I could make myself useful in those fields right now, learning as much as I can, but not in any particular rush to commit to any particular cause (I'm learning that a lot of taking advantage of an opportunity to help is embracing the process of formation that allows you to serve others).
What do you love most about your work? I like the stories I get to hear the most. Every day I'm reminded everyone is a universe unto themselves and it's wild to hear where people have been and where they are going. I also enjoy the variety and sense of intention that medicine brings to my life. You get to problem solve every day, and you get to take into account everyone's roles and stories and how they fit together to get patients to where they're going. That brings an immense sense of gratification to me, and I feel like I learn a lot about human nature and how the world works in this way. It's been bittersweet, but it's been redeeming. I feel extremely fortunate to be training to be a physician right now.
What are your hobbies and interests? I am an aspiring half marathoner. Training for the half marathon has taught me a lot about myself and allowed me to relate those lessons to the way I want to live my life and the way I ought to treat others. When I'm not running, you can find me walking around with a camera, attempting to keep record of the universe. I also like to write; I share a blog called "Absurdities and Degenerates" with a classmate.
Walker Keenan, MD
Preferred pronouns: He/Him
Hometown: Sharon, MA
Education: The College of William & Mary (2010-2014)-Neuroscience major and public health minor, UCSF (2014-2018)-MD, Yale University (2018-Present)-Psychiatry Residency.
Why did I choose medicine? My motivation to become a physician began with a strong desire to help others and a love of science. It was also driven in part by my own experiences and by those of my family members with the field of medicine.
From a young age my family and my church community taught me that the most important thing in life is to serve others. I internalized this lesson and when I was thinking of what my career could look like, I wanted serving the poor and the marginalized to be at the core of it. My curiosity about the world and how things worked lead to my love of science. Therefore I sought to combine these two passions of science and service together into a career, and that lead me to medicine. Illnesses that my family and I dealt with and their subsequent amelioration by good medical practice also increased my motivation to enter the field.
When my mother was 43 she was diagnosed with cancer for the third time. Her prognosis was good, but this was scary to deal with as an 11 year old. She was treated at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and received excellent care. I noticed this even as a young child. Seeing the recovery she made when she was able to access such quality care made me want to be a doctor so that I could provide excellent healthcare to someone like my mom in the future. Additionally, having been in the throes of several major depressive episodes over my life and seeing the positive impact both medication and therapy can have bolstered my interest in medicine and lit my passion for psychiatry.
My goal is to become a child and adolescent psychiatrist and to work with incarcerated children and children in the foster care system.
Where are you now? PGY-1 psychiatry resident at Yale University
What do you love about your work? I love psychiatry for so many reasons. Although mental illness can seem difficult to treat at times, it is so rewarding when you can help people make even marginal improvements. I find that psychiatric illness is often at the core of why people are struggling. Whether it be physical health, financial health, social health, sexual health, or spiritual health, I find that when you treat someone’s mental illness you improve every aspect of their life. Psychiatric conditions are also heavily influenced by environmental factors such as poverty, trauma, and hatred. Therefore, psychiatry gives you a platform to advocate for positive social change on behalf of your patients, especially those who are most marginalized.
What are your hobbies and interests? I love being active, especially running! I also enjoy hiking, biking, camping, and pretty much anything else outdoors. I also love laughing and meeting new people. Going out on a Friday night dancing or to a comedy show is my idea of a good time.
Elise V. Mike, PhD, MD Candidate, and Student National Medical Association Region IX Director, 2017-2019
Preferred pronouns: she/her/hers
Hometown: St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands
Education: Elise was a Robert W. Woodruff Scholar at Emory University, where she obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology and minored in philosophy. After college, Elise received post-baccalaureate funding from the NIH to conduct cardiovascular research at Baylor College of Medicine. She is currently a student in the MD/PhD program at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York. She recently completed her PhD research, which was focused on the pathogenesis of neuropsychiatric manifestations in systemic lupus erythematosus, a disease that predominantly affects Black women.
Why did you choose medicine and science? I have always considered it a privilege to care for others, and I have wanted to pursue medicine for as long as I can remember. My own health challenges revealed the limitations of medicine, and I turned my attention to scientific investigation and understanding pathophysiology to improve treatment. I chose to pursue physician-scientist training because it combines two of my passions: helping others and investigating the unanswered.
Where are you now? I recently concluded my PhD research, and I have returned to medical school to complete my clerkships. I will graduate in May 2020.
What do you love most about your work? Physician-scientist training is an intellectually stimulating path that allows me to investigate disease from the cellular level in lab to the patient level in the clinic. At Einstein, we learn that being a physician requires competency in seven areas: healer, scientist, advocate, educator, colleague, role model, and lifelong learner. I love being constantly challenged to embody these traits to positively impact the lives of others.
Sasha Ray, MD Candidate and Student National Medical Association Region III Director, 2017-2019
Preferred pronouns: She/Her
Hometown: Little Rock, Arkansas
Education: Undergrad degree: Vanderbilt University, Bachelor of Arts Biological Science with a concentration in Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology AND African American and Diaspora Studies. Masters Coursework: Hampton University. Medical School: University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, MD Candidate c/o 2020
Why did you choose medicine? I'd like to think that medicine chose me. From the time I was in elementary school when I first discovered what medicine was and what it meant to be a physician, that was one thing I knew I wanted to do.
Where are you now? Current third-year student at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Currently serves as the Region III Director for the Student National Medical Association.
What do you love most about your work? I love most being able to connect with patients through my expertise and manner. I love the practice of medicine. Being able to make such a huge difference in my patients lives doing something that I love is the best of both worlds.
What are your hobbies and interests? My cat, who is the best, most handsome cat in the whole wide world; Sustainability/Conservation; Cooking; Fitness; Women's Rights; Issues affecting increasing the number of minorities in medicine; Issues decreasing health disparities in medicine; Working for civil/human rights especially for women and minorities
Sahlia Joseph-Pauline, MS, DO Candidate, and Student National Medical Association Region VIII Director, 2018-2020
Preferred pronouns: She/Her/Queen
Hometown: Jamaica Queens, New York
Education: B.S Hampton University; Cellular Molecular Biology, M.S Hampton University; Medical Science, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, D.O Candidate
Why did you choose medicine? I chose to go into medicine because I wanted to use my love for science to improve the quality of health of people who live in underserved areas. Acquiring clinical exposure, as a medical scribe & pharmacy technician, as well as, volunteering at local free clinics and with March of Dimes, gave me the confidence to actively pursue my goal to become a physician. I was born and raised in an underserved community, so naturally I want to practice in underserved populations.
Where are you now? Currently a 3rd year medical student completing core rotations.
What do you love most about your work? Recognizing that I have an attentive concern for others, I love that I am able to connect with patients and ensure they understand not only their ailments, but also their next healthcare steps. Most of my rotations are at hospitals which serve underserved populations, which provides me unique training that I could potentially use when I am physician.
What are you hobbies & interests? I love spending time with family and friends, watching TV and shopping. I also enjoy trying new cultural dishes, unique sporting activities and traveling. In my spare time I enjoy volunteering, and making positive contributions to my community.
Maikha Jean-Baptiste, MD
Preferred pronouns: She/Her
Hometown: Miami, FL
Education: Amherst College, Tufts University School of Medicine
Why did you choose medicine? Growing up, my family could not afford health insurance so we went to the doctor only when absolutely necessary and that usually meant a trip to the backed up emergency room. Waiting long hours to see a physician who saw them for five minutes was frustrating to my parents. The large bills only compounded the problem. I wanted to change that and help to bridge the gap between the poor and the medical system.
Where are you now? I'm a 3rd year resident at UCSD Family Medicine. I'm currently applying for an OB fellowship.
What do you love most about your work? I love meeting people from all walks of life and getting to know their story. As a doctor, people open up and are vulnerable with me and I am privileged to be able to help them through their hard times as well as their happiness.
What are your interests and hobbies? If there's one thing I love to do it is to go salsa dancing! I also enjoy hiking, camping, cooking and traveling.
Yeva Johnson, MD, MPH
Preferred pronouns: She/her/hers
Hometown: Born in Detroit, I lived in Michigan, the Netherlands and the Washington D.C. area before heading off to Providence, Rhode Island for school.
Education: Brown University – BA in Portuguese & Brazilian Studies and Biology; Brown University- MD; UCSF- Residency in Family Medicine; UC Berkeley – MPH in Epidemiology; Stanford University – Faculty Development Fellowship in Ethnogeriatrics
Why did you choose medicine? I was one of those kids who did well in math and science as well as the arts and humanities and I wanted to help people in some way. I was lucky enough to be admitted to the Brown University 7-year Medical Education Program, which meant that I was accepted to medical school right out of high school. I took Brown at their word and had a well-rounded education and was never a traditional pre-medical student. I took a med school Biochemistry class in my junior year in college and was able to take an advanced Brazilian literature class during the first year of med school and I was playing the flute in the Brown University Orchestra both during undergrad days and at the beginning of med school. I am the first physician in my family, so I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into until I got there. I chose family medicine, because I really enjoyed everything and could not decide between early life and the end of life. I have been able to work in various jobs including full-scope family medicine and delivering babies and admitting my own patients to the ICU in the east bay; working in the Transgender Clinic and the Women’s Clinic at Tom Waddell’s Health Care for the Homeless; doing primary care, women’s clinic and teen clinic and being the Medical Director of the Maxine Hall Health Center; doing urgent care at San Francisco General Hospital and doing disability evaluations for the Human Services Agency. I also moved into public health and worked as an Infection Control Physician in the Bioterrorism & Infectious Disease Emergencies Unit of the Communicable Disease Control and Prevention Section as well as serving as the Medical Director and Acting Director of the Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health Section in the San Francisco Department of Public Health prior to my current job. I have always worked with or with a focus on underserved populations and minimizing health disparities and am grateful to be able to have a job that is honorable and in which there are a variety of ways to be of service and to learn.
