Alumni Spotlight

You will find our CSULB alumni working in every area of Healthcare. Please take a few minutes to read these interesting stories about your fellow Forty-niners! If you would like to connect with any of the alumni below, please email healthprofadvising@csulb.edu for contact information or feel free to reach out to them on LinkedIn!

Edwin Bermudez

Class of 2018

Pharmacy student at USC School of Pharmacy

Edwin graduated from CSULB in 2018 with a Bachelors in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. In addition to USC, he was also accepted to the University of Pacific, Touro University California and New York, the Western University of Heath Sciences, the Keck Graduate Institute School of Pharmacy, Oregon State University, and Pacific University Oregon. During his time at CSULB he was involved with the Association of Pre-Pharmacy. The strength of his application was that it was well rounded in all areas. His short-term goal is to graduate at the top of his class, while long term he hopes to become a revolutionary figure in the field of medicine. He is also a first generation college student.

What attracted you to your health profession?

I enjoy all the aspects of what pharmacy entails on a day to day basis. Everyday there is something to look forward to and learn from.

What advice would you give your freshman self?

"The most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or even touched, they can only be felt with the heart." - Helen Keller

Branda Bui

Class of 2017

Podiatric Medicine and Surgery student at Western University of Health Sciences

Branda graduated from CSULB in 2017 with a Bachelor in Biology. Before attending her current program, she took one gap year and took the time to study for exams with the Kaplan MCAT Prep material. During her time at CSULB she was the Vice President of AMSA (American Medical Student Association) and worked as a Research Assistant in Dr. Ashley Carter's Lab. Branda believes that the strength of an application was her ability to communicate her desires and goals during the interview. Branda notes that GPA and MCAT scores are important, but the if the interviewer wants to talk about your research experience and what you do for fun, you have to make those your strengths. Among her goals is to specialize in Sports Medicine and Podiatric Surgery.

What was the biggest challenge you faced on your health profession journey?

The temptation of taking on too many extracurricular activities at the expense of not giving all of them my best work.

What attracted you to your health profession?

I needed foot surgery my first year of college, and the podiatrist that performed the surgery showed me how versatile and interesting the field is. I liked that within one specialty, I could treat patients for various reasons (i.e. sports-related injuries, trauma, deformities, diabetes, and full on reconstruction) - I'll always be kept on my toes (no pun intended)!

What advice would you give your freshman self?

Thankfully I wasn't the 4th year pre-med cramming all my extracurricular work in right before applications opened, but I wish I got involved the moment I started college so that I wouldn't have been as stressed later on. Everything worked out in the end but it blows my mind when I look back at a point during my undergrad where I had to constantly study for exams, work in a research lab, volunteer, study for the MCAT, and have a part-time job all at once.

Johnny Cao-Nguyen

Class of 2016

Optometry student at UC Berkeley School of Optometry

Johnny graduated from CSULB in 2016 with a Bachelors in Biology. During his time at CSULB he was involved with Circle K International, Minority Alliance of Pre-Health Students, Alternative Spring Break, 49er Chorus, and CSULB's Men's Chorus. Johnny believes that the thing that really stood out as a strength on his application was his involvement in extracurricular activities. Before starting his current program, he took on gap year, and studied for exams with Kaplan materials and an online review resource called Chad's Videos. His short and long-term goals are to, after graduation, be accepted into a residency program somewhere in Southern California or New York before applying for a part-time position in a private practice while also being a part-time clinical instructor at an optometry school. He is a first generation college student.

What attracted you to your health profession?

Optometry is a profession that allows you to have a very manageable work/life balance. In the future when I work at my own private practice, I will be able to set my own working hours in order to be able to partake in any hobbies or interests that I have or to spend more time with my family. Optometry also allows you to create connections with your patients as you learn more about their hobbies and daily lives in order to prescribe them with the most comfortable and appropriate form of correction.

What was the biggest challenge you faced on your health profession journey?

