How do you feel about your achievement?
It honestly still feels pretty surreal — I remember hearing the valedictorian speeches at the previous LMU commencements I’ve attended and being on that stage to even just graduate had always felt so far away. It’s hard to believe this day arrived so quickly. I feel immensely grateful to have had a supportive family and group of friends over the years, because I know my time at LMU would not have been what it was without them.
Did you set out to be valedictorian or was this sudden?
I actually submitted my application extremely last minute for valedictorian because I am definitely more of an introvert, and even the possibility of being awarded this honor would have required major steps out of my comfort zone. After reflecting on that, I realized leaving my comfort zone is something I have been pushed to do throughout my four years at LMU. Those times where I stepped out of my comfort zone were the times I grew the most.
You're a biology major. When and why did you decide to focus on public health and epidemiology?
I have always loved science, and I love that the biology department at LMU gives us the foundations of so many different areas of science (biology, chemistry, physics, etc), but then allows us to pursue the areas we become passionate about, and for me, that was public health. I took an epidemiology class during my junior year, and nothing had ever been as fascinating to me. I really knew I had found something I loved when I looked forward to going to class every week and doing the assignments. Epidemiology is where science intersects with social justice, and as an aspiring healthcare professional, this class gave me the opportunity to dive deeper into that intersection to learn how to make healthcare more culturally competent and accessible to all populations.
Has your course of study changed while at LMU?
It has changed many times — I came into LMU a communications major, and switched between international relations, Spanish and sociology before settling on biology. I loved each of these majors for different reasons, but knowing that I wanted to go into medical school helped me settle on biology. I have always loved science — and being without those classes my first year made me realize that was something I needed to bring back into my studies.
Did or do you have any mentors?
I have been lucky to have many mentors throughout my time at LMU. There have been many older students who became my friends and guided me through my first few years, as well as faculty and staff who motivated me in classes and extracurriculars. John Paul [JP] Ramirez, from Campus Ministry, was my mentor through the De Colores Program. I was able to work with him throughout my senior year as a De Colores leader, and he showed me what it looks like to integrate your passions with your work. I think it can be easy to forget about the ideas and causes we care so much about when our lives become consumed with post-graduate stresses, but JP is a constant reminder to me of what it looks like to let your passions fuel your purpose.
You plan to go to medical school. Where do you plan on studying and for what qualification?
I am taking one to two gap years before applying, and in the meantime, I am hoping to go to Spain and teach English while I strengthen my application. I am open to going just about anywhere for medical school, but for me, one of the most important factors in choosing a school is their values. I have grown so much at LMU because it is a school that prioritizes values like the care of the whole person and being with and for others. To become the best physician I can be, I would like to be trained by a school that also prioritizes similar values. I am hoping to work in a primary care specialty, but I am not sure in what specifically yet.
What is one issue you hope to tackle in the future?
This isn’t as much an issue I want to tackle as it is a goal I have for my future, but as a physician, I want to be an active member of my community. In my epidemiology and public health classes, we learned a lot about preventative health measures and how important proper health education can be, and I want to challenge myself to remember that as a physician. There can often be a lack of accessibility to this education, but by building ties within my community, I can tangibly address that disparity.
What experience or experiences from LMU do you value the most?
A few experiences that immediately come to mind are from my time in Belles Service Organization. The time I spent in Belles allowed me to develop some of my most important friendships. Belles showed me that the best kind of friends are those that support the person you are, while encouraging you to grow. Some of my other favorite experiences from LMU come from my classes. I say this because I have been lucky enough to take classes with some of the greatest professors, whether in many of my biology courses or the elective and core classes like yoga, classics and archaeology and literary analysis.
What advice do you have for incoming students?
1. Don’t be afraid if your college experience takes you in a different direction than you expected (I changed my major five times before settling on biology!)
2. Take classes outside your major and join organizations that challenge you — you never know what you’ll learn!
3. Find your people — they’re the ones who support you, challenge you and stick by your side.
4. Take advantage of all the small opportunities at LMU — the guest lectures, concerts and food brought onto campus, to name a few.