Scholars Corner – Cynthia Felix Scholarship

2017 – 2018

Kenneth Calero – I am currently a senior at California State University, Dominguez Hills going for B.S. in Biology with a concentration on Cellular and Molecular Biology. I have been interested in medicine since I was 5 years old but a couple of setbacks in middle and high school made me question if I was capable of such a career. My hometown is La Puente, California. After an eye-opening experience that showed me the impact I could have on the health and prosperity of all people I decided to begin my journey once again. My biggest support system in my journey as a pre-med has been my Mother and my Sister. Since my decision I have become better in all facets of student life. I have been on the Dean’s List for the past 2.5 years which is distinction given for attaining a GPA of over 3.6. I have also grown as a leader which allowed me to become President of Organizacion Latina Estudiantil(O.L.E.) and Vice-President of The Pre-Health Society. O.L.E. has a track record of excellency as the organization was awarded with the Presidential Award for being one of the top organizations on campus for being committed in the service of helping underserved communities.

I am also involved in College Spring which allows me to mentor and tutor students from historically low-income backgrounds, giving them extra support to go to college. Being a mentor for students that grew up in situations similar to myself gives me more motivation to achieve my dream of becoming a doctor. Achieving my dream will show these young people that they too can achieve anything they put their mind to

 

Jerry Ramirez – My parents immigrated from Mexico and settled in East Los Angeles, where I was born and raised. My family and I often relied on curanderas to help us feel better because we rarely had adequate access to healthcare. As I grew older, I pushed even harder to succeed in school because I believed that if I could go to college, I could one day return to my roots and likewise communities and be a medical liaison for people with these very barriers. As an undergraduate at UC Davis, I was involved in student organizations like C.H.E and Clinica Tepati, which served as a reminder that individuals are still facing the same barriers to health care that my family and I faced nearly 20 years ago. My path into medicine has taken various detours, but I have learned a lot about my community and myself along the way. I am currently taking upper division science courses as part of an informal post-bacc at UC Davis, working as a substitute teacher, and completing a dual masters program in Public Health and Behavioral Health at the University of San Francisco. However, the hardest thing I have done being a father who is pursuing a career in medicine has been being away from my two-year-old son, Leonardo. To me, being a physician not only means helping individuals from a medical standpoint, but it also means becoming an advocate for and to underrepresented communities who at most times need the medical and personal attention a lot more.

 

Patty Medina is the daughter of Mexican immigrants, the eldest of seven children and a first generation college student. She graduated from Santa Clara University with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and French and a minor in Anthropology. Patty also obtained certificates in Infectious Diseases and Infectious Control, Contemporary and Alternative Health, Legal and Ethical Issues in Healthcare, and Nutrition, Chronic Disease and Health Promotion. As an undergraduate student, Patty was the Medical Director of Global Medical Brigades; a non-profit dedicated to bridging the gap in access to health care services. Patty participated in four medical trips to Panama, Nicaragua and Ghana where she served as an interpreter, pharmacist apprentice and researcher. Patty is a Health Career Connection alumni who interned at Kaiser Permanente and worked on a video remote interpreting project to bridge the language gap in patients with limited English proficiency and other communication needs. Patty is a Rose Parade first aid responder with the American Red Cross, a Sandy Kemp Scholar and member of Doctors for Global Health. She is a Health Fellow with AmeriCorps and works in a clinic in East Los Angeles conducting diabetes focus groups. Currently, she is taking post-baccalaureate classes at UCLA. Patty plans to obtain a Master’s degree in global health and to pursue emergency medicine. Patty’s dream is to work for Doctors Without Borders and dedicate her life to ending health disparities that exist among marginalized communities in the United States and abroad. A fun fact about Patty is that she speaks Spanish, English, French, American Sign Language and is learning Arabic. Patty says “I am very grateful to be selected as a LMSA scholarship recipient. It means a lot to me and my family because I am one step closer to accomplishing my dreams of becoming a doctor and serving my community.”

