STEP Project Proposal

I am the child of multiple generations of immigrants, and there are many language barriers between the people in my family. Since I was often unable to communicate with many family members through words, I remember spending much of our time together looking through family photos. That was the beginning of my love for photography. I learned to appreciate how a photo can capture so much without words, and how it can allow you to carry a memory to the future and share it with others.

Growing up, I didn’t have a camera, so I painted and sketched to capture moments and share them with my family and friends. In high school art classes, I continued to be fascinated by photography, but I was also intimidated by it. There is so much technique that goes into taking high-quality photos, and I was never confident in my ability to pick up such a technical skill. Once I came to college and began balancing a pre-med curriculum, extracurriculars, and work, I slowly cut art out of my life and gave up on my dream of learning how to take photos. While I am happy with my career path, I want to reawaken my passion for art and follow it down a new path by pursuing photography. That is why I want to use my STEP (Second-Year Transformational Experience Program) grant to take photography classes and create a portfolio of my own photos during this summer.

Learning is one of the things that I value the most. I plan to utilize photography workshop-based classes to contribute to my academic repertoire by allowing me to learn a skill that I would not have otherwise had the opportunity to pursue as a Biology major. Throughout my travel around Ohio, I will broaden my personal views and ways of thinking by experiencing different cultures and ideologies firsthand. A college education that truly prepares students to be global citizens is composed of lessons learned in the classroom as well as those learned outside of it. Through this project, I have the opportunity to obtain an alternative academic experience by taking classes with non-college students in a setting different from a typical classroom or lecture hall. Furthermore, it is an opportunity for personal growth and development by gaining self confidence and life experience.

I plan to join the medical profession, and as healthcare becomes increasingly more interdisciplinary and team-based, it is crucial that future physicians are comfortable working with people from different walks of life. Additionally, as the US population grows more diverse, doctors will care for a more ethnically and socioeconomically varied patient population. Spending time exploring the different cultures that come together to form an area of the United States where I have lived most of my life, and interacting with people while photographing new environments, cultures, and historical sites, I will learn how to work with people who have completely different backgrounds than my own. I will also see first-hand how culture can impact all aspects of life. My hope is to increase my cultural competence and use this opportunity to set me on a path to become a compassionate and effective physician. Medicine is a field where uncertainty is faced every day. Physicians need to function through the uncertainty in order to help their patients. Whether regarding a patient’s diagnosis or the best treatment strategy for a disease, doctors work with incomplete information and with unknown variables. This is analogous to the process of budgeting a project and executing it by myself. I will have to work hard to live within my means and complete all of my objectives. Through this process, I expect to set myself up to succeed in medicine by becoming comfortable with the unknown.

After extensive research of possible programs, I am excited to have the opportunity to pursue this independant project! I believe that taking photography classes and exploring diverse areas of my home state to create my own photo portfolio is an ideal match for my personal, academic, and career goals; it will provide for an experience that will be truly transformative to my student career.


Becoming a Program Assistant for Buckeyes Inspire

Since I have been volunteering with Buckeyes Inspire (a RecSports program that pairs undergraduate OSU students with high school students in Columbus to empower students to overcome obstacles in the path to further education) for a year now, I decided to apply to become a Program Assistant (PA) in charge of working with other program leaders to plan activities and lead sessions.

This semester has been my first semester as a Program Assistant, and I feel like I have been growing a lot! I feel like I am making strides in my confidence and ability to lead a group, especially during visits to the high school. My first visit as a PA was difficult for me because mentors and mentees were used to seeing me in my mentor role, so it was hard to command more attention when I spoke, and I struggled a bit with letting my mentees go and work with other mentors because I felt so connected to their journeys. However, within the next couple of visits, I definitely started to lean into my role facilitating activities more. I now feel like I am able to lead discussions and give instructions without feeling like I am in a totally foreign role. I also feel like I am making strides in planning activities and thinking critically about improvements that can be made to the program. It is really nice to be able to get feedback as I am working on those things, so I am constantly learning how to better plan events and create agendas that are dynamic but still ordered.