My biggest challenge was consistently feeling like I wasn't good enough. I was always insecure about myself as a student, often feeling as though I was underperforming in classes or at least not doing as well as I wanted myself to. Being in a major that was competitive as MCBP, I routinely felt as though I wasn't smart enough to get through any of the classes, let alone make it to professional school. The best way that I found to escape this mindset was to mentally block everyone else out from my mind and to only focus on myself and what I'm capable of. By doing so, I was able to learn a lot more, inside the classroom as well as about myself, and I was able to graduate and get myself to where I wanted to be.

What advice would you give your freshman self?

I would tell my freshman self to do more things that I always found interesting. I always had a strong inclination toward psychology and linguistics, but I did not take any classes to explore either of those topics. I also had a love for music, but I did not pursue it until my third year of undergrad. If I took more time to slow down and do more things that I liked at CSULB, I feel like I would have been less stressed or at least I would have been able to learn more about the different things that I was interested in.

Melissa Campbell

Class of 2014

Medical student at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine

Melissa graduated from CSULB in 2014 with a Bachelors in Biology. Before attending her current program, she took three gap years and took the time to study for exams with the Princeton Review. During her time at CSULB she was involved with Petra, was a Co-Chair for Minority-focused Alliance of Pre-health Students (MAPS), was on CSULB's Women's Rugby Team, and founder of Flying Samaritans. She also did research in Dr. Young's Lab, and science experiments with Dr. Brusslan at Burnett Elementary School. Melissa considered her GPA and extracurricular activities to be a few of the strengths in her application. One of her short-term goals is to complete her first two years of medical school with a stellar GPA, and long term to work hard in rotations to earn several Emergency Medicine residency interviews. She is also a first generation college student.

What was the biggest challenge you faced on your health profession journey?

Taking the MCAT. I studied using (Princeton Review), but I felt overwhelmed and focused more on reviewing materials rather than practicing the test. I was also working two jobs. The second time I decided to work one job and study on my own. I improved my score by 10 points.

What attracted you to your health profession?

Initially, I was going to apply to PA school because my cousin is a PA. After working in the ER as an EMT and seeing how the different professionals work together I decided to apply to medical school. I was only going to apply to MD schools, until I got my MCAT score. I decided to retake the MCAT and research further the medical profession. I learned more about the allopathic and osteopathic philosophies. I discovered that the osteopathic philosophy resonates more with me, so I applied to DO and MD programs after my second MCAT. I am passionate about working in medically underserved communities because that is what I grew up in, that is where I volunteer and work, and that is where I want to practice as a physician.

What advice would you give your freshman self?

Stay motivated, focus on school. Keep doing what you are doing. If you are not successful initially, try another way and push harder. You got this.

Janice Choi

Class of 2015

Occupational Therapy student at USC Chan division of Occupational Therapy and Occupational Science

Janice graduated from CSULB in 2015 with a Bachelors in Family and Consumer Sciences with a focus in Child Development. Before attending her current program, she took one gap year and took the time to study for exams with the Magoosh online test prep materials. Janice believes that the strength of her application was in the strong level of employment experience during undergrad and a strong background in volunteer work/ good references. Among her goals is to, short-term, gain valuable experience working and continue to learn about specialty areas that interest her such as ergonomics, universal design, and lifestyle redesign. Long-term her dream is to be involved in corporate wellness, program development, and to be involved in promoting accessibility and ergonomics in various buildings and projects. She is a first generation college student.

What was the biggest challenge you faced on your health profession journey?

Academically, I did not have a strong background in science so I really had to catch up in this area in order to have a competent foundation on which to understand the concepts and frames of reference of occupational science.

What attracted you to your health profession?

What attracted me to occupational therapy was its focus on the core of what makes us who we are: our interests, our skills, and our passions because our lives are designed around activity. Our lives are made up of the everyday activities that occupy our time, and while this can include paid occupations, it's a common misconception that OT's only help people with their jobs. Because we actually work toward building the physical and mental skills necessary to allow clients to be able to participate in activities that are enjoyable, productive, and necessary to maintain every day needs, it is a challenging, creative, and very individualized process which is what has and continues to interest me professionally.