 

Betsabeth Munoz – My name is Betsabeth Muñoz and I am a first generation Chicana. My parents immigrated from Lagos de Moreno, Jalisco, Mexico and I was born and raised in San Jose, California. I am a fourth-year undergraduate at UC Davis working toward a B.S. in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior with a B.A. minor in Native American Studies. I am grateful for the Sacred Heart and Washington United Youth Community Centers which have taught me about my Mexican heritage through Aztec dancing and other traditional Mexican dances, providing me with after-school programs, and serving as genuine support centers for the Latinx community.

My particular interest in medicine stems from the time that I almost lost my brother in a car accident about ten years ago. He was gravely injured and in critical condition. Even in such a critical moment, ethnicity factored into the time it took for my brother to be admitted to surgery and it also played a role in the quality of conversation between the providers and my family.

I devote much of my time to Clinica Tepati, a UC Davis student-run free clinic in Sacramento. Another reason why I pursue medicine is due to the poverty, high prevalence of homelessness, and ill mental and physical conditions of individuals I continue to witness throughout my hometown in San Jose as well as in Mexico. Hence, I am truly honored to receive this scholarship from LMSA because it is awarded by people with similar aspirations as mine and who believe in me.

 

2016

Alexa Rodriguez will be earning her BA in Biological Sciences at Wellesley College in May. She is proud to be the first person in her family to graduate from a college institution and sincerely hopes that she is only the first of many. Alexa grew up in a low-income neighborhood in Compton, CA alongside her family. She is the daughter to the two most loving and self-sacrificing immigrant parents, and sister to one little brother. It is from her parents that she learned the indomitable work-ethic and discipline necessary to make dreams into realities. The foremost of her ambitions is to be a primary care physician in disadvantaged communities.

During her undergraduate career, she developed the confidence and leadership necessary to become an effective leader in her own community. For the last couple of years, she has spent her summer months volunteering at a hospital where she learned the importance of language and cultural understanding within the fabric of medicine. Furthermore, she understood that a successful career in medicine is one that is built upon the foundation of humility and teamwork. Her internship within the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services also helped drive this message home: it was through working with a team of motivated, brilliant people that she took part in designing educational workshops for community health workers.

Alexa plans to apply all that she has learned and experienced towards a career of service in medicine. She cannot wait until she can deliver compassionate care to her community. Her desire is to work with underrepresented and marginalized identities such as the undocumented, drug-addicted, ex-convict, and homeless populations in Los Angeles. In the far future, Alexa has every intention of starting a pipeline connecting underrepresented and disadvantaged students to opportunities that would allow them the ability to dream big.

Alexa is thankful to all the support she has received thus far. Had it not been for Scripps College Academy, she would not have applied to Wellesley. Had it not been for the Questbridge Match Scholarship, she could not have financed her education. She is immensely grateful towards her web of faithful supporters, friends, and mentors for being with her every step of the way. Lastly, Alexa thanks LMSA West Cynthia Felix Scholarship Committee for believing in her and helping her press forward towards the future she has been fighting for.

 

 

Gardenia Casillas was born and raised in Salinas, California. She comes from a large, low-income, immigrant family from the states of Nayarit and Michoacán, Mexico. In her life, her parents have been the strongest influence. With their own cultural skills, they became intermediates for those who could not defend themselves, never being afraid to stand up to authority. They did this without question and never expecting compensation. Consequently, early on she learned the importance of acknowledging and serving the people who work with their hands, the farm workers, construction workers, and plumbers that held jobs like those of her parents. They ingrained in her the values of respect, hard work, and service. These bricks build her foundation and have pushed her in the direction of medicine. Gardenia acquired a college degree in Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley in 2014. She is currently a UC Davis Post-Baccalaureate student. In the future, she hopes to combine medicine with her passion for activism, research, and community organizing to ultimately rethink the way medicine is practiced in her community.

