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Student Profiles

SUMMER 2013 NEWSLETTER – Student Profile 1

Student Name: Carla Spades

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself such as you where were you born and where do you consider your hometown?

I was born in Los Angeles, and consider L.A. my hometown. My mother emigrated to the U.S. in her 20’s, and built a life here for her family. She owns a furniture store in East L.A., where she works alongside my brother and uncle. I moved around a lot throughout my formative years, living in Hacienda Heights, Walnut, Woodland Hills, and eventually settling in Pasadena where my mother currently resides. I currently live in West Hollywood, and will be living here for the next few years of residency. I am the first in my family to graduate from college, and will be the the first doctor in my family. I am honored to be a member of the first cohort of the UCLA PRIME program to graduate from UCLA DGSOM.

Where did you do your undergraduate work and what was your major? Why did you choose that field? How did you become interested in medicine?

I attended college at San Francisco State, Pasadena City College, and graduated from Cal State L.A. with honors. I majored in Communicative Disorders with minor in Biology. I initially planned on becoming a Speech Therapist or Audiologist based on my years of work with children with developmental disorders, but quickly realized I wanted to do more to help people. I wanted to make a tangible difference in people’s lives and help them get well, something I don’t believe I would have been able to do as a Speech-Language Pathologist. I volunteered at LA County+USC and at various health fairs, and over the course of my pre-medical education became interested in various specialties (Otolaryngology, Orthopedics, Pediatrics), ultimately finding my place in medicine as an Ob/Gyn. In my opinion, it is the perfect blend of primary care and surgery, and it is an honor to care for women at the most vulnerable times of their lives.

Are you involved in any community service work?

I was a Lennox Health Fair volunteer during my first few years as a medical student, but I am currently not involved with any community projects. However, over the next 4 years my continuity clinic will be at a local free clinic, and time permitting I would love to volunteer at student-run health fairs.

What have you find most challenging as a medical student?

Work-life balance has been the most challenging aspect for me. It is something I am working hard to improve upon before I begin residency. Taking time for self-care, and making sure I am healthy and whole is crucial. When exams come around, or I’m on a difficult rotation, self-care is the first thing to go. This is something I vow to do differently over the next 4 years.

Who has been your greatest influence or inspiration?

I know it’s generic, but my greatest influence has been my mother. She endured incredible hardships and persevered to become a successful business woman. She valued education and hard work and instilled those values in me throughout my life. She is my pillar, and I am certain that without her love, support, and guidance I would not be the woman I am today.

What specialty are you leaning towards and why?

I matched into Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and will be starting residency in a few days. Ob/Gyn was my first rotation and my love for the field was nearly instant as I quickly realized that as an Ob/Gyn I will have the opportunity to help women through some of the most amazing and frightening moments of their lives. My experiences as a student solidified my love for the field: I had the honor of delivering a couple’s first child, I offered comfort as a woman experienced her first miscarriage, I helped counsel a woman about the benefits of chemotherapy for her newly diagnosed cancer, and I held a woman who mourned the loss of her twin fetuses. No other specialty promises me the honor and privilege of helping my patients through their joy and suffering. It is the perfect fit for me.

What are your long-term plans, dreams, and goals?

I am unclear whether or not I will pursue a fellowship, but regardless I plan on dedicating some of my time to a community clinic. I hope to use my Masters degree in Public Health to help develop and community health programs in conjunction with local clinics in the L.A. area.

What advice would you give to those below you in the medical education ladder?

I would say: RELAX!!!! Looking back, I stressed out SO hard during medical school. I was constantly afraid I would fail an exam or screw up on a rotation, so much so that I didn’t enjoy a lot of what DGSOM had to offer. I realize now that I could have relaxed a lot more. I worked hard, I should have played hard too.

If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?

I would have more fun during the first 2 years. I was super stressed most of the time, and looking back it wasn’t necessary.

Have you picked any new interests since you started medical school?

I recently took up surfing, which I have fallen in love with instantly.

What is your fondest memory as a medical student?

Match Day, for sure. Opening my envelope and seeing my top choice residency program was a dream come true. It was a culmination of all the hard work and effort I put into medical school (and my Masters program) over the past 5 years. That was the moment I saw my future, and it was bright and beautiful. I will never forget that day.

SUMMER 2013 NEWSLETTER – Student Profile 2

Student Name: Alberto Cardona

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself such as you where were you born and where do you consider your hometown?

My name is Alberto Cardona and I am a first year Charles Drew/DGSOM medical student. I was born in Los Angeles and I have lived all my life in Los Angeles. I spent a large portion of my teenage years and young adulthood in Rosemead, Ca and East Los Angeles, Ca. Currently my family resides in Fontana, Ca.

Where did you do your undergraduate work and what was your major? Why did you choose that field? How did you become interested in medicine?