Buckeyes Inspire has had a tremendous impact on me! Educational equity wasn’t necessarily something that was on my radar before I joined Buckeyes Inspire. Learning about ethical service and educational disparities even within Ohio has opened my eyes to new passions. Because of Buckeyes Inspire, I was able to find a new passion within medicine – the educational equity problem often leads to disparity in education about health and the healthcare system in general. I want to take what I am learning about self-motivating others and giving people the tools to take charge of their own education and apply it to become a part of a larger systemic change in access to medical care.

In my former role as a mentor, I learned the value of having good listening skills in order to form connections with my mentees. In my new role as a Program Assistant, I have learned a lot about planning intentional events and activities, being flexible as plans change, leading groups and discussions, having difficult conversations, and creating a community where mentors and mentees are able to interact and work together to overcome hurdles to further education.


Becoming a Resident Advisor

Becoming a Resident Advisor (RA) was one of the best decisions that I made in college. It has given me the opportunity to really focus on bettering myself, and has allowed me to fill in gaps in my social awareness. As a part of this job, I was required to go through a few weeks of paraprofessional training. This training program has definitely given me the knowledge and skill to serve and support students and navigate difficult conversations.

In addition to training, I have worked with amazing people, and I have learned so many invaluable skills from them that I will carry with me to my future. Empathy and communication are two things that I have learned from my supervisors and peers that have the power to make people feel that their voices are heard.

A question that I am often asked is how much of a time commitment being an RA really is. While that answer varies from person to person, I believe that in order to be a great RA, a lot of time has to be put into checking-in on residents, building a strong community, and planning ways to expose them to new opportunities on campus.

When I think about my residents, above all, I want them to say that they felt respected. A key element to achieving this outcome is acknowledgement of diversity (of identity, thought, and experience) and acceptance of ideals that are different. Without acceptance, a community would quickly break down into cliques, and the environment would no longer play a positive role in student success. Diversity in residence halls stems from the fact that each resident has had different experiences. As an RA, I love to plan bonding activities. During these activities, residents have an opportunity to talk to each other, introduce different ideas to other residents, and build a floor community.

I also hope that all of my residents would say that they feel supported. College is a very new environment for many students, and it can be a little lonely. It is important to me that every resident feels that they have someone to go to when they need support. This is why I take the time to personally check-in with residents to address their concerns by helping or directing them to the appropriate resource on campus. I want my residents to know that I care about them and their success.


Volunteering as an HIV/STI Test Counselor

One of the most impactful classes that I have taken at OSU is a class called “HIV: From Microbiology to Macrohistory.” Over the course of the semester, we learned the history of the disease in Africa and how it spread around the world. The absolute best part about the class was the fact that the professors were able to bring in different guest speakers who were especially knowledgeable about various aspects of HIV. One speaker was HIV-positive and spoke about his experiences getting tested, finding out he was HIV-positive, and telling the people he was close to. One part of his speech that really impacted me was when he stated that he believes scientists have the medical knowledge and resources to be able to stop the spread of HIV, but in order to do so, we each need to make a real commitment to ending the spread.

I also learned that one’s undergraduate college career is a critical period of possible HIV and STI contraction. I decided to become an HIV/STI Test Counselor to be a part of the movement to share the importance of getting tested regularly, decrease transmission, and help people access the best treatment options for themselves.

Some of the most challenging aspects of this position are: breaking down the the stigma of getting tested, encouraging those living with HIV and STIs, and breaking barriers surrounding education for HIV and STIs (as well as accessibility to treatment).

I am a firm believer that the most important step in tackling stigma is making sure that people have access to information. To do that, it is important to educate and expand the awareness of people living with and without HIV or STIs. It is important to tell people that testing is free, can be anonymous or confidential, and that some tests don’t even require needles. The best way for me to educate others is to educate myself first.