2015

Jessica Chavez is completing her informal postbacc through UCLA Extension and has earned her B.S. in Biology at UCLA in 2015. During her undergraduate career, she became a leader in Chicanos for Community Medicine (CCM) through DoT Org. In DoT Org, she began developing her passion for health education as she was able to educate primarily Spanish speaking patients about the importance of registering to become an organ and tissue donor. Her love for the medicine further grew while working as an ER Technician in Inglewood, California where she found herself helping bridge the gap between cultural and linguistic barriers such that all patients could receive excellent care. After this, Jessica faced difficult hardships necessitating her to postpone her education and potentially not go into medicine. However, through God’s help and the rich community she was blessed with through mentors such as Dr. Efrain Talamantes from MiMentor and through LMSA West, she was able to continue her education. She is truly thankful for everyday of life that she can continue making progress towards her dream of providing quality care for under-served communities. Jessica thanks the LMSA West Cynthia Felix Scholarship Committee for believing in her dreams and for their continued support throughout this journey.

 

Karla Navarro:  Picture for Cynthia Felix Scholarship“My relationship with medicine started very early on.  My mother explains I was born with biliary atresia and had a liver transplant at six weeks of age.  She figured it was due to the pesticides she was exposed too while she worked in the agriculture fields picking grapes. Til this day, she detests wine.  Through the first liver transplant, I contracted hepatitis C through a blood transfusion, which led to a second liver transplant.  My life has since been a constant reminder of the miracles of medicine and the commitment of physicians and their teams.  Growing up, I felt there was a giant arrow pointing me in the direction of a career in medicine.  I pursued that instinct to the best of my ability with the resources I had access too.  I graduated from UCLA with my bachelor’s in Spanish and completed a postbaccalaureate program at CSUEB.  During my undergraduate studies, I was involved in organizations like CCM and MiMentor.  These organizations provide a network for pre-health students to guide them through their academic and professional journey.

I have also previously worked as a medical scribe with several physicians in different fields that allowed me to gain a better understanding of the healthcare model.  I currently work as a certified medical interpreter in several hospitals, clinics, and court hearings.  My current line of work fits in perfectly with my future goals of serving as an advocate for underserved communities.  My plan is to return to my hometown in the central valley and practice medicine.  I am very grateful for all the support from mentors, friends, and family that has allowed me to get to where I am now.”

2014

 Alexis Velazquez is the youngest of five children and was raised in a small farming community in Northern California called Grimes. Like many residents of Grimes, his parents left their friends and families to work in low paying agriculture jobs under inhumane working conditions, often coming to the country with out documents. Because of this, many of his family and neighbors did not have access to basic healthcare services and those that did, often only spoke Spanish and could not communicate with their physicians. Alexis gained an interest in medicine and Latino health after serving as a translator for friends and family and noticing the debilitating effects that the injustices of worker exploitation, poverty and lack of health care access was having on his family and community. As a student at UCLA, Alexis has been extremely involved throughout Los Angeles and Baja California by providing basic health services for medically underserved communities at local health fairs. He has also served as the Outreach Director for Donations of Tissues and Organs (DoT Org), whose mission is to increase awareness about the disparity that exists for minority patients waiting for a organ transplant. He now serves as the LMSA Liaison for CCM at UCLA and as one of the Vice Presidents of Special Events for MiMentor.org, a website designed to help undergraduate students connect with mentors. Alexis is currently a third year Chicana/o Studies Major and Public Health Minor with hopes of attending medical school and one day helping eliminate health disparities that exist throughout the Latino and minority communities.

 Andrea Banuelos is proud to be the first in her family to graduate from high school and obtain a college degree. Andrea grew up in a low-income community in the San Fernando Valley and is the daughter of Mexican immigrants. Her father was a gardener and her mother is a house-cleaner. Through her humble upbringing, she learned to appreciate the value of an education and realized that not everyone has the privilege to pursue his or her educational dreams. For that reason, she has worked hard throughout her school years. She graduated valedictorian from her high school and was accepted to the University of California, Berkeley where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in American Studies. From a young age, Andrea has had a passion for serving communities like the one she grew up in. She knows first–hand the struggles that low-income underserved community members endure and she wants to do her part towards alleviating those struggles–particularly those related to health care and health care access. It is this passion that has driven her desire to pursue a career in medicine. She aims to apply her love for science and her passion for her community as a future physician and patient advocate. Andrea is currently completing a post-baccalaureate program at California State University, Northridge and works at a free clinic located in Pacoima, CA, that is named Meet Each Need with Dignity (MEND). She will soon take the MCAT exam and plans to apply to medical school in 2015.