I did my undergrad work at UCLA, receiving my Bachelors in Biology. Prior to transferring to UCLA, I did a majority of my undergrad work at East Los Angeles Community College (ELAC,) while I played basketball for the school team. For a good portion of my stay at East Los Angeles College I was unsure of what I wanted to do in my life, to be honest if it hadn’t been for basketball I most likely would have stopped going to school right out of high school. Throughout my childhood and high school, I was always intrigued by the sciences (Chemistry, Biology, and Physics) but I never applied myself. In 2005 my brother who is a Marine called me while he was deployed in Iraq. He couldn’t talk much, but he did tell me to just give school a chance. That I had the potential to do so much more, if I just only applied myself. This single moment, shifted my whole life, my confidence, and my focus. I decided that I was going to major in Biology, and nothing was going to stop me from being the first in my family to attend a University. This was the moment that essentially got the ball rolling for me. Why I received my B.S. from UCLA, why I decided to do something greater with my life, and why I choose this path.

What have you found most challenging as a medical student?

The rigors and demand of the first year of medical school has not necessarily made me feel overwhelmed quite just yet. Having had always maintained a full time job since high school to help with my family, I was used to being efficient with my studying. What I found more challenging was balancing the time that I dedicated to medical school, and managing the time I dedicated to my wife and family. Speaking to other medical students, I have heard from several students expressing that they feel a sense of “guilt” when we as medical students tend to spend the majority of our time studying, and less time with our loved ones.

Who has been your greatest influence or inspiration?

I believe the biggest influences in my life have been my parents, older brother and my wife. The easiest way I can explain why I have chosen a difficult and long career path, is by saying that I do everything for my family. My parents immigrated here from Mexico on their own at a young age, and endured a tough life to give their children an opportunity for a life they never had. I could not negate all their hard work and sacrifices by not pushing myself and trying to achieve everything that I am capable of. The only reason I decided to stay in school and to give medical school a try, was due to my older brother’s advice. At one point in my life I was ready to quit school, but hearing my brother express his confidence in me led me to finally focus on my education, to apply myself, and to do something with my life. I am so grateful, and sometimes I feel like it’s unreal that I finally made it into medical school, that at times medical school doesn’t feel like a challenge, but more like a dream come true.

What specialty are you leaning towards and why?

Coming into medical school, I always knew that I wanted to work in the underserved communities of Los Angeles. It’s where I grew up, it’s a community I can identify with, and it’s where I feel I can make the biggest difference. The specialty I choose is yet to be determined. If I had to make a decision today, I can say that I am torn between choosing Emergency Medicine and/or Family Medicine. I feel that in Family Medicine I would be able to work closer with the community in hopes to help alleviate some of the health disparities in the underserved communities, and in doing so hopefully inspiring some inner-city youths to strive for a higher education. The reason Emergency Medicine also intrigues me is because I worked for 2 years as an EMT working 911 calls and I feel the most calm and at ease when I am confronted with high stress emergency situations and I believe these qualities would make me a good E.R. doctor.

What are your long-term plans, dreams, and goals?

I’ve always wanted to make the life of everybody who has ever loved me, supported me, and believed in me, just a little bit better. I don’t believe I would have made it into medical school or have chosen this career if I didn’t’ have a drive to help those around me. At the age of 6, I promised my mother that I would make her life a lot easier. I know it’s an odd thing for a kid to say, but even at a young age I was always aware that my parents struggled and endured to provide for their family. This is what drives me every day, why I have no problem spending countless hours studying, and why my hopes, dreams, and goals all revolve around making sure that I gave everything I had for the people I love. I hope to have a long, successful, and respectable career as an M.D. and I hope to make a positive difference in the lives of the patients I come in contact with.

What advice would you give to those below you in the medical education ladder?

Find out what your “drive” is. What is going to get you through the hard days, the long hours of studying, sleepless nights, loss of time with your loved ones, and all the other sacrifices this path requires of you. Do not do it for the title, for the money, or the recognition. This is not what will get you through this long and arduous path. If you choose this path, do it for others. This will give you everything you need to get you through it all, and will help you achieve your dreams.

If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?

At times I wish I had some guidance growing up, that I knew what was out there for me, and what doors a higher education could open up for you. At 29, finishing my first year of medical school, I at times feel “behind,” knowing that there are people in my class as young as 21 years of age. Having said that, I don’t think I would have changed my life and all the struggles I endured. It just makes finally being here, that much sweeter. I believe if you struggle getting in, don’t see it as a failure. I can tell you, that if you struggled, worked hard, and fought to get into medical school, it will make it much easier to get through medical school once you’re in. You will have a strong work ethic, a stronger drive, and a better understanding of what you want out of life.

What is your fondest memory as a medical student?

I think my fondest memory was prior to starting medical school. Hearing that I got accepted to medical school and seeing the joy in my wife, and my family was all worth it. I had always been independent, and had tackled this path for the longest time alone, trying not to burden those around me. Finally hearing those words, “you have been accepted,” left me speechless and in tears. I am so grateful for my parents, my older brother, and my wonderful and supportive wife. Without them I wouldn’t have gotten this far. As for being in medical school, every day is exciting if you keep the right perspective. Always remember how tough it was to get here, how you would have given anything to be where you are now. For those students following this path and trying to get in, trust me when I say that your sacrifices and your hard work will one day pay off.