Where are you now? I am in San Francisco working as a staff physician at Laguna Honda Hospital, a large long term care and rehabilitation hospital that is part of the San Francisco Department of Public Health. There are over 700 patients at Laguna Honda and I am currently working on a secured dementia unit and had also worked on a Spanish-focus unit where I became more fluent in Spanish.
What do you love most about your work? I love working with a multi-disciplinary team of people dedicated to promoting health and well-being and honoring the lives of our patients as we work with them and their families. I have found that I love doing palliative and end-of-life care and learn everyday how to celebrate people’s lives and to share their triumphs, joys and sorrows and to make meaning of every day. I love that my work is about people. I get paid to have fun, work hard and try to help people and that is a joy and a blessing.
What are your hobbies and interests? I am an African-American Jewish Lesbian mother poet and musician working as physician by day. When not at work, I have a variety of interests, but have spent most of my time in the past few years doing poetry and music. I am a member of an artists’ collective, QTPOC4SHO, for queer and transgender artists of color in the Bay Area that includes painters, visual artists, children’s book authors, performance artists, poets and comedians and I am also a member of The Marin Poetry Center. I recently gave my first poetry reading as an Artist-in-Residence for the Show Us Your Spines project sponsored by RADAR Productions and the San Francisco Public Library in the spring of 2018 which was posted on YouTube. I have been attending poetry workshops and I regularly read at various open mic readings in the Bay Area. I am currently a student at the Writing Rainbow QTPOC Free School for queer writers. I am also studying jazz flute with flutist, Gerald Beckett. I love to read and cook and hang out with family and friends.
Dannielle McBride, MD
Preferred pronoun: she/her
Hometown: Sacramento, Ca
Education: Homeschooled until College. Community college at Sacramento City College. Transferred to UC Berkeley (Molecular Environmental Biology, minor in African American Studies). Medical school at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
Why did you choose medicine? My general interest started off as an enjoyment of science and health related topics coupled with a desire to help people. Entering the medical field became a more targeted desire when my father lost his job, which led to my family losing health care coverage. The challenges my family faced and continues to face in accessing basic health care gave me a new perspective on access issues for disadvantaged communities and cultivated a budding desire to enter into the health care field as a physician.
Where are you now? I now work as a pediatric chief resident for UCSF.
What do you love most about your work? I love working with and supporting residents. I love caring for children and their families. I most enjoy long term relationships that are built in a primary care setting.
What are your hobbies and interests? I enjoy live music, sports, spending time with my family, good food and travel.
Mia Williams, MS, MD
Preferred pronoun: she/her/hers
Hometown: Born and raised in Nogales, AZ
Education: University of Arizona, BS in Molecular and Cellular Biology;
Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine (of Case Western Reserve University) for MD; Case Western Reserve for Masters Degree in Clinical Research; University of California Primary Care Residency
Why did you choose medicine? As a child, my mom always encouraged us to ask why and how things worked, which inspired a love for science and inquiry. This led to me considering pursuing a career in research, but as I contemplated getting my masters or PhD I realized that what makes me happy and would sustain me is my passion for connecting with people and helping their lives even in small ways. This led to me taking a winding route where I took time off to do research before medical school and when I confirmed that I wanted to have a more direct impact on patients health instead chose to pursue my MD instead. Medicine is a field where everyday you are inspired to incorporate your knowledge and critical thinking to determine what is driving a patient’s health and connect with them to understand how their symptoms are making them feel and what barriers exist in their life to actually improving their health. From there, my love for teaching, learning and being around others who are inspired to make their community and medicine better made academic medicine a natural choice.
Where are you now? Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at UCSF
What do you love about your work? I love connecting with patients and getting to know them and seeing how their unique backgrounds inform their health. A gift is the opportunity to develop relationships that will last decades and using that unique insight to not only diagnose illness but to keep people healthy and improve their quality of life within their unique medical, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. As a Mexican American I use language as well as my knowledge of our culture to find personalized ways to care for LatinX patients and try to use personalization to care for all kinds of diverse patients. Meeting patients’ where they are is one of the things that inspires my quality improvement and education work in regards to caring for diverse patients and those with limited English proficiency.
Beyond patient care, I also love getting to work with medical students and residents both because it allows you to share knowledge AND learn from your learners.
What are your hobbies and interests? I love running and hiking and this a balanced with healthy love for couch time that comes from a passion for cooking, TV, movies and board games. I grew up with the kitchen being the center of our home and in medical school I also came to love board games - in particular those that involve collaboration towards a common goal - and love cooking dinner with friends and then playing.
Adia Scrubb, MD, MPP
Preferred pronouns: She/Her/Hers
Hometown: Oakland, CA
Education: Bachelor of Arts from UC Berkeley, Doctor of Medicine from Charles R. Drew University/UCLA PRIME Program/David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Master of Public Policy from UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.
Why did you choose medicine? This simple question always evokes a complex answer in my mind, as there was no one reason why I chose medicine. But at the core of it all, I chose medicine because I really enjoyed how anatomy and physiology seemed to make sense of the world around me. It felt empowering to understand the human body at deeper level. While growing up in Oakland I developed a very strong sense of justice, and I realized I wanted make an impact in healthcare both at the patient and administrative level. I ultimately wanted to help empower underserved communities with the knowledge to understand and care for their own bodies. I was fortunate to have physician mentors in high school and college who showed me that medicine can reach beyond the hospital and into the community. I also learned about healthcare administration while working for several years prior to medical school, which inspired my pursuit of a Master of Public Policy and my desire to be a part of physician leadership.
Where are you now? I am a second year Family Medicine resident at John Muir Health in Contra Costa County
What do you love most about your work? I love that my job gives me the opportunity to be present in some of the most intimate transitions of life. I also have the privilege of developing partnerships with my patients.
What are your hobbies and interests? I enjoy hobbies that offer a creative outlet such as drawing, painting, sewing, sculpting, or cooking.
Rhea Boyd, MD, MPH
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Hometown: I grew up in LA and Akron, Ohio - 2 very different places but both with a special place in my heart.
Education: University of Notre Dame (Undergrad), Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, UCSF PLUS program (Pediatric Residency), Harvard University School of Public Health (Masters of Public Health)
Why did you choose medicine? I am one of those people who knew who I was meant to be in the world as a child and I’ve tried to stay true to that vision. I always imagined pediatricians as adults who protect kids from harm and danger. As a child, it was less about the clinical role than the advocacy role. So I didn’t say things like “I want to be a doctor.” I knew I wanted to be a pediatrician specifically and grow up to defend and protect kids. So as I went through my education, and discovered a corresponding interest in science, I continued to ask how the science could be of service to justice. And I continue to ask those questions now. Disease and early death are powerful indicators of status in this country and the unfair outcomes of the deeply unequal and inequitable society we live in. As clinicians we sit at the front lines of that reality and have a responsibility to “speak science to power” as Dr. Mona Hannah-Attisha often says and work to redistribute resources, voice, and power in the US to correct the essentially centuries of disadvantage that unfairly burden certain populations in America.
Where are you now? I now work part-time clinically and part-time as a community and child health advocate, based in the SF Bay Area. I teach medical students, residents, and pediatric colleagues across the country about the intersections between health and justice, more recently attempting to reframe how we conceptualize and approach “diversity and inclusion” work. I have worked over the past 3-5 years to increase awareness among pediatricians of police violence as a child and public health issue. And I’m currently serving as the Director of Equity and Justice for the California Children’s Trust, an ambitious initiative to expand behavioral health access, services, and supports for all children in California. I also consult with San Diego’s 211, a long time community advocate dedicated to improving how social service referrals are provided throughout San Diego county. I serve as their remote Chief Medical Officer to help facilitate a connection between their vital service and the work of clinicians and health systems.
What do you love most about your work? I feel so grateful to get to do this work. My relatively non-traditional career path has been lined with mentors, peers, and colleagues who have supported and encouraged me, even when they were not sure where I might land. Those people have become my beloved community who are also working to make the world a safer and more just place for kids and working alongside them feels like a privilege and a gift. I also love being able to do exactly what I feel I am meant to be doing, speaking up for and defending kids and their families. I love that I can center what Black kids and Black families need as a part of my job and that that lens helps inform how I approach other populations made vulnerable through racism, discrimination, disenfranchisement, public divestment, and other forms of potent oppression and silencing. I also appreciate that the balance between my clinical work and my advocacy keeps me informed and on my toes and I’m growing and learning and working to be a better doctor and advocate every day.