Having compassion and taking the time to actually listen to people’s questions and concerns can also help break down some of those barriers and encourage community members to receive voluntary HIV testing, learn their status, and promote an open dialogue about HIV and STI transmission. I have learned to listen to understand people’s concerns without constantly attempting to respond. This is advantageous as a test counselor because there are many questions and concerns people have about STI testing and treatment; by listening and understanding their concerns, I am able to best help them without making assumptions. This is another life skill that I will be able to carry forward in my life and my path to become a doctor.

Volunteering Abroad in the Dominican Republic

This past summer, I volunteered on another medical outreach trip with Volunteers Around the World. This summer, I went to the Dominican Republic with about 16 other undergraduate students. I expected this experience to be very similar to my last one, but because the program has been running for a longer period of time in the Dominican Republic, there were a lot of differences that made this experience unique. For example, we had more doctors to shadow in the Dominican Republic, which was an amazing experience, because there were fewer students shadowing each doctor, and we each got more time with the patients while we were shadowing. While we saw more patients overall at each of our clinics in the Dominican Republic, the pace was less frantic, so we were able to take a bit more time to complete intake forms and help the doctors to examine the patients. There was also more time to ask questions about the different symptoms that patients reported.

Similar to the process in Panama, I was trusted with sensitive medical information and helped to counsel patients on the next steps of their treatment. I was also tasked with following testing procedures directed by doctors. However, this time since it was my second trip, I was able to help new volunteers to take patient vitals and fill out the intake forms.

This experience volunteering abroad, once again, was an amazing opportunity for me to use my kindness and compassion as tools to make patients feel comfortable being tested and treated for their illnesses; however, it also allowed me to experience another management style and remain flexible while I worked in very different conditions compared to my last experience volunteering abroad with the same organization.


Reflection on G.O.A.L.S.

Global Awareness: Honors students will examine what it means to be global citizens and will cultivate and develop their appreciation for diversity and everyone’s unique differences. Students will examine the world’s complex, interdependent systems, as well as their own cultural backgrounds.

In May of 2017, I volunteered in Panama though the student organization Volunteers Around the World. We set up mobile free clinics in the country, shadowed local doctors, lead an education day with local school children, and spent some time in a local nursing home. In May of 2018, I went to the Dominican Republic with this same organization.

I am considering a French minor because I have a genuine interest in learning about new cultures around the world – especially those that are francophone. I also plan to use my STEP funding to go on a month-long study abroad to France and Morocco in order to learn more about culture in both nations and use/expand my knowledge of French.

Since I am a Morrill Scholar, I will participate in Morrill Scholar diversity programs that will allow me to meet people who come from a variety of different backgrounds. Through these experiences, I hope to gain a new appreciation for diversity.

Original Inquiry: Honors students will understand the research process by engaging in experiences ranging from in-class scholarly endeavors to creative inquiry projects to independent experiences with top researchers across campus and in the global community.

I have and will continue to take many courses that involve a laboratory component. In General Chemistry 1920H we were tasked with creating and running our own experiment regarding solar cell efficiency. This experience with creativity and inquiry has led me to want to pursue a research position in the near future. While I do plan to wait until my junior year, I hope to reach out and find an available research position with a professor at OSU. I would like to do research in biological fields with professors at OSU during my junior and senior years. I also hope to shadow doctors in hospitals as well as outpatient centers in Columbus and central Ohio in order to familiarize myself with procedure as well as to solidify my career interests.

Academic Enrichment: Honors students will pursue academic excellence both in and out of the classroom. Students will use the Honors Contract to construct purposeful and intellectually stimulating programs of study.

