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Ad Vitae: A Statement of Purpose

I am a senior undergraduate student at California State University, Monterey Bay

(CSUMB) working toward a B.S. in Molecular Biology and a B.A. in Spanish Language & Hispanic

Cultures. I’ve experienced as an undergraduate: 1) Studying abroad; 2) Double majoring in very

different subjects, and 3) Discovering my passion for community service through service

learning. These three aspects of my undergraduate career have most shaped the person that

will be walking across the graduation stage at the end of this Spring term.

Studying abroad gave me the opportunity to explore so many different places and learn,

through experience, about so many cultures it filled me to the brim with a sense of confidence

and knowledgeability. Coming into my undergraduate institution I had been fostering a passion

for adventure. I left my hometown to challenge myself in pursuit of a STEM degree however it

was not enough. Still feeling a longing to see and explore new things, I put my biology

coursework on hold and took off for Spain to pursue education in Spanish language and culture

abroad. California State University, International Programs, taught me skills that, I would not

have gained anywhere else. Successfully searching and obtaining an apartment in a foreign

country, using a language I hadn’t mastered and being given just ten short days to do so gave

me the confidence to engage with people from all backgrounds and at all levels of language

ability. Communication is a multi-layered and multi-faceted activity and permeates all aspects

of our lives. It is the keystone to every functioning workplace and because of this unique

educational experience I have the ability to contribute to proper efficient communication.

After returning to CSUMB I dove into academics with renewed energy. However I

struggled with having a course load filled with pure STEM classes. There was something missing

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from the coursework, something that I had left in Spain. Humanities, I missed exploring

philosophy and culture through literature. Learning about the human condition through

wordsmiths like Garcia Lorca, Cervantes, and Juan Marsé. As a Molecular Biology student I

gained tools to answer big-picture questions but as a Spanish student, I learned how gained an

awareness that culture influences what the big picture questions are. Questions like: what

causes human suffering and how can we alleviate it are so dependant upon culture and

perspective and STEM can sometimes stifle Humanities added meaning to the tools that

science gave me. My choice to major in two disciplines, with seemingly tremendous

differences, has lead me to a path with a very unique perspective. I have the skills to address

the big picture questions with a scientific eye but also in a manner that can be sensitive to

diverse cultures.

Before my time in Spain, I never considered research as a viable career path for myself. I

believed it to be something only meant for wizened professors and I just simply did not have

the experience or knowledge to participate. The Undergraduate Research Opportunity Center

(UROC) at CSUMB taught me differently and expanded my perceptions of research. My last

summer as an undergraduate student I was able to participate in the Undergraduate

Researchers program which provides baccalaureate students with support through professional

development, funded & mentored research and rigorous course work. During this adventure, I

unearthed a hidden passion for research I never knew was there. I fell in love with the process

of the scientific method, the environment of a laboratory, and my ability to put the molecular

biology concepts I was taught into an investigative role.

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That summer I conducted experiments, created hypotheses, abstracts, grant proposals,

poster presentations, and literature reviews. Through the mentorship my professor Dr. Aparna

Sreenivasan I learned the elemental creed of a researcher which is to be dedicated, flexible and

to have a broader impact in mind. In the Sreenivasan lab we contribute to furthering the

collective knowledge the scientific community has about cancer by investigating the

mechanisms that control cellular growth and size. Outside of the lab I learned the importance

of contributing to your local communities and intersectionalities. As an assignment for UROC I

interviewed my mentor where she shared with me her role in establishing a charter school in

her communities’ school district. At the time the public schools did not have programs for

science instruction nor advanced placement programs for gifted students and she saw an

opportunity to make a difference. By establishing a charter school she took matters into her

own hands to ensure that her community would have access to a complete education. Dr.

Sreenivasan is an example that things can be done with determination, which inspires me to

tackle issues in my communities.

Being a queer child of latinx immigrants, I come from a background of marginalized

communities and I wish to serve these communities by becoming a researcher in public health.

Bio 378S is a service learning course for biology students, designed to address the public health

needs in the East Salinas community. This course involves surveying the residents of East

Salinas for Natividad Hospital so that the hospital can gain more insight into the needs of the

community and better serve their healthcare needs. During this service learning experience, the

lack of healthcare and the restriction of health care access for migrant workers became very

close to my heart. Noticing a gap in communication from the surveys. I had the opportunity to

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apply my unique combination of majors so that I can address a question that affects all of my

intersectionalities. How can healthcare practitioners & institutions bridge the gap of healthcare

access among Latinx and queer communities through bettering their communication practices?

I am currently working on my Spanish capstone project where my classmate and I investigate

the linguistic barriers that Latinx people struggle with when trying to access healthcare services.

So far our literature reviews point to the lack of cultural and dialectical competencies among

doctors as being an issue that must be addressed. I hope to be able to contribute to the

collective knowledge of public health research and eventually be a part of a solution to this

public health issue.

Being part of my schools chapter of the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), I

have started to be part of the solution by administering public health-related services by

participating in the OtterSpa and Chinatown Suitcase Clinics in Salinas. The OtterSpa was

initiated as a means to assist the homeless population that lives in Chinatown in Salinas, CA.

Many health conditions can be diagnosed by looking at a person's podiatric condition which is

why during our clinics we also had a doctor on duty to monitor our patients. While students

such as myself were busy washing our patients feet, educating on proper foot hygiene and

providing necessary hygienic supplies the doctor would monitor and address patients that

displayed concerning symptoms. Throughout my time serving the community through the

OtterSpa I would question its value sometimes it would feel that the students were gaining

more for their resumes than the community was gaining in health. One day however I was

having discussion with one of the patients and I was told how much the community looks

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forward to the OtterSpa every month. This gratitude really humbled me and is what inspires me

to want to go into public health so that I can provide care to communities like Chinatown.

As demonstrated throughout my personal statement I have a lot to bring to the field of

Public Health. I can be a great contributor because of my excellent communication skills,

experience living abroad, research competency, and passion to serve my communities through

volunteering and broader impacts. I hope to be localized geographically close to the Latinx

community which would help my research. I am especially interested in working with people

that share my passion for researching healthcare disparities and to take advantage of any

opportunities to take my research abroad and work with international collaborators. In the

future I hope to become a healthcare practitioner and researcher as well as to broaden my

skills in research of healthcare disparities and providing equitable care to marginalized

communities. In the fall I will attend graduate school where I plan on continuing my research

while also preparing my medical school application so that I can have a more intimate

relationship with the healthcare field and help provide the necessary care that many

communities are sorely lacking.