What are your hobbies and interests? I love to dance, stay active, and eat (which also makes the first two hobbies all the more important!) and spend time with my family and my friends.
Ashley Mcmullen, MD
Preferred pronouns: she/her/hers
Hometown: Houston, TX
Education: For undergrad I went to Trinity University in San Antonio, TX where I majored in Neuroscience. I then took some time off to do HIV research in Boston, before heading back home to earn my MD from Univ of Texas at Houston Medical School
Why did you choose medicine? Medicine just always seemed like the natural path for me growing up. My mom is a nurse and as a kid I was constantly inspired by how she interacted with patients and how much they loved and trusted her. While I always knew I wanted to be a doctor, I didn't personally know many doctors growing up, and certainly not any doctors that were black women. So I didn't quite understand how difficult the road was towards getting an MD until I got to college. I recall there were many times when I seriously considered quitting pre-med because it was too hard, but my mom kept encouraging me to stick with it. Also, I was fortunate to find several really incredible mentors along the way that helped me get to the place where I am currently. Now, I can't imagine doing anything else.
Where are you now? I just completed my residency in Internal Medicine at UCSF and I am currently the chief resident for ambulatory care at our county hospital, Zuckerberg San Francisco General. I plan do academic primary care after this year so I'm starting the daunting process of applying for grown-up jobs now.
What do you love most about your work? I LOVE the interactions I have with my patients - they inspire me daily. Primary care is challenging in a number of ways, but nothing beats getting to establish relationships with patients over time and being able to advocate for them in ways that I would want for my own family. I also love getting to teach and mentor other trainees, especially other trainees of color. There's an easy bonding experience that comes with being underrepresented in medicine and I get so much joy out of supporting others in the same way that my mentors did for me.
What are your hobbies and interests? Writing is my other true passion. I think there is so much healing and understanding that comes out of narrative medicine, so I'm happy to have a platform on the NEJM Journal Watch Blog where I can do that regularly. In my spare time I also enjoy hanging around the Bay Area with my girlfriend, checking out vintage bookstores, and biking the flat parts of San Francisco.
Fayola Edwards-Ojeba, MD
Preferred pronouns: She/Her
Hometown: Islip, New York. I was born in London and moved to the US at the age of 4.
Education: Harvard College-BA in chemistry & physics, Yale School of Medicine-MD, UCSF-Internal Medicine Residency Program
Why did you choose medicine? I enjoyed learning about the human body from an early age. My initial intent was to pursue a career in basic science research, but I missed seeing the direct human impact. I was drawn to internal medicine for the ability to form trusting, long-term connections with patients. It is an honor to care for patients in their most vulnerable moments.
Where are you now? I worked at UCSF as an Assistant Professor in the department of internal medicine for 3 years. Over time, I noticed a growing national trend of burnout and wanted to promote initiatives to improve work conditions for physicians. I founded RechargedMD to address these concerns. My dream is to change the discourse around burnout to focus on system level change and to provide a platform for healthcare professionals to support one another.
What do you love most about your work? I love that I have the opportunity to care for fellow physicians and colleagues. I think we tend to put our needs last, and it feels empowering to choose a new way of doing things. Practicing medicine in this current healthcare climate can be particularly challenging. It is exciting to explore innovative ways to influence the healthcare system, providing an improved experience for physicians and patients alike. My work has certainly expanded my view and understanding of healthcare.
What are your hobbies and interests? I love music! I play the violin and enjoy participating in community orchestras. I played in the SF Civic Symphony Orchestra for two seasons and am a current member of the Prometheus Symphony Orchestra.
Biftu Mengesha, MS, MD
Hometown: This is a tricky question for me – I was born and raised in Denver, CO, however I consider my true home to be Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Education: BA Biochemistry (2007) from University of Colorado, Boulder, MD (2011) and OBGYN residency (2015) at Northwestern, Family Planning Fellowship (2017) at UCSF, as well as my MAS in clinical research (2017)
Why did you choose medicine? I wasn’t one of those people who knew as a kid what I wanted to be when I grew up. I started college thinking I was going to be a meteorologist (!!!). In my first semester of college, I learned that meteorology wasn’t the right path for me, and surprisingly found myself really loving my life sciences courses, which brought me to explore medicine. I volunteered on a labor and delivery unit at a local community hospital and knew right away this was what I needed to do. I felt a deep commitment to want to care for women during both happy and challenging times through the span of their reproductive lives, and I was drawn to the strength and trust in the patient-physician relationship that I saw during these early experiences. Medicine was the best fit for me at that time combining this deep commitment to women’s health care and having meaningful interactions and relationships with patients. And as I’ve continued along in medical school and residency, this has continued to ring true for me. My mission in medicine has now focused on fighting for equitable and compassionate sexual and reproductive health care for low-income women and women of color, and using my privilege as a physician to advocate for patients who endure structural bias and discrimination through multiple different venues – clinical work, research, and formal advocacy. I couldn’t have made a better choice.
Where are you now? I’m on faculty at UCSF and am primarily based at Zuckerberg San Francisco General.
What do you love most about your work? So many things. Primarily I love the patients I am afforded the privilege to care for – I’ve learned so much from them and am grateful to have crossed paths with each and every one. I also love the people I work with – everyone has the same staunch commitment to equity and justice, and to be able to be side-by-side with such a powerhouse interprofessional and multidisciplinary team with the same mission is a dream come true. And I love all of the residents and medical students I get to work with. One of my main identities at work, in addition to an abortion provider and advocate, is being an educator. There are few things as enjoyable to me as teaching and learning from trainees and students, as well as learning the scholarly practice and implementation of education in medicine.
Chidi Akusobi, MPhil, MD, and PhD Candidate
Preferred pronouns: He, him
Hometown: Bronx, NY
Education: I graduated from Yale University in 2012 with a degree in Biology. I then did a 1 year MPhil at the University of Cambridge.
Why did you choose medicine? Growing up I loved science and learning about how our bodies and the world worked. I also knew that people suffered from when those processes break down. As an aspiring physician, I'm excited to be in a profession that allows me to humanistically apply science for the goal of serving people and alleviating suffering.
Where are you now? I'm currently a 5th year MD-PhD student at Harvard Medical School. I'm in the 3rd year of my PhD program in Infectious Diseases at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. In total, I'm in the 5th year of the MD-PhD program at Harvard Medical School.
What do you love most about your work? As a PhD student, I go to work everyday and get to ask questions about biology that has not yet been discovered. Working, living, and thinking at that boundary of knowledge is exciting, and many times frustrating, but doing work that might eventually contribute to better therapies in medicine makes it incredibly worth it, and fun!
What are your hobbies and interests? I love reading and watching science fiction. I write and have a blog I've been keeping up with.
Jerel Calzo, PhD, MPH
Preferred pronouns: he/him/his
Hometown: San Diego, CA
Education: I went to UCLA for my undergraduate degrees in Psychology and English, then went to the University of Michigan where I received a PhD in Developmental Psychology. From there, I was a postdoctoral research fellow in social epidemiology and adolescent health at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital. I then completed my MPH in Health and Social Behavior at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.
Why did you choose public health? I originally wanted to be a clinical psychologist, but after becoming an undergraduate research assistant at the UCLA Center on Minority Health Disparities, I quickly realized that my real passions were in research, studying health disparities, and promoting health equity at a community and population level.
Where are you now? I am currently a faculty member at the San Diego State University School of Public Health and a Core Investigator at the Institute for Behavioral and Community Health.
What do you love most about your work? Working every week alongside LGBTQIA+ adolescents as they formulate research questions and come up with amazingly creative projects that directly address the issues they are facing in their schools and communities.
What are your hobbies and interests? The husband, kids, and dog are the center of my universe once I get home; but when I have some time to myself, you can find me running, doing yoga, gardening, making kimchi, or knitting.
José Gabriel Grajales Reyes, MD, PhD Candidate
Preferred pronoun: He/Him
Hometown: Bayamón, Puerto Rico
Education: B.S. in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of Puerto Rico - Rio Piedras, M.D. Ph.D. Student at Washington University School of Medicine
Why did you choose medicine? Back in college I was the typical pre-med student who for some cheesy reason wanted to become a doctor. I never really thought of why though, I just went for it. However, now a bit further into my training, I have thought about this more and I believe that the desire to help others was always the driving force behind my young and naive decision to set medicine as one of my goals. As of right now, I think that is still the only reason why I love what I do, but I have realized that the practice of medicine is not the only way to accomplish this. Thus, I have made sure to continuously learn and expand my repertoire of experiences in an attempt to find how I can help others in a way that takes advantage of my best qualities. As of right now, I see myself hopefully practicing medicine for a part of my career but mostly being involved in the training of other young aspiring physicians and scientists that hopefully have a similar drive, helping them achieve their full potential.
Where are you now? Currently, I am a 7th year MSTP student at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis. I am finishing my doctoral dissertation in the Anesthesiology Department as part of the Neuroscience graduate program. My work focuses on studying neural circuits that modulate endogenous analgesia in rodents, in hopes that we can better understand the neural circuits that mediate pain relief and one day can target these with novel pharmacotherapy to treat chronic pain. I am planning to defend my thesis during the Summer of 2019 and finish my clinical training.
