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 California State University, Fullerton

Carmen Cancino

Though I have dreamed of becoming a physician since a child, my dreams almost came to an end as an undergraduate at UCLA, unprepared for university life and all that it entails. Not fully prepared for college, when I entered UCLA, I didn’t know how to take notes, how to study, or even how to manage time properly—a recipe for disaster. All of this, combined with a rough personal life and serious family issues, eventually led to my being dismissed from UCLA as an undergraduate.

Seeing my dream of becoming a physician in jeopardy, I make drastic changes in my life—educationally and personally. As a result of my being dismissed from UCLA, I was required to study two semesters at the UCLA Extension program in order to regain entry to the UCLA BA program. I succeeded in my two semesters at UCLA Extensions, earning grades of all “A,” and, after earning re-entry to UCLA, I endured a change in major, and successfully earned my BA in Sociology, graduating in 2001. Taking one year off after graduation to get married, I entered CSUF as a post-baccalaureate student and took on a core science regimen.

I entered the CSUF program during a joyful, yet chaotic time in my life. Having enrolled shortly after getting married, by my second semester of enrollment, I was pregnant with my first child. I am proud to say that I fulfilled all of my course requirements throughout all nine months of my pregnancy, taking only one week off after giving birth, and taking final exams shortly thereafter. I am forever indebted to Dr. Filowitz for support and understanding during this time!

While enduring a challenging curriculum of core science coursework at CSUF, I became a volunteer in my local trauma center ER, became a research volunteer on the same campus on which I volunteer in the ER, and continued participation in a community service program I have been involved with since graduating from high school. I am so thankful for all of the experiences I have had in each of these programs as they have prepared me for medicine in so many ways aside from providing core medical training. They have taught me how to interact on a human level with patients, and to understand—and to be sympathetic to—each individual person’s position in life. The extraordinary exposure to diversity these programs have provided to me is invaluable.

It is almost unfathomable to understand how, a person who grew up in the troublesome environment of an inner-city, who endured her own personal battles at home, and who was once actually dismissed from a university as a result of academic difficulties, could one day enter medical school, but I am living proof. Along the way, there have been skeptics, and those who didn’t believe I could do it, but at the same time, there were many who continued to push me to fulfill my dreams. I discovered a large part of this encouragement at CSUF, along with a group of irreplaceable professors (Thanks Dr. de Lijser!) and health professions staff (Dr. Drath and Barb, of course)! I will be entering the MD program at the University of Illinois at Chicago this fall, and am so excited to do what I have been dreaming of doing for so long. It has been quite a long journey, but I believe everything that I have endured, overcome, and accomplished in life was for a reason and I have no regrets. I look forward to earning my MD, later becoming an ER physician in a county facility, where I can use my skills to assist the medically-underserved and uninsured.

For all of those students who think they cannot make it, or think they don’t have the stellar stats to get into medical school, DON’T GIVE UP! With persistence, dedication, and by surrounding yourself with an effective support network, you can do it. Don’t listen to the skeptics—listen to what your own heart tells you and work hard to achieve the goals you have set for yourself in life, no matter how huge the odds are against you.

-Carmen Cancino