What advice would you give your freshman self?

Don't make so many decisions based on fear, you should have more faith in yourself and pursue your passions rather than just playing it safe.

Echo (Rochelle) Chua

Class of 2011

Resident Physician in Internal Medicine at UC San Francisco – Fresno

Echo graduated from CSULB in 2011 with a Bachelors in Biology with a minor in Chemistry. Her goal is to specialize in interventional cardiology or electrophysiology. Before completing her medical degree at Western University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific, she took three gap years. She was drawn to her program because in addition to learning what it takes to be an MD, she also wanted to learn OMM, which is similar to having a minor in chiropractic medicine. She believes that OMM has been very useful, especially since she is not in favor of just "throwing pain pills at [patients]." One of the most challenging things she faced during her health profession education so far is that her mother passed away unexpectedly during her first year of medical school. They were planning on working together, as her mother had been a CCRN for 30 years and was her inspiration to become a physician. She still struggles with the loss to this day, but Echo continues to strive to reach her goals despite the challenges of life.

What advice would you give your freshman self?

Definitely don't procrastinate.

Justin Cortina

Class of 2018

Dental student at Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry at USC

Justin graduated from CSULB in 2018 with a Bachelors in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. During his time at CSULB he was the President of the Long Beach State Pre-Dental Association and Treasurer of the University Honors Program Student Association. Justin acknowledged that the thing that really stood out as a strength on his application was his involvement. Specifically, being on the Executive Board of LBSPD and attending programs offered by dental schools, such as the Dental Explorers Program (at USC prior to acceptance). This effort showed commitment towards pursuing a DDS. To further prepare he used Crack the DAT, Kaplan's Blue Book for exams. His short and long-term goals are to be as involved as he can in dental school and own a successful private practice. He is also a first generation college student.

What attracted you to your health profession?

I was exposed to the dental profession as a child and I found interest in it. Throughout the years I looked into other fields of medicine but I was not inspired by them like I was to the mix of medical science, art, and engineering that dentistry provided.

What advice would you give your freshman self?

Get involved and be committed to what you do! GPA and DAT are only a portion of what it takes to get into dental school. Admissions wants to see dedication and perseverance towards what you do. Understand that when you apply you are being assessed on everything that you do. Numbers posted by dental schools are averages, not cut-off lines, meaning that students are accepted both above and below these averages depending on what the rest of their application can show.

Robert DeLeon

Class of 2011

Physician's Assistant, Neurosurgery Specialist

Robert graduated from CSULB in 2011 with a Bachelors from the College of Liberal Arts majoring in Anthropology and Psychology. Before working in his current field, he attended Tufts University School of Medicine - Physician Assistant program. Prior to that program, he took four gap years. He considers having a background in liberal arts and maintaining a high GPA in science prerequisite courses as well as having 4 years in healthcare experience the strengths of his application. His short and long-term goals are to expand his clinical knowledge to provide excellent patient care. He goals are for success, competency, and enjoyment in what he does professionally with a good work-life balance, while improving himself personally.

What attracted you to your health profession?

Flexibility of PA profession, less time in school, wanted the ability to work in team based environment with supervising physician support.

What was the biggest challenge you faced on your health profession journey?

Keeping up with the amount of clinical knowledge during didactic year of training, while facing the eventual stress of being away from family and friends during school.

What advice would you give your freshman self?

Get good grades; make sure you enjoy what you're doing. Don't let your dreams stay dreams.