What do you love most about your work? I would have to say that being in the lab is the best part of my job, I love thinking about science and in new questions that we could help solve. The benefit of being in a physician scientist training program is that I can combine this with questions that are inspired on my drive to help patients. Hopefully one day I will be able to run my own lab and help the patients that I will be taking care of in the clinic.
What are your hobbies and interests? I spend most of my time playing tennis and cycling, the latter being the most recent. However, I try to spend a significant amount of my free time working on diversity recruitment, mentoring younger trainees and working on ideas to improve medical education. Although some of these might seem like work, they keep things interesting and help me clear my mind from lab or school, even if its school related. An example of one of these has to be my role in the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA), and organization that has become much more than just an extracurricular activity, and almost like another family. The work that I have been able to be a part of has definitely been instrumental to my career development and to the focus that I currently have towards academic medicine, furthering my goals to be involved in teaching and mentoring of young underrepresented minorities.
Michelle A. Albert, MD, MPH, FAHA
Dr. Michelle A. Albert, MD MPH is a Professor in Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) and director of the CeNter for the StUdy of AdveRsiTy and CardiovascUlaR DiseasE (NURTURE Center). She was the Vivian Beaumont Allen Endowed Professor/Chair and Chief of Cardiology at Howard University. Albert attended college at 16 years old at Haverford College from which she graduated at 20 years old. She is also a graduate of the University of Rochester School of Medicine, Harvard School of Public Health, and completed Internal Medicine Residency and was also Chief Resident in Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center in New York. Dr. Albert then completed Cardiovascular Clinical and Research Fellowship at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, where she rose in the ranks to an Associate Professor in Medicine.
Dr. Albert maintains an active clinical practice. Her clinical expertise involves taking care of the most critically ill advanced heart disease patients and preventive cardiology with a focus on vulnerable populations at our nation’s top medical universities including Harvard, Columbia, Howard and University of California at San Francisco where she teaches medical students, residents and faculty. As a physician-scientist-epidemiologist, Dr. Albert is engaged in cutting-edge research that innovatively seeks to incorporate “biology” with social determinants of health to transform CVD science and healthcare of global populations, i.e “the biology of adversity”. Thus, her research has followed a non-traditional, but bold path for cardiovascular disease (CVD) research -- 1) first characterizing the predictive capability of novel inflammatory and thrombotic biomarkers of CVD population risk; 2) to identifying how noted relationships vary by important social and demographic characteristics; and 3) to currently defining intersecting mechanisms of CVD risk across the life-course. The latter work focuses on developing innovative implementation strategies to curb adversity related CVD risk particularly in children, women and racial/ethnic minorities. As a result, her work requires extensive collaborations across different disciplines (e.g psychology, cardiology, neurobiology, sociology, molecular biomarker research, interventional science and community based participatory research). She has delivered > 200 lectures in the United States and internationally across the globe and her publications have engendered over 750 requests from the serious lay press for more information and public education. Her profile has been featured in the Boston Globe highlighting innovative leaders, by RWJ, Haverford College, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Circulation Journal about Mentoring and Women, Woman’s Day Magazine and participated in the PBS documentary, “The Hidden Epidemic: Heart Disease in America”.
Dr. Albert has organized/directed > 10 national CVD conferences and chaired/co-chaired numerous national scientific session panels including served as chair of at least 4 ABC scientific conferences.
She is a current Executive Board Member of the Association of Black Cardiologists (ABC), served as ABC Vice-President (2004-2006), a member of the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Qualification of Biomarkers and Surrogate Endpoints in Chronic Disease, as a standing committee member on the NIH Mechanisms, Emotion, Sleep & Health (MESH) study section and a current member of the NHLBI Advisory Board of External Experts and writing committee for the 2019 ACC/AHA Cardiovascular Prevention Guidelines.
She serves as a reviewer for multiple prestigious journals including currently as Associate Editor at Atherosclerosis, Thrombosis & Vascular Biology (ATVB), a member of the Editorial Board of Circulation and as Section Editor for Current Cardiovascular Risk Reports. Dr Albert is also one of the youngest members and a councilor of the Association of University Cardiologists, an honorific cardiology society that consists of approximately 157 of the nation’s cardiovascular medicine leaders. Dr. Albert is also elected to the American Society of Clinical Investigation (2019), an honor society of physician-scientists.
She served/s on multiple national committees of the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and American Heart Association (AHA) notably including as a member of the Epidemiology Council, the AHA National Research Committee, Executive Committee-Clinical Cardiology Council, SACC, AHA Executive Database Steering Committee (Chair), Sarnoff Foundation Scientific and Governing Boards and and is the current President of the AHA San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley Board of Directors.
A recipient of multiple research awards, including multi-million dollar R01 funding from the NIH and funding from RWJ (Harold Amos Scholar), Kellogg and Doris Duke Foundations, Dr. Albert enjoys mentoring trainees (> 70 trainees) at all levels across the United States, with direct career and research of at least 35 post post-doctoral (MD/PhD mentees serving as the primary K-award mentor for several of them. As a result, she was nominated for the competitive 2011-2012 Excellence in Mentoring Award at Harvard Medical School and is the recipient of the 2016 Women in Cardiology Mentoring Award from the AHA.
Early on Dr. Albert was a winner of both the Richard Allen Williams Award for Medical Students and of the Herbert Nickens Award in Epidemiology from the ABC. In the last few years, Dr Albert has been a recipient of the ACC 2012 Heart of Women’s Health Credo Award, Woman’s Day Magazine’s Red Dress Award (2014), was anonymously selected to receive the Haverford College Alumni Award (2015) -- given to an alumnus whose “work typifies the values of the college and is of outstanding service to humanity”. Dr. Albert is the youngest recipient and winner of 2018 recipient of the 2018 Daniel D. Savage Award (ABC’s Highest Honor). She is one of two recipients nationally of the prestigious 2018 AHA Merit award for visionary research and is the first woman and under-represented minority person to receive this award. Her research will use a precision public health approach woven into a clinical trial to deliver a novel behavioral intervention that incorporates social determinants of health aimed at obesity reduction in socially disadvantaged communities at the forefront of several difficult area of inquiry. Her work has significant potential to immediately transform science into actionable results.
Jessica Roach, LPN, MPH Candidate, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Restoring our Own Through Transformation (ROOTT)
Preferred pronouns: She/Her/ Hers
Hometown: Live in Columbus, Ohio for over 20 years
Education: Licensed Practical Nurse (currently inactive), B.A. African- American and African Studies from The Ohio State University, completing Masters of Public Health from the University of Illinois- Chicago
Why did you choose nursing? While not currently practicing clinically, I chose nursing because of my family and watching the changes in health over generations and changes in environment. It was disturbing to me that the narrative of "heredity" when it is used for African- Americans, somehow implies biology without acknowledging factors such as access, quality of life, and most of all, institutional racism. It seemed to me, that if the majority of my great-grandparents lived well into their 90's, with one past 100 years, but my grandparents suddenly had all of these chronic health issues, it had more to do with a loss of culture and environment (rural vs urban settings) than it did with anything genetic or biological. I went into nursing specifically to find a pathway to work with Black and POC populations
Where are you now? I currently live in Columbus, Ohio and have since the beginning of my nursing career, starting with Neuroscience and Epilepsy, then moving into where I am now in Maternal/ Child Health
What do you love most about your work? I love our organization, ROOTT, the most. I often say, as a doula and Birth Justice advocate "We know we have done our job when we are no longer needed in the room". What I love most is witnessing the transformation of our clients we serve at ROOTT when that internal power I believe we all already have, becomes ignited. When our clients get clear about their wants and desires, when they start asking the questions, when they give consent or withdraw it based on informed decisions. What I love most is watching the myths get dispelled and seeing the product of it, which is healthy full term babies and healthy families.
What are your hobbies and interests? I say that, in my former life, I was a semi-professional tap dancer and vocalist. I still love dancing and occasionally singing. I also really enjoy yoga, hiking/camping. I think my daughters are pretty amazing, so I am most interested in what they have going on next.
Sheena Ogando, MD, RhMSUS
Preferred pronouns: She/Her
Hometown: Valley Stream, NY
Education: SUNY Stony Brook, NY: Bachelor of Science, Major – Biology, Minor – Business, SUNY Downstate Medical Center, NY: Doctor of Medicine, Mount Sinai Beth Israel, NY: Residency, Montefiore Medical Center, NY: Fellowship
Why did you choose medicine? I considered becoming a healthcare provider since high school. I worked in a dentist office but I desired knowledge beyond the mouth. I excelled in the sciences and had a pre-teen sister who was misdiagnosed with bulimia. After years of doctor’s visits and hospitalizations for dehydration, she was finally diagnosed with achalasia in which surgical intervention resolved her symptoms. In college, I was presented with an opportunity to explore the depths of medicine through a diversity program that offered early acceptance into medical school. I’d like to say instead that I chose medicine and medicine chose me.