I will use my Honors Contract to plan out a draft of the courses I need to take during my undergraduate career. I plan on going to medical school, so there are a lot of requirements that I need to take into account, and writing it all out makes scheduling more manageable. I will continue to take honors courses in order to feel sufficiently challenged academically. I will select courses that interest me and that meet the requirements that I need for my major, medical schools I want to apply to, and that prepare me sufficiently for the MCAT. I chose a Biology major because I am very interested in biology and its courses cover many of the courses that will both prepare me for the MCAT and that are required for many of the medical schools to which I want to apply.

Leadership Development: Honors students will build on their educational experiences to become leaders in society and the world. Students will pursue co-curricular activities that allow the students to cultivate leadership skills and competencies.

It is important to me to be a leader at OSU. I have already gotten involved in some student organizations with the hope of one day holding a leadership position in some of those clubs. I am currently a mentor to high school juniors (who are preparing to apply to colleges) through the RecSports program Buckeyes Inspire. I am currently involved in my residence hall through an Office Assistant position, and I have been hired as a Resident Advisor for the next year. I also hope to utilize my position as a Morrill Scholar to participate in their externship program in order to work with companies in the healthcare industry. Through the Tri-P post-baccalaureate program, I hope to become a mentor to first-year undergraduates at OSU. Additionally, I will shadow doctors in the community during breaks and obtain research positions. All of these opportunities will help me to grow my accountability and responsibility.

Service Engagement: Honors students will build on their educational experiences to serve society and the world. Students will pursue service-oriented activities that are socially beneficial to the community and that contribute to the students’ own learning and development.

I want to get involved around Columbus by participating in clean-up efforts, volunteering in food banks, and volunteering in schools. I hope to become an HIV/STI test counselor in the next year. As a mentor in Buckeyes Inspire, I volunteer in a local Columbus high school to help students plan out and prepare for applying to colleges.

I have already joined global service-oriented clubs like Global Health Initiative and Volunteers Around the World. I hope to continue to get more involved in both of those student organizations in the next few years. As I already mentioned, I have traveled to Panama and the Dominican Republic with Volunteers Around the World. Both trips combined my desire to get involved in community service with my desire to learn more about medical and patient-care skills.

Volunteering with Buckeyes Inspire

This year, I also decided to volunteer with an organization called Buckeyes Inspire. This program is run through the department of Recreational Sports at OSU. It is a relatively new mentoring program that connects OSU undergraduate students with high school students in Columbus. Because of this program, I have learned so much about engaging with people who grew up in different circumstances than I did. The goal of this program is to use undergraduate mentors to self-empower Columbus high school students to overcome the obstacles impeding their access to higher education.

Before meeting our mentees, we were given a presentation on demographics of the school to prepare us for differences we would see and make sure we could mentor someone whose problems looked different from our own. While it was important to see a breakdown of the statistics of social identities at the school, it was then hard to see our mentees as people instead of statistics. The statistics worried me because I wasn’t sure I could connect to someone whose struggles looked so drastically different from mine.

It wasn’t until I met my mentee that I started to understand that she was more than the socioeconomic statistics we saw in that slideshow. Within that social identity, there was a whole range of experiences that the statistics didn’t begin to cover. I learned that I could empathize with some of her struggles and share my own experiences where appropriate. For the obstacles that I couldn’t relate to, I was able to say, “I can’t imagine what that feels like, but, if you’re willing, we can try to figure out a solution.” Nothing I did was monumental, but it was enough to build a connection.

This mentoring experience has been a learning curve for me. Diversity means more to me now than it did before. I understood that there are a vast number of social groups and identities, but I didn’t realize the scope of diversity within those social groups. I now appreciate that a deeper understanding of diversity enriches my educational experience. As a physician, I want to continue to learn from the experiences of those who are different, and I will use this knowledge to be mindful of variance in identity and experiences when talking to others.