 Jennifer Pinal is earning her B.A. in Integrative Biology with an emphasis in Human Biology and Health Sciences from the University of California, Berkeley.  During her undergraduate career, she pursued community involvement through Chicanos/Latinos in Health Education where she provided health-related resources for the Bay Area population concerning preventable and chronic diseases that disproportionally affect the Latino and other underrepresented communities. Interested in clinical research to combine her passion for community health and science, she participated in the Undergraduate Research Internship at UCSF, where she conducted research that assessed the use of a computerized teaching tool to inform women of different socioeconomic and literacy levels about prenatal testing options. Venturing further into clinical research, Jennifer completed an honors thesis at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Center studying the hemoglobinopathy, Thalassemia, and its impact on physical activity patterns. Jennifer currently works at a federally qualified health center in her hometown in Pomona and volunteers for a non-profit that serves the medical and dental needs of communities in Tijuana, Mexico. Jennifer plans to serve underserved communities and continue doing research as a doctor in the future. With support from the Biology Scholars Program, mentors, and LMSA for this scholarship, Jennifer is paving the way for her twin boys to pursue their dreams and make a difference in peoples’ lives.

 Maria Rosales is a post-baccalaureate student at Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science, and attended Pitzer College as a Gates Millennium Scholar where she earned a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Human Biology and Spanish. Her family immigrated from Jalisco, Mexico, and she was born and raised in Compton, CA. She is the oldest sibling in her family, and works very hard to be a good example for her younger sister. As a student at Pitzer, Maria’s internships in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Ecuador helped to focus her medical interest on Chagas disease, one of the least known and most deadly tropical diseases affecting vulnerable populations in Latin America and the U.S. She saw this experience as preparation for her future work in increasing awareness of this lethal disease. Maria volunteers in her community including the annual CDU Project Santa Claus, and the SAT Prep Outreach and Mentorship Program at King/Drew High School, where she mentors students from similar upbringing to pursue higher education. As the President of the Charles Drew University Pre-Med Society, she works in making a supporting environment for all post-bacc students who want to apply to medical school like herself. Her ultimate goal is to continue serving her community as a physician, to make a positive impact through her work in the Latino and other underserved communities, and to mentor the future generations to come. Maria thanks the LMSA-West Cynthia Felix Scholarship Committee for believing and supporting her dreams in pursuing a medical school education.
 Axana Rodriguez-Torres is a transfer pre-medical student at the University of California, Davis where she will double major in Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior / Psychology in 2014. She has been a medical student in her home country, Colombia, where she did half of the medical program before having to postpone it for family reasons. Axana is fully in love with medicine, serving and giving back to her community and peer students. She is highly self-motivated, goal oriented and has persevered through several challenges to be where she is today. The standard she sets for herself has not allowed her to give up on her dream. When she came to the United States, economic reasons made her stop studying for several years. However, after that, she restarted from the undergraduate level looking to enter a US medical school. Medicine is the reason and drive of her life. She will make every possible effort to achieve that dream in the name of those whose voices are not heard. Axana volunteers at Clinica Tepati, one of the UCD student-run free clinics, in Sacramento devoted mainly to the Latino uninsured population where she serves as interpreter and advocate. The combination of passion for medicine and helping her community, specially the underserved, with their deepest and vital needs fulfills her completely. Knowing that she can be of service to others means a great accomplishment. LMSA is now a great part of her journey, and it is thanks to their support and motivation that she can continue pursuing her dream.

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