Where are you now? I am a rheumatologist based in California
What do you love most about your work? I love building relationships with patients, walking with them through various life milestones, easing their discomfort, and improving their quality of life. Rheumatologists often receive vague referrals, in which I carefully review their history so as not to misdiagnose a patient similar to my sister. In these moments I feel true personal satisfaction and the gratitude of patients is an added bonus!
What are your hobbies and interests? I am a member of a task force created by the American College of Rheumatology with goals to improve healthcare access to underserved communities. I am a founder of Lean In Physicians, a blossoming network that supports the growth and empowerment of female physicians.
My hobbies include being physically active (yoga, running, dancing, hiking), experiencing various cultures (through music, travel), and surrounding myself with inspirational thinking (book reading, movies, podcasts, and TedTalks). I am a former RYS200 yoga instructor and am also curious about bringing yoga to minority communities.
Tomás Díaz, MD
Preferred pronouns: he/him/his
Hometown: Born New York, NY; raised New Milford, NJ
Education: BA, Columbia University; MD, University of Pennsylvania
Why did you choose medicine? Ultimately, my passions are justice and equity; healthcare and education represent important means toward achieving those ends. As immigrants from the Dominican Republic and Cuba, my parents emphasized reading and education in our home so that my brothers and I might develop a strong command of English and have the opportunity to pursue any careers we might choose. I found myself deciding between teaching literature to high school students and attending medical school. I elected to pursue medicine with the expectation that education would remain an important part of my life and career.
Where are you now? I am in my final year of emergency medicine residency at UCSF-SFGH. After finishing my training, I will be staying at UCSF as a medical education fellow while pursuing a master’s degree in education at UC Berkeley.
What do you love most about your work? Recently, a woman stopped me outside of the hospital; she called to me by my first name. While I did not immediately recognize her, she reminded me that I had delivered her now 2 year old daughter. I, along with her closest family members, had been present for the one of the most important moments in her life. As an emergency physician, I have had the awesome privilege of being part of so many patients’ stories. And, so many patients have become part of mine.
What are your hobbies and interests? Running (I’ve run a number of marathons, half marathons, and relays); live music (I can’t create but I can appreciate); reading (I prefer narrative nonfiction and longform journalism)
J. Nwando Olayiwola, MD, MPH, CPE, FAAFP, Chief Clinical Transformation Officer, Rubicon MD
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Hometown: Columbus, Ohio
Education: Ohio State University - BS in Human Nutrition/Pre-Medicine; Ohio State University-Cleveland Clinic Foundation - MD; Columbia Presbyterian, New York - Family Medicine Residency, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health - Minority Health Policy Fellowship and Masters in Public Health
Why did you choose medicine and tech? I chose medicine because of a strong desire to help people be healthy. When I was younger, I spent a lot of time in Nigeria. My aunt was a general practitioner in our village. My brother and I used to see how she would go places and people would become very excited to see her. I admired her healing power and wanted to be like her. These trusted healing relationships created a lot of opportunities to make people feel better. In my juvenile mind, my quest for medicine started at this time, and continued through high school. Over the years, I have built a career focused on clinical medicine for underserved communities, health technology, academic and scholarly work, research, health equity and diversity and inclusion in medicine. My divergence into tech wasn't an immediate thing. My first job came out of residency when I was working in a community health center in Connecticut. I felt that a lot of problems that my patients had could be solved or mitigated with technology. My work in tech came out of necessity, as I wanted to use technology as a way to ease the burden on my patients.
Where are you now? Now I'm working at that intersection of primary care and healthcare technology. This work is largely focused on creating an electronic way for primary care doctors to connect with specialists, streamline care, reduce wait times for patients, and empower primary care doctors in terms of taking care of complex patients.
What do you love most about your work? I love when people say that because of this technology they were able to do something profoundly impactful for their patients, save hundreds of thousands of dollars for their patients, or when primary care doctors say that they feel supported in their ability to care for underserved patients. I love being able to empower and inspire people interested in caring for patients.
What are your hobbies and interests? I love doing women-related empowerment work. I founded Minority Women Professionals (MWPs) are MVPs, a national program, for the sole purpose of empowering and equipping minority women, health professionals and other professionals to survive and thrive in their careers. I also love spending time with my family, husband, and kids. I enjoy traveling, reading, and writing.
Harriet A. Washington, MA, Editor, Ethicist, and Author of Medical Apartheid
Preferred pronouns: she, her
Education: BA English, University of Rochester; MA Journalism. Columbia, science concentration. Various Fellowships in public health, medical ethics, and journalism
Where are you now? Yonkers, NY
Why did you choose writing and medical ethics? I didn't choose writing; I have to write. It's always been a pleasurable obsession. I've always been similarly obsessed with science and thanks to Albert Schweitzer, with the morality of medicine.
What do you love most about your work? Everything! Learning new things for a living is a deep privilege and so is satisfying my very large curiosity. I love words and crafting them, I love the research and I love occasionally becoming an instrument of justice.
What are your hobbies and interests? Music (especially baroque), literature, films, travel and science fiction.
Martha Tesfalul, MD
Preferred pronouns: she/her/hers
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Education: Harvard College- BA in Sociology, Minor in Health Policy | Johns Hopkins University- MD, Concentration in Public Health and Service | University of California, San Francisco- Residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology, Fellowship in Maternal-Fetal Medicine (ongoing)
Why did you choose medicine? My inspiration started early when my love for community service and for science prompted me to dream about becoming a pediatrician. Knowing this, one of my favorite high school teachers nominated me for a mentorship program through which I was matched with an incredible African American female pulmonologist and intensivist, Dr. Vickie Shannon at MD Anderson Cancer Center. She not only was a true triple threat as a clinician, educator and researcher, but she was deeply invested in my success not only through the program but beyond. Having her as a role model to whom I could relate on many levels early helped me anchor on to the idea that I too could great doctor.
Where are you now? I am in Maternal-Fetal Medicine (MFM) fellowship, which is a three year program for OB/GYN physicians who want to specialize in caring for high risk pregnancies.
What do you love about your work? All of it- from being able to counsel patients in the office about how to optimize the health of their pregnancies to performing and interpreting their obstetric ultrasounds to caring for them within the hospital through health scares, procedures, and deliveries, my career enables me to champion improved health outcomes in a powerful way. Because we care for complicated patients, we also get to work alongside countless collaborators from OB Anesthesiologists, Critical Care Intensivists, Cardiologists, Endocrinologists, Psychiatrists and so many others, which affords me the opportunity to learn so much from them as well as to educate them on unique considerations that need to made for pregnant patients.
What are your hobbies and interests? My interests within MFM are primarily related to quality improvement and global health. For fun, I love traveling, being outdoors, listening to live music, watching stand-up comedy, journaling, and growing in my faith.
Joyce Jones, MD Candidate and SNMA National Vice President, 2018-2019
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Hometown: Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, moved to Chicago, Illinois at age 9
Education: University of Illinois at Chicago, Bachelor of Science, Biological Sciences. Current: Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, Chicago Medical School, MD Candidate, 2019.
Why did you choose medicine? My interest in Medicine was nourished through my long-time mentor in medicine that I met as an undergraduate student in the Chicago Area Health and Medical Careers Program (CAHAMP), a health career pipeline program in the Chicagoland area. I had the opportunity to shadow my mentor for many years in an urban, inner city clinical setting. My observation was that the patients were unaware of the value of routine preventative care for wellness. Moreover, they displayed limited knowledge of affective factors such as ethnicity and the related health and diet tendencies that adversely impact their conditions. These experiences perpetuated my interest to practice medicine —specifically in communities of color—to increase awareness, health literacy, and access to preventive care measures to advance quality of life and total health.
Where are you now? I am currently a 4th year medical student at Rosalind Franklin University applying for residency in Family Medicine.
What do you love most about your work? I love interacting with and caring for generations of families. Being able to provide patients with concerned, patient-centered care and engage them with needed social resources that promote quality of life is the perfect mergence of my passion for medicine and my love for patient advocacy activated to help abridge social barriers. I was fortunate to witness, firsthand patient care that showed concern beyond the stated condition and probed to understand contributing domestic factors experienced by patients in underserved communities of color. I am enamored by the opportunity to fulfill one of the greatest mandates in Medicine: the delivery of high-quality care that promotes quality of life, healing, and total health.
What are your hobbies and interests? I enjoy spending time with family and friends, traveling, and during the Summer I love to attend the Cultural street festivals all around the city of Chicago. Additionally, Chicago has wonderful cuisine, so I love to engage in new culinary experiences that introduce me to different cultural foods and local restaurants. I love to loom knit, particularly baby booties, mitts, and hats, and I also enjoy baking desserts.