Jessica Gale

Class of 2008

Medical student at University of the Incarnate Word School of Osteopathic Medicine

Jessica graduated from CSULB in 2008 with a Bachelors from the College of Arts in Dance. During her time at CSULB she was busy with rehearsals and choreography projects related to classes, but outside of class hours she also co-founded a community service club (Petra). In addition, she volunteered in a patient care volunteer program at St Mary Medical Center. Before attending her current program, she took nine gap years. She doesn't believe that her application was "strong" per se, she had an average MCAT, no research, and was out of school for several years. In addition, she showed very little consistency in interests, however, it turns out that she had the "right" application for her school. She did have a strong GPA and plenty of physician shadowing hours, as well as a strong personal statement, on top of great recommendations, but she believes anyone can do that.

What was the biggest challenge you faced on your health profession journey?

My dad passed the fall of my freshman year at CSULB, and that really disempowered me. It took years to shake. They say the best thing about a broken heart is that it lets the light in, and that was true for me for the next several years. Besides my father passing, I had several painful break ups, was hit by a drunk driver, and split up with my love of dance (due to both pain from a residual injury from the car crash and a disenchantment of the world of dance). But, the Sufi poet Rumi is purported to have said "You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens". I took that to heart, and somehow ended up here, very much a completely different person.

What advice would you give your freshman self?

Big time I'd tell myself to find an advisor to work with. I have no idea how I made it through with really only taking one extraneous class, doing it all on my own. I could have really used the help. I'd also tell myself to shadow in the health professions. Even in my years dancing at CSULB I was taking pre-med classes and it would have been helpful to narrow down nursing v PA v NP v DO/MD earlier than I did. I spent several years floundering with that. Also, I heard this advice only when I was applying for medical school and I wish I'd heard it sooner: Make a "plan B" that you ACTUALLY would want to do. There's a good chance in any endeavor that things won't work out exactly like you want, and of course in the big picture that's fine - but in the moment it seems like the absolute worst, most devastating thing that could ever happen. But to truly CRAFT a plan B that you'd be excited about, that's really important.

What attracted you to your health profession?

I actually applied to PA school twice and was waitlisted twice. I had a great mentor who, each time would roll her eyes and ask if I was ready to apply to medical school already. I would tell people I didn't apply for medicine because I didn't want to pay malpractice insurance. But the truth was I didn't think I'd get in, and I was afraid to put in the work, to feel the failure. I really doubted myself. I also did not want to take the second semester of O-Chem. But, eventually I did (and I actually really enjoyed it).

Mike Gardener

Class of 2015

Dental student at Loma Linda University

Michael graduated from CSULB in 2015 with a Bachelors in Environmental Science and Policy. Before attending his current program, he took 1 gap year. One of his goals is to get through dental school and open up his own practice. What he enjoys about his current program is getting to know new people and making new friends. He considers taking the DAT one of the most challenging things he has faced during his health profession education so far.

What advice would you give your freshman self?

Stay on top of your classes from the start so you do not stress out about them when midterms come around. It's easy to lose track of your goals, remember to stay focused on why you are taking these classes in the first place.

Kayla Gonzales

Class of 2014

Medical student at A.T. Still University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona

Kayla graduated from CSULB in 2014 with a Bachelors in Biology. Before attending her current program, she took two gap years. Her goals are to be a practicing physician and professor. A favorite aspect of her current program is that she loves her classmates and the support she gets from all the faculty and staff at the school. She loves that the school makes it a point to promote students' mental and physical health. One of the most challenging things she has dealt with is the financial responsibility of the application process. She saved because she knew how it would be a financial burden but did not know how much of a burden it would be.

What advice would you give your freshman self?

Quit the job you have for a better job on campus that is more flexible with hours so that you can begin to develop real study habits and make more meaningful connections with like-minded people. keep going, and do the best you can.

Ezekiel Gonzalez

Class of 2014

Medical student at University of Mississippi Medical Center (Ole Miss)

Ezekiel graduated from CSULB in 2014 with a Bachelors in Biochemistry and Chemistry. Before starting his current program, he took two gap years and used Exam Krackers to prepare for exams. During his time at CSULB he was involved with the CSULB Christians on Campus. He also contributed to research in Dr. Marco Lopez's lab. The strengths in his application were his participation in CSULB's RISE program and research experience he gained on campus. He also made an effort to cultivate relationships with good mentors on campus like Dr. Paul Buonora, Dr. Marco Lopez, and Dr. Elaine Bernal, in addition to maintaining a strong support system outside of school, which was his church family. His short term goals are to obtain a residency and fellowship in Interventional Cardiology. Long term he would like to continue to work as a physician scientist that treats patients at the bedside and participates in research at the bench that cures their underlying conditions.

