1. What is your name?
2. What is your current occupation?
3. What is your education background?
B.A. from University of Notre Dame of Maryland
M.A. from Boston University
M.D. from International American University (expected 2018)
4. What is your family background?
5. Do you have any "firsts" recognized by your family?
First female on both sides to attend medical school
First clinical psychologist
First AmeriCorps graduate
First to do clinical research in the U.S.
First to be recognized in the Top 100 Women in Maryland
6. How were you able to achieve them?
I took my time and explored different avenues. After graduating college, I was unsure about my next steps and worked for a year. The mental health work led me to pursue a master’s degree. However, I still felt unsure and life had several plans for me before obtaining my goal of medicine.
After graduation, I worked in clinical research, which I loved and found guidance and direction in the field of medicine. I decided to take another year and study for the MCATs. In that year I graduated from Community HealthCorps/AmeriCorps, which was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
My journey had several twists and turns and it was mostly a lot of trial and error. Most of these experiences I achieved with determination and letting faith take its course. But most importantly, it was through my family's support and encouragement. Without them, I could not have continued my education, especially, when it came to studying for my medical boards exam. I still remember my mom's tears of happiness when I told her I passed USMLE Step 1.
7. What was your biggest obstacle or challenge to become the first in your family?
There were many challenges that I faced being a first in the family. Not having guidance or mentorship was a struggle but I also had an ill older brother. He required hospitalization because of his illness and has remained there over the past 10 years. It has been a struggle for me and my family to manage his care. However, it made us stronger as a family and his illness has led me to the field of medicine.
8. Have you interacted with other first-generation students or graduates while on your journey to become who you are today?
Many of my good friends are first-gen students that I have watched struggle and become successful. We have motivated each other throughout this journey by sharing our struggles and experiences. It's been a blessing to have a network that understands me in a way my non-first-gen friends can't. They provided motivation, confidence and support that I needed.
9. What do you wish you had known while you were a first-gen student?
I didn't know a lot of things. I wish I had known the importance of doing things the right way, the first time around. This includes asking questions and asking for help. This was a struggle for me because of my upbringing. There are a lot of resources and people willing to help if you just search for it. When you find those people, make sure to show them you're worth their time.
10. Do you believe your first-gen experiences have come to an end?
Absolutely not. I believe that this continues on until old age. Also, as a professional I believe it's vital to continue to learn and expand ones skills. On a personal level, my experience of marriage and raising children will be another beautiful opportunity from God to practice this firsthand.
11. What advice would you give to a first-generation student or graduate who is seeking to become a first-generation professional in the U.S.?
If I could give one piece of advice, it would be to find a mentor early on, as early as high school. If you don't know what you want to do in life, having some sort of guidance is essential in any young adult’s life. This is even more important if that guidance is missing in the home due to lack of knowledge from immigrant parents. Oftentimes, I felt like a small fish in the vast ocean, alone with no direction. The right guidance from someone who has experience makes a world of difference. I would also suggest speaking to professionals already in the field about their struggles and their recommendations.
12. Pick one value you were taught when you were young and carried with you through your college and graduate school years that you believe separates you as a first-gen and has helped you become a career-driven person today.
This is a tough question since many values such as “hard-working, determined, focused,” etc. come into mind. However, I believe that patience is the one that I hold on to most and what really helped me come to where I am today. We immigrated to Texas when I was 5 years old. Surprisingly, I remember that day very well. Like most immigrant families, we struggled financially, and both of my parents worked around the clock trying to make sure we had even the bare necessities. I often heard my parents say that things take time and that they would get better sooner than later.
They were right. It took a long time but life improved through hard work and patience. In my young adult life, there were many times I thought about giving up on my education and/or going back into what felt comfortable. It was especially hard to get back up when I fell and did not do well on exams. However, I did my best to be patient and continued working hard. Patience was my strongest value, but also the most difficult one that helped me imagine the other side and ultimately led me there. My favorite passage from the Holy Quran (2:45) that helped me pass my USMLE Step 1 exam is the following: "Seek help with patience and prayer, and surely it's a hard thing to do, except for the humble-minded.”
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