Etsemaye P. Agonafer, MD, MPH
(Pronounced in Geez the ancient language of the Ethiopian Orthodox church as Uh-Suh-My but, most call me Esta-May; it means seed of holy water)
Preferred pronouns: She/her/hers
Hometown: Born in San Francisco, CA, raised in Oakland and later Southern California/South Bay- Torrance
Education: BS in Biochemistry from the University of Southern California (FIGHT ON!); UC Davis School of Medicine Post Baccalaureate Program; MD/MPH from UCLA/Charles Drew University PRIME and UCLA Fielding School of Public Health (Cohort 2); Internal Medicine Residency at UPMC-Presbyterian/Montefiore in Pittsburgh, PA; Chief Resident of Quality and Patient Safety at UPMC-Presbyterian/Montefiore in Pittsburgh, PA; Currently a National Clinician Scholar Program at UCLA
Why did you choose medicine? Since I was a little girl I always wanted to be a doctor to help people when they were most vulnerable but to be very honest, I didn’t know what going through this journey would really mean. Over the years I have found that my upbringing as a first-generation Ethiopian American, the first to go to college, and become a physician influenced the way I interact with patients, trainees, colleagues and team members. These interactions have affirmed why I chose medicine—to become a change agent who improves the quality of health care for underserved communities that I am a product of.
Where are you now? I am a post-doctoral health services/policy research fellow at the UCLA National Clinician Scholars Program (previously the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program. My research interests include: healthcare delivery design and its impacts on diverse disadvantaged populations, innovation that incorporates addressing social determinants of health, and quality improvement for underserved populations. My research focus is on amplifying the voices of vulnerable patients/communities through narratives, qualitative methods, and community partnered participatory research to impact health care delivery, patient outcomes and perceptions of quality of care. In my free time, to keep a pulse on clinical practice with an underserved population, I serve as a physician at Los Angeles County Jail.
What do you love most about your work? Patients and their narratives. My favorite quote is by Elizabeth Bibesco – “Give without remembering, take without forgetting.” I feel that every patient interaction is a give and a take. The privilege I have, as an internist to contribute in some kind of way to someone else’s life when they are most vulnerable is something I treasure the most because of the lasting impact it has on me and the way I live my life. As an internist, I have learned to translate the words of my patients and to interpret physical manifestation of their illness in order to make diagnoses and prescribe treatment. But my patients have also taught me to search beyond the afflictions of the body. Hidden inside their narratives are clues to problems that plague our entire healthcare system and our society and it is this that drives that the work I do today.
What are your hobbies and interests? I love anything and everything creative- sketching, painting, cooking, and baking. I’m also a bit of a foodie and love traveling for good food!
Jazzmin Williams, MD Candidate
Preferred pronouns: She/Her/Hers
Hometown: Stockton, CA
Education: Bachelor of Science in Human Biology with departmental honors at Stanford; University. M.D. candidate in the Program in Medical Education for the Urban Underserved (PRIME-US) at University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine
Why did you choose medicine? A major influence over my decision to become a doctor was my experience observing the course of my grandfather’s type II diabetes and hypertension. To him, these were minor conditions since most people he knew had those conditions at his age. Unfortunately, his physician did not explain, in terms he could understand, the pathophysiology and long-term implications of his diseases or the significance of adhering to the prescribed medication regimen and diet. As a result, my grandfather dismissed his co-morbidities and inconsistently adhered to treatment. He suffered from numerous micro- and microvascular complications, including amputation, and ultimately passed away from a stroke. This experience brought into sharp relief the fact that the quality of a doctor-patient relationship can be a matter of life or death. All too often, physicians dismiss patients as “non-compliant” for simply not understanding their medical conditions or for not engaging in healthy behaviors due to access barriers such as living in a food desert, not being able to afford transportation, medication, or insurance, etc. I chose medicine to be a physician who recognizes my patients as whole people; empowers them to be equal partners in maintaining their health; and combats structural injustices that compromise health and wellbeing.
Where are you now? Right now, I’m living in San Francisco, CA where I’m surprisingly more than half way through my first year of medical school! Since joining the UCSF community, I’ve been involved in promoting an anti-racist curriculum and improving the way race and ethnicity is discussed in the curriculum through my work with White Coats for Black Lives and the Differences Matter initiative. Additionally, I serve as the Underrepresented in Medicine Liaison and the Social Justice and Advocacy Chair in the UCSF chapter of the Student National Medical Association.
What do you love most about your work? As a medical student, I love having the unique opportunity to learn how to be a part of the medical profession, while also being just outside of it enough to question the status quo and define for myself what it means to be a physician. I’m very fortunate to be at an institution like UCSF, and in the San Francisco Bay Area in general, where I can find role models who believe that truly caring for patients doesn’t stop outside of the clinic.
What are your hobbies and interests? I’m interested in exploring ways that physicians can improve community health outcomes by shaping policy. Most recently, I’ve become interested in writing editorials that explore the intersection between policy and public health. In my spare time, I enjoy watching films, going to concerts, hiking, and traveling.
Laeesha Cornejo, MD Candidate
Hometown: San Francisco
Education: BA in Neuroscience at Pomona College, MD Candidate at UCSF School of Medicine.
Why did you choose medicine? I realized at a young age that my family history had set me on a path to pursue medicine. From my ancestors’ stories about war, survival, violence, and perseverance, I inherited a deep desire to heal individuals and communities through the practice of medicine. As a child growing up uninsured, I learned firsthand how destabilizing it was to be unable to access healthcare. I chose medicine because it allows me to take a leadership position in addressing health disparities. I want to create change both through the individual relationships that I form with patients and as an advocate on a larger stage.
Where are you now? I am in my first year of medical school at the University of California. I am in the Program in Medicine for the Urban Underserved (PRIME-US)
What do you love most about your work? What I love most about my first year is the opportunity to organize and attend electives, speaker series, and conferences to grow my knowledge in topic areas including harm reduction and addiction medicine, medical humanities, and health disparities.
What are your hobbies and interests? I love to cook as a way to decompress and connect with friends and family. I also enjoy running, reading (any and all fiction), writing, and exploring the Bay Area.
Sabina Spigner, Future MD Candidate and Virtual Pre-med Mentor
Preferred pronouns: She/her
Hometown: Laguna Hills, CA
Education: B.A. in Neuroscience w/ a minor in gender/sexuality studies (UPenn '16); M.S. in Biology (Chatham '18); M.P.H. candidate (Jefferson '19)
Why did you choose medicine? My reason for wanting to go into medicine has definitely evolved over time. When I was younger, I was inspired by the docs who saved my youngest brother's life. As a college student, I had an unpleasant experience with my primary care provider after revealing my sexuality to them. Now, I am working towards becoming a physician so that I can contribute to the conversation regarding healthcare reform for the underserved and underrepresented. My goal is to use my experiences, education, and compassion to provide culturally competent care to the LGBT community and other minority communities in medicine.
Where are you now? In my last semester as an MPH student at Jefferson in Philly. I'm sitting on a couple of medical school acceptances and plan to start mid-summer as an M.D. candidate!
What do you love most about your work? My pre-med journey has been long and arduous. Along the way, I needed to figure out a lot of the strategies and information on my own without a mentor-figure who had successfully attempted to overcome similar barriers as me. One of my favorite parts about this journey is how much I have learned about myself and how much more confidence I have in my abilities to accomplish my goals. In line with that, my second favorite part is being able to share my experiences with other pre-meds in person and through Instagram (@thecurlypremed). I love being a mentor, and social media has given me a great platform to help inspire and encourage those who might also be underdogs in the pre-med world.
What are your hobbies and interests? Outside of medicine, I'm very interested in public health research exploring the health disparities that exist for minority populations. I plan to continue doing this research throughout my career as a doctor. For fun, I love reading, exercising, dogsitting, and watching way too much TV.
Anne Zepeda, MD, MAS
Preferred pronouns: She/Her/Hers
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Education: Bachelor of Science in Physiological Science from University of California- Los Angeles; Post-baccalaureate at UCSD 2008-2009; M.D. in the Program in Medical Education-HEq at UCSD 2009-2014; M.A.S in Clinical Research 2012-2013 from UCSD. Pediatric Residency at LAC+USC ‘2017
Why did you choose medicine? I became interested in medicine as I accompanied my late grandmother to her doctor appointments as her translator. It was in high school, where along with other students, I was able to rotate through the Los Angeles County Hospital and go through the pathology lab where I actually got to see an amputated foot due to diabetes. Because of that experience, I knew then that it would be a goal of mine to prevent that from happening to my own grandmother. What solidified my pursuit was knowing that my father had attended medical school in El Salvador but had to give up his dream because of the Salvadoran Civil War. I had every reason to work hard and become a physician no matter how difficult the path.
Where are you now? I am currently in my second year of fellowship at LAC+USC in Neonatology.
What do you love most about your work? I find that it is a privilege to be able to attend deliveries and to counsel parents in either Spanish or English. I also enjoy knowing that I can be the first physician to do an assessment of a newborn. Depending on the circumstances, I have found myself to evolve in my manner of communication to bring comfort for the parents/families of my patients.
What are your hobbies and interests? I enjoy running, watching 20/20 and Dateline. I am also interested in reviewing shapes/singing the alphabet song with my 1.5 year old son and spending time with my husband.
Jessica Dominguez, MD Candidate
Preferred pronouns: She/Her/Hers
Hometown: I was born in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico and grew up in Wasco, CA
Education: UC Berkeley - Integrative Biology, BA - Class of 2012; UCSD Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Program - 2015-2016, MD; MPH Candidate - UCSD School of Medicine PRIME-Health Equity 2017-2022
Why did you choose medicine? I chose medicine because it would allow me to use my language and culture to connect with patients and allow me to serve as an advocate and leader for underserved and marginalized populations. As a first-generation student who grew up in a predominantly Spanish-speaking and farm-working community in the San Joaquin Valley, I understand firsthand the many barriers to health care that communities from similar backgrounds face. As a result, I am committed to help break down language barriers, create safe spaces for all patients, and engage with communities to empower them and help improve health outcomes at both individual and community levels.