Women In Medicine Mentoring Program

I decided to apply to join another mentorship program through the Women in Medicine organization at OSU. This mentorship program pairs female pre-med students with female medical students on OSU’s campus. As a first-generation US undergraduate student pursuing medicine, I feel that I can only benefit from having a variety of mentors to help me make informed decisions about my future. My mentor has been a wonderful resource to me as I navigate pre-med coursework and explore my reasons for choosing medicine. Her support and ability to answer the questions I have about medical school are invaluable resources to me at this stage of my education. It is also very exciting to me to see a woman of color (who is also the first person in her family to receive higher education in the US) where I want to be in the next few years! I am so happy that Ohio State offers a program like this, and I am very excited to continue working with my mentor to gain a better understanding of medical school and to form connections with others that have similar interests as me!


Volunteering Abroad in Panama

My experience volunteering abroad with Volunteers Around the World in Panama during May of 2017 has been the best experience of my life thus far! I am genuinely even more sure that I want to pursue a future in medicine because of the lessons that I have learned about the healthcare system and patient care.

I volunteered as a part of a team of about 20 students to set up and run mobile clinics on various islands. To best organize ourselves, we had a chain of command where we reported up to those who were chosen to be leaders. I learned that I had to know my place in this team. This was my first trip as a member of that organization, so I was not in a leadership position. I had to be flexible because we were working around things like the weather, or medication shortages, or broken medical equipment. When things went wrong, we had to rely on each other to organize the patients. I learned to communicate effectively and respectfully, maintain confidentiality, delegate tasks, lean on my team and those leaders for help, and to offer help where I could.

I also learned so much about medicine! While in clinics, we spent time filling out intake forms, taking vitals, shadowing doctors, and working in a pharmacy. While taking vitals and shadowing doctors, we had the opportunity to learn how to examine patients, learn about certain illnesses and how to distinguish them from others, and learn about the medications we had available and their common dosages.

In mobile clinics, one struggle that we ran into was that many of our patients were uncomfortable with what they called “charity” and downplayed their symptoms in order to keep distance between us. This distance was only increased by language and culture barriers. Many of us were taught enough Spanish to complete our tasks, but not enough to converse freely. Luckily, the doctors we worked with spoke both English and Spanish, and I was able to utilize them to learn how to communicate with patients. Talking about patient’s lives and interests often made them comfortable enough to open up to us about their real health problems and allowed us to more-accurately take their medical histories and fill out intake forms. This allowed our doctors to treat them much more effectively. This experience will make me a stronger doctor because I have learned how to communicate not only to do my job, but also to connect with others.


Deciding to Volunteer Abroad

I joined the student-led OSU chapter of a national organization called Volunteers Around the World (VAW) in September of 2016, but I was initially unsure if I would commit to going on a service trip abroad. I then took a class called “HIV: From Microbiology to Macrohistory.” During the course of this class, we discussed the ethics of volunteer programs – especially those where US students go abroad to do things that they aren’t qualified to do here in the US. That discussion really opened my eyes and made me think about my own decision to potentially volunteer abroad this coming summer.

I spent time doing research on VAW and the medical outreach program I was interested in. From that research, I learned that VAW chooses the communities where they set up mobile free clinics by asking if this project is something that the community feels is wanted and/or needed. While each group of volunteers only stay in-country for a short period of time, there is a larger infrastructure set up in those countries so the communities will be visited at least once every year. VAW strives to make sure that their volunteer projects don’t lead to dependency on international aid and compromise the dignity of the people they are trying to help. Instead, VAW makes an effort to involve local people and businesses in hosting and transporting volunteers. Many of the doctors that volunteers shadow are also local, and the organization makes an effort to stick around and support the project for many years if they are wanted.

Once I knew that I was getting involved with an organization that does its best to remain ethical, I was able to make an informed decision. I am going to participate in a VAW trip to Panama this summer because of how much I stand to learn and grow from the people I meet. Not only will I learn basic medical techniques, but I will learn more about problems facing the healthcare industry in Panama. I will also learn more about patient care and communicating with patients – even through language and culture barriers. All of these lessons will hopefully make me a better and more mindful physician in the future!