What was the biggest challenge you faced on your health profession journey?

I took a few years off during college. During this time, I fell in love and got married. By the time I decided to go back to school I was caring for a wife and newborn baby girl. I had to work full time while I was in school and often could only take a few classes per semester. However, the classes that I was enrolled in I took seriously and performed well. I utilized every resource on campus to my advantage, (tutoring services, financial aids, scholarships, mentorship).

What attracted you to your health profession?

I was passionate about two things; people and science. The dual MD/PhD degree allowed me to marry those two passions. As a physician you have the opportunity to care for people during the most intimate moments in human life. Additionally, when you pair medicine with research you also have the opportunity to innovate, create and potentially impact patients on a global scale.

Jeannette Gonzalez

Class of 2016

Pharmacy student at Keck Graduate Institute School of Pharmacy

Jeannette graduated from CSULB in 2016 with a Bachelors in Biology with a minor in Chemistry. Before attending her current program, she took two gap years used online resources and prep books to study for the PCAT. During her time at CSULB she was involved with the CSULB Flying Samaritans, Leadership Academy, and Association of Pre-Pharmacy (APP). Jeannette considers her three years of undergraduate research with publications, experience in the pharmacy field, and involvement in extracurricular activities with leadership roles some of the strengths of her application. Her short-term goals are to take advantage of all the resources in her graduate program in order to help those in underserved communities. Long-term, she will focus on finishing her pharmacy degree and plans to work in a hospital setting or at an independent pharmacy. She is a first generation college student.

What was the biggest challenge you faced on your health profession journey?

I think the biggest challenge I had to face pursuing my health profession was not being able to have the same resources as others did. Coming from an underprivileged community, I felt that the resources for my education were limited. Luckily, during my college experience, I was able to acquire help from financial aid, scholarships, etc. to continue my career without worrying about all the expenses.

What attracted you to your health profession?

What first attracted me to the health profession of pharmacy was the relationship I observed between the pharmacist and the patient. At a young age, I saw my parents make visits to the pharmacy and I admired the role of the pharmacist as they helped my father understand his medications. Unfortunately, I noticed language barriers between the pharmacist and my parents because my parents are Spanish speakers and this led my parents to be non-compliant when it came to the rules of their medications. Yet, these encounters inspired me to become a health care provider in order to help decrease these issues. From that point on I wanted to pursue a career in pharmacy to reach out to the Latino community and also promote healthier lifestyles.

What advice would you give your freshman self?

I would tell my freshman self to not give up when unsuccessful. I would tell myself that if I did not get the grade I wanted, to try harder and to not beat myself up over it. Having confidence in yourself helps a lot in a challenging career. Surrounding yourself with others who have the same mindset and goals will help you enormously.

Gerardo Hernandez

Class of 2010

Physician at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, Family Medicine Program

Gerardo graduated from CSULB in 2010 with a Bachelors in Biochemistry and Chemistry, as well as Biology. Before attending medical school at UC Davis School of Medicine, he took two gap years and used the time to study for exams using Princeton and Berkley Review material. During his time at CSULB he was a co-chair in Minority-focused Alliance of Pre-health Students (MAPS), a SAS Center tutor/mentor, and a Clinical Care Extender at St Mary's. In addition, he was on the LSU and Chican@/Latin@ graduation committee, as well as part of the California Health Professional Student Association, and conducted Long Beach VA clinical Research. The strengths in his application were his community outreach work and wanting to work in underserved communities. He is also first generation college student.

What attracted you to your health profession?