Where are you now? I am currently studying for the STEP 1 exam and will be starting my third year of medical school in May 2019.
What do you love most about your work? I love that we can give hope and inspiration through our work in medicine. This hope and inspiration can be delivered and manifested in different ways and through different avenues. Whether it be building trust with patients and helping them gain access to care or serving as a mentor for youth in underserved communities, inspiring and motivating the next generation, I am very passionate and thankful to be in this position.
What are your hobbies and interests? I enjoy traveling, learning about different cultures, and spending time with family and friends. I also enjoy learning new languages. In college, I took two years of French and I try to practice it by watching shows in French and reading a bit. When I studied abroad at the University of Cape Town, I took an Afrikaans language course. Overall, I love exposing myself to new things, music, food, art...and when I can, I like to share these experiences with my parents and loved ones.
Edward Elchico, MD
Hometown: Bellflower, CA
Education: B.A. in Molecular & Cell Biology, Neurobiology Emphasis from the University of California, Berkeley; M.D. from Rush Medical College in Chicago, IL
Why did you choose medicine? My desire for a career in medicine was initially rooted in my own experience growing up in a low-income, multigenerational and multi-family Filipino immigrant household, taking on a role as a child caregiver for an ill and disabled parent, and developing a recognition for socio-cultural undercurrents that hinder low-income minorities from overcoming economic, health, and educational hardship. I found service-work within my Filipino-American community, which exposed me to challenges related to the patterns of diaspora to cultural preservation in the face of assimilation to the intersections of religiosity with healthcare and the stigmatization of mental illness - these became the genesis of my passion for community-based primary care. This perspective matured in college with my older brother's onset of schizophrenia and witnessing how the propensity of an individual's illness can wear the wellness of a family. It exposed me to the difficulties of finding new equilibriums after tragedy. The collection of my experiences and observations made me more attentive to the role of emotional and socioeconomic stress on development and trajectory. It made me curious about the interplay between social silos and health, and propelled me into experiences caring for medically vulnerable populations - POCs, elderly people, people in poverty, recent immigrants, and people in systems of incarceration. Developing an analysis for caring for the person in the context of their circumstance and intersectionality helped me to extract a strong sense of meaning from providing holistic care as a family doctor.
Where are you now? I am in my 2nd-year as a resident at Swedish Cherry Hill Family Medicine Residency Program, where my continuity clinic is base in the International Community Health Services (ICHS) - an FQHC that serves primarily AAPI.
What do you love most about your work? I love the variety I get in my work, much of which comes from the intersectional constellation of the person: caring for newborns, children, adolescents, young adults, pregnant people, adults, elders; people of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, immigration history, genders, sexualities, financial means, abilities, talents, and challenges. I gear my work toward caring for populations that are and have been historically disadvantaged, where social justice has become thematic in the how I guide my practice. I feel the most amount of joy from meaningful interactions w/ my patients.
What are your hobbies and interests? I enjoy cooking traditional Filipino dishes (#HouseHusbandDream on Instagram features my cooking), protesting and participating in community actions, cutting and styling hair, nurturing house plants, playing volleyball, jogging, going out dancing, karaoke-ing, and lounging in the sun. I am not so much a fanatic of reading books or novels, but I am into reading articles and subtitles (to my favorite tv shows).
Dustin T. Duncan, ScD
Preferred pronouns: He/Him/His
Hometown: Silver Spring, MD
Education: I competed my undergraduate studies in psychology and public health sciences from Morehouse College. I then completed both my doctorate and the Alonzo Smythe Yerby Postdoctoral Fellowship in social epidemiology at Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Why did you choose public health? After taking introductory courses in public health, epidemiology and medical sociology (and various public health research experiences) in college, I realized that public health can impact the health of large groups, which was appealing to me. In addition, I appreciated early-on that public health has a strong social justice focus, which is reflected in my past and current research. My research seeks to determine how neighborhoods can influence health disparities experienced by racial/ethnic minority, low-income and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) populations.
Where are you now? I am an Associate Professor of Population Health at New York University (NYU) School of Medicine, where I direct NYU’s Spatial Epidemiology Lab (www.spatialepilab.org). The lab employs a geospatial lens in studying health behaviors and outcomes, especially sexual health and sleep health. The lab has an emphasis on intersectionality and health disparities examining vulnerable populations, with a strong focus on sexual and gender minority populations and in particular Black gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) as well as transgender women of color. Methodologically, the lab applies spatially explicit approaches such as computer-based geographic information systems (GIS), web-based geospatial technologies, real-time geospatial technologies, and geospatial modeling techniques. Using innovative methods like global positioning system (GPS) technologies, the lab aims to relate neighborhood attributes to health-related behaviors and outcomes. By studying specific neighborhood characteristics, we hope to inform salient and effective interventions and policies.
What do you love most about your work? I enjoy the ability to work towards population health improvement, especially for marginalized populations. I also enjoy mentoring: To date, I have worked with almost 65 students and trainees from different backgrounds and educational levels (undergraduate students, graduate students, medical students, postdoctoral fellows, and medical residents). I am also mentoring junior faculty. My student research assistants and fellows have been co-authors on published manuscripts and have been awarded research grants, including several of my undergraduate students. What are you hobbies and interests?I have several hobbies and interests outside of work, including being a 'wanna-be' DJ. I have been a student at a DJ school in downtown New York City and I try to practice on the weekends.
India Perez-Urbano, MD Candidate
Preferred pronouns: she/her/hers
Hometown: Nyack, NY
Education: BA in Sociology and Global Health & Health Policy from Harvard University. MD Candidate at UCSF School of Medicine.
Why did you choose medicine? “Sickness is not just an isolated event, nor an unfortunate brush with nature. It is a form of communication–the language of the organs—through which nature, society, and culture speak simultaneously. The individual body should be seen as the most immediate, the proximate terrain where social truths and social contradictions are played out.” –Nancy Scheper-Highes and Margaret M. Lock, “The Mindful Body” I have always believed that our bodies, our health, were profound reflections of the state of our union; but it wasn’t until I read the above quote that I found the words to really communicate this. During undergrad, I was especially interested in examining the ways in which macro- (structural oppression, policy, and shared histories), meso- (culture, stigma, and built-environment), and micro-level (interpersonal relationships, biology, behavior) factors manifested, and presented themselves, on the individual bodies of our society. As I got involved in HIV advocacy and harm reduction, I began to see these both as knotty, yet bottomless, case studies in examining the intersection of these forces. I continued to study them closely through my academic work; my volunteer work; and, later, my professional work. I pursued medicine because, to me, it was a way to become an agent of change at this complex intersection. Inspired by my father, I witnessed this work at play through his clinical practice and research. The possibilities always seemed endless, and the functional unit of his work always seemed to be human stories. I am incredibly grateful to have had a portrait of medicine that was disruptive, celebratory, healing and humbling, all at once. This is always a loaded question for me, because there are many more pages that I could write on why I chose medicine; but I hope my answer will do it justice.
Where are you now? I am currently a first-year medical student at UCSF.
What do you love most about your work? Medical school has been such a trip, and I am uncovering more and more about the field of medicine everyday. I am so grateful to be where I am. Words cannot express how privileged I am to be learning alongside the people that I do, here at UCSF. One of the things I love the most is how mission-driven medicine can be, and how much of this work becomes irreversibly fused with one’s identity and purpose. Medicine can also be incredibly frustrating, but to me that frustration is incredibly fueling.
What are your hobbies and interests? I am incredibly interested in challenging the bounds of medicine through solution-driven innovations to solving public health problems. I like pushing people to think small: think community, think neighborhood, think grass-roots. I like to push the idea of decentralizing and democratizing healthcare. For me, harm reduction has been the embodiment of this. This summer, I will be exploring this more through urban planning because I believe that is a field with great potential to do good when brought together with medicine. In my spare time, I like to hang out with my cat, listen to podcasts, draw, cook, eat (and, overall, just be a little abuelita). I also run Dulce, a weekly email subscription that I founded for women of color. I like to describe Dulce as an act of resistance that honors women of color through self-affirming prose and promotes practices of self-nourishment and sisterhood.
Ivie Tokunboh, MD Candidate
Preferred pronouns: She/her/hers
Hometown: Claremont, CA
Education: BA in Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology at Harvard College; MD Candidate at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine
Why did you choose medicine? Ever since I was a young child, I wanted to pursue medicine. I always really enjoyed being a part of the healing process for people, not just in the physical sense, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well. The chance to offer any solution to relieve people's burdens always seemed like a dream job for me and I think medicine is a really natural avenue for that. I watched my mom do that every day with the patients she worked with, and I was really impacted when I saw how much health care professionals can uplift their patients and improve the quality of their lives. I want to be the physician who actively listens and really takes the time to understand the whole story of the person. When you go beyond the clinical condition and start to understand the social elements that are at play, you can better address the needs and concerns of that patient and make a bigger impact in their lives. It should go without saying, but the patients we see are more than just patients— they're people. They don't live in silos. They have families and relationships and jobs and stress and other things that play roles in the larger picture of their health. I love medicine because as a physician (and even now as a physician-in-training), I have the chance to explore the context of their health, including the social factors, and see what I can best do to help alleviate their pain, worries, and burdens. There's a lot of trust people put in you to be their doctor, and I don't take that for granted. It's important to me to do right by my future patients, and build strong relationships with them founded in trust, and let them know they're not alone.
