FEATURE | Posted Aug. 7, 2015

On becoming a medical student

Stories of the class of 2019

New medical student © UC Regents
Solemn and exciting moment for new medical students.

Monique Atwal grew up on a farm in the San Joaquin Valley town of Selma. In high school she joined a program called Doctor’s Academy, which is dedicated to encouraging a student’s interest in health professions, especially in the valley.

Atwal’s long interest in health care recently became more fully realized when she was accepted as a member of the incoming UC Davis School of Medicine Class of 2019.

A graduate of UCLA, Atwal worked in a cardiology office and emergency department in Fresno, where among other responsibilities she served as interpreter for Punjabi-speaking patients. Her upbringing gave her a sense of the types of health disparities that can occur in poorer, rural communities. It is one of the reasons why she decided to pursue a career in medicine, she said.

“I’m excited about this amazing opportunity to become a physician,” said Atwal, who participated in a special UC Davis study program after college designed to help students prepare for medical school entrance exams and the admissions process.

“I see myself working and getting involved in a community just like the one in which I was raised. I hope to help reduce health disparities and provide the type of culturally competent care that is so important for quality health care,” Atwal said.

Dr. Julie Freischlag © UC Regents“We selected you because we are confident that you will not only be great students, but more important, great physicians.”
– Julie Freischlag

From skid row to the School of Medicine

Miguel Albarran, a 2008 graduate of CSU Stanislaus, is another member of the Class of 2019, but one whose journey to become a medical student has been all about overcoming the odds. Coming from a very poor family, Albarran spent his earliest years living among landfills in a town on the outskirts of Mexico City. He moved to the Modesto area of California’s San Joaquin Valley, where he and his brother essentially grew up on their own and where he discovered a love for the sciences.

“Medical school has been a dream of mine for many years,” said Albarran, who worked after college as a scribe in a hospital emergency room and studied for the medical school entrance exam while living along skid row in Los Angeles. “It took me a long time and a lot of work to get here, but I kept telling myself to study, study, study, and one day I was going to be a physician.”

“Bright, talented and passionate about equity and social justice”

Tonya Fancher, associate professor of general internal medicine and keynote speaker at the 15th Annual Induction Ceremony, for the Class of 2019, held Aug. 1, said students like Atwal and Albarran are exactly the type of medical students UC Davis wants to enroll and train.

“UC Davis students are bright, talented and passionate about equity and social justice,” Fancher said.

The class is the 46th to matriculate at the School of Medicine, which includes 110 students, chosen from more than 7,000 applications last year.

The select group is exceptional, in that more than 60 percent are female, the highest percentage of women of any class in the School of Medicine’s history. The class also resembles California’s diverse population — 24 percent Latino and about 11 percent African-American, the highest percentage of any class.

The ceremony included the presentation of stethoscopes before an audience of hundreds of cheering family and friends. The stethoscopes were presented by Mark Servis, senior associate dean, Medical Student Education; Thomas Nesbitt, associate vice chancellor for strategic technologies and alliances; and Julie Freischlag, vice chancellor for Human Health Sciences and dean of the School of Medicine.

“We selected you because we are confident that you will not only be great students, but more importantly, great physicians,” Freischlag told the students. “We believe in you, your passion and your potential.”

“Today is your first step to becoming a leader in the global health community for the 21st century,” Freischlag said. “I look forward to seeing impressive accomplishments from this very special Class of 2019. Congratulations to all of you.”