Where are you now? I'm currently living in San Francisco and finishing up my first year of medical school at UCSF!
What do you love most about your work? As a first-year medical student, I am loving learning so much about the human body and the way that social structures impact health. I also love being around such inspiring and passionate individuals that I am lucky to call my classmates. I currently have leadership roles in the Student National Medical Association, White Coats for Black Lives, and the Black Student Health Alliance. In all of these groups, I am grateful for the community building that takes place both within the UCSF community and in the greater San Francisco area!
What are your hobbies and interests? I love to sing and dance and I greatly appreciate the many different mediums for creative expression. I recently had the chance to sing, dance, and creative direct for my class music video and that was a really exciting experience because it had been so long since I had performed or was a part of a creative project. It was really satisfying and fulfilling to use those creative muscles again and perform— especially alongside such lovely classmates. I also am a co-host on a podcast called Woke WOC Docs, which centers the stories of women of color in medicine and health justice. It's basically a chance to have some real conversations with people about their joys and obstacles in the medical profession. It has been very empowering for me to see such incredible people at different places in their medical journey and glean their words of wisdom. It has quickly become one of my favorite parts about medical school and I love the space that we are able to create for our guests and for our listeners. I also love mentoring pre-medical students and volunteering in the community, especially with seniors and people experiencing homelessness.
Ziad Mohamoud Jowhar, MD-PhD Candidate
Preferred pronouns: He/His/Him
Hometown: Lilburn, GA
Education: B.S. in Neuroscience and Behavior Biology & B.S. in Biology; MD-PhD candidate at University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.
Why did you choose medicine? I am a first-generation Eritrean-American, and the product of two proud immigrants. My family is scattered across the world due to civil unrest in Eritrea due to war, and I wanted to help heal my people from an early age. Visiting family that was scattered across the world gave me awareness to my privilege and helped me further develop my commitment for providing healthcare to underserved communities. I chose medicine because I want to help alleviate this health disparity and to hopefully provide a pathway for future generations.
Where are you now? Currently I am a first year at University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine in the Medical Scientist Training Program. While at UCSF I have become the co-president of the Student Nation Medical Association and work towards building a strong Black community at UCSF to ultimately improve mentorship and community outreach and engagement.
What do you love most about your work? I love that I am able to get involved in and promote needed conversations not happening in medicine in topics such as health disparities, Black Health, and minority mentorship. I am privileged to attend UCSF where they are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion and provide access and resources so I can find role models and collaborate to improve patient care and the surrounding community.
What are your hobbies and interests? Scientifically, I am interested in understanding the evolution and differentiation of glioblastoma cancer stem cells. I recently became interested in how to promote and implement anti-racism in medical education. I love to explore San Francisco, hiking national parks, concerts, traveling, and cooking.
Michelle L. Drew, DNP, MPH & TM, CNM, FNP, RN
Preferred pronouns: she/her/hers
Hometown: Wilmington Delaware
Education: BSN: Jacksonville University, MPH: Tulane University, New Orleans LA, MSN: Vanderbilt University Certified Nurse Midwife, Family Nurse Practitioner, Doctorate. Nursing Practice: Texas Woman's University
Why did you choose nursing, family nurse practice, public health, and midwifery? As a woman of color with first person lived experience as how it feels to transact with the healthcare system, I knew only too well what it was to be seen as a stereotype rather than the person that I was and to be dehumanized by not only the healthcare system but by individual practitioners. I wanted a career where I could advocate for and defend the rights of women and families of color to be treated with dignity and to have their births and lives respected as a whole
Where are you now? I live in and practice in Delaware, I am a clinical instructor for the OBGYN residency program and maintain a small practice. I also am building a new community based organization called Ubuntu: The Black Family Health Collective that seeks to empower families and achieve health equity through centering programs in the community and around the unique needs, hopes and desires of the women and their families. Ubuntu mean community in several Bantu languages but it is literally translated as "I am because we are". It signifies the strength of collective action and is also an homage to my community because I am what I am not despite a background of relative disadvantage but BECAUSE of what the strength and nurturing of my community allowed me to grow.
What do you love most about your work? I love providing cadre directly to my neighbors. I live in and love the community from which our clients come.
What are your hobbies and interests? I like to run. I travel when I can, and I love to cook big family meals for my extended family.
LaShyra Nolen, MD Candidate
Preferred pronouns: She/Hers
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Education: Loyola Marymount University, Harvard Medical School MD Candidate
Why did you choose medicine? Since I was 6 years old I knew I wanted to become a doctor. Every year I dressed up as a physician for Halloween and my grandma always came to see me for "treatment" for her back pain. Despite my family's support however, I was still a young girl from LA with a dream that seemed unattainable by society's standards. My family is from Compton, California. My mother spent her late teenage years raising me as a single parent. Despite my unique pedigree however, I would become the first person in my family to earn a Bachelor's degree in the sciences and the first to pursue a career in medicine. I was inspired by the resilience and strength of my mother. She was the first person in our family to pursue a college level degree and worked two jobs to provide for our family. My mom's hard work was my motivation, but it was the loss of one the most important people in my life that would inform my life's mission.
When I was 8 years-old my mom met my stepfather and he would become one of the greatest men I had ever known. But as a South Central native himself, he was not immune to the detrimental effects of structural racism and food deserts that continue to disproportionately plague communities of color across the nation. In 2010 my stepfather's life was tragically cut short due to obesity and hypertension. As an undergraduate student I learned that the tragic circumstances that led to my stepfather's death were not singular nor isolated. That year he unfortunately joined thousands of other black men in their early fifties that succumbed to preventable chronic diseases. I came to understand these "circumstances" to be defined as social determinants of health. As I became more familiar with the lexicon and study of public health I realized that the lived experiences of my loved ones were directly correlated with their lifespans. It was at that moment that my childhood dream to become a doctor became my life's mission.
I chose medicine because I do not believe people should lose their lives because of their geographical location, melanin concentration and/or citizenship status. I chose medicine because I lost someone special because of these arbitrary factors. I chose medicine because I want to find solutions to fix the broken and unjust nature of our society.
Where are you now? Currently, I am in my second gap year before I start medical school. I am serving as an AmeriCorps Health Educator at a federally qualified health center in Chicago. I mostly served Spanish-speaking, underinsured patients and use motivational interviewing and nutrition education to help empower them to take agency over their own health.
Prior to moving to Chicago, I completed a Fulbright grant in La Coruña, Spain where I taught U.S. culture and history, math and English to Spanish students from ages 10 to 18. As an educator I created a lecture series that engaged my students in topics like Black American culture, health disparities and social justice. At the conclusion of my lecture series I led my students to organize a march to raise money for a Spanish refugee advocacy group called ACCEM. This was such an impactful experience and I was so proud to see my students become more socially conscious citizens.
On a side note, I highly recommend programs like the Fulbright exchange program and the Gilman scholarship to all students of color interested in healthcare. There is this idea that you cannot be pre-med and study abroad or that to study abroad you need extraneous amounts of money. Some of this is true to an extent, but with careful planning and scholarships studying abroad is very doable. Not enough URM students get the opportunity to study abroad because they don't realize scholarship opportunities exist to fund these programs. I spent almost 2 years abroad all-expenses paid and was the first person in my family to travel outside the U.S.. Trust me, it is possible! There is something so beautiful and humbling about stepping outside your comfort zone and building community in new spaces. I want so badly for students to experience this, so I always encourage them to reach out to their university's study abroad office and google the many opportunities there are to explore the world. It you want to learn more about my experiences in Spain, check out this blog post I wrote for the Spanish Embassy:
What do you love most about your work? Nothing gives me more joy than to see my patients have an "Ah ha!" moment. I work with patients who have typically been dismissed or marginalized by our healthcare system, so to see them finally understand the pathophysiology of their illness or cry of happiness because they lowered their hemoglobin A1C, is one of the greatest joys of my work. Through my service as an AmeriCorps member I have learned the power of humility and truly listening to my patients' stories. Every day I have the privilege to walk alongside such resilient, courageous souls on their journey to maintain and improve their health. It is an extremely humbling gift and I look forward to continue this work the rest of my life as a physician.
What are your hobbies and interests? I'm a goofy, adventurous spirit with a love for basketball, food and travel. When I am not trying a new restaurant or chilling with family and friends, I'm likely on an adventure. I still can’t believe it, but in the past 4 years I have traveled to over 30 countries! I also find peace and clarity through running and have run 2 full marathons and 7 half marathons. I find power in education and love to read books about the intersection of medicine, sociology and anthropology. My passions include: mentorship, combating institutional racism and illuminating the narratives of marginalized populations in our society.