In short, being a physician provides multiple avenues to help underserved communities whether it is in health policy, public health, research, and/or primary care. Everyone's mission to medicine is unique. For me, I wanted to work in primary care to help communities with limited to no access to medicine. In addition, there is a large disparity within the physician community, especially when it comes to Latino physicians and physicians of color. I wanted to be part of the effort to close this disparity and help mentor aspiring doctors to bring in diversity to medicine and help disadvantage student to pursue their dream of becoming a physician.

What advice would you give your freshman self?

Take your time, there is no rush, and focus on what you are passionate about, whether its research, art, music, writing, or etc. There is the common way to get into medical school but there is no right way to get into medical school. If you are unsure about your future, that's okay, be open to your experiences and once you find the light to your fire, you are the only person that can stop yourself.

Brian Jimenez

Class of 2017

Physician Assistant student at Marshall B. Ketchum University

Brian Graduated from CSULB in 2017 with a Bachelors in Community Health Education. Before beginning his current program, he took two gap years. During his time at CSULB he was involved with Eta Sigma Gamma, the Flying Samaritans and the Pre-PA Club. Brian considered his amount and quality of work experience, volunteer hours, and personal growth to be a few of the strengths in his application. His short term goals are to complete PA school and pass his boards on the first-attempt. His long term goals are to be employed as PA-C in an area of medicine of his choice and continue to help others by being involved in some non-profit organizations that have a good cause. He is also a first generation college student.

What advice would you give your freshman self?

Once I recognized what I wanted to do with my life (which was also a challenge), I feel that hardest struggle has been having to juggle between full-time school and work as well as being involved in extracurricular activities (volunteering for clubs/organizations). Although it has been a huge challenge, I have learned to love it because I have learned valuable skills and knowledge. Working as an Emergency Room Technician (ER-Tech) helped me become a more knowledgeable and experienced medical professional. Balancing school with work helped me develop better time management skills and discipline.

What attracted you to your health profession?

I feel I was most attracted to becoming a Physician Assistant (PA) for various reasons. First, working along side/shadowing different types of PA's helped me understand what the role of a PA really was. Seeing what a PA actually did helped me understand that I enjoy the level autonomy and collaborative environment that a PA works in. I also enjoy that PA's have lateral mobility. I see myself working in either Emergency medicine or Primary care, However I really having an option of working and exploring other areas of medicine. Lastly, I really like that the duration of PA program is on average 2-3 years. This helps me have considerably less debt after graduation and also lets me begin working as a PA relatively soon and help impact the lives of others.

Duc Lee

Class of 2011

Physician at UC Davis Medical Center

Duc graduated from CSULB in 2011 with a Bachelors in Biochemistry and Chemistry. Before attending Creighton University School of Medicine, he took two gap years. In that time, he used the Kaplan test prep book to prepare for exams. During his time at CSULB he was involved with peer mentoring, tutoring, and computer lab work study at the Jensen SAS Center. Duc considered his medical and non-medical volunteering, leadership, research, employment experience to be a few of the strengths in his application. His short term goals are to get married, buy a house, start a family, and excel in his residency. His long term goals are to teach, give back to his community, mentor other students, and travel.

What attracted you to your health profession?

I wanted to be a physician because I wanted to help people with as wide a scope of practice as I can. If I were in any other health profession, I feel I would be limited in my ability to practice. I chose Anesthesiology ultimately because of the lifestyle for my family, but as an anesthesiologist I can still travel to volunteer in doing surgical/obstetric procedures around the world. My scope of practice as an Anesthesiologist covers both surgical work in the operating room and clinical work in the Pain Clinic. As a bonus, my work allows me to see immediate results in my patients, which is personally rewarding.

What was the biggest challenge you faced on your health profession journey?

One of my challenges was not having a physician role model/mentor. As an immigrant and first in my family to enter health care, not having someone to guide me was a major challenge, as I did not know when/what/how to get into medical school. Everything I learned about the medical school admissions process came from my own efforts of reading online and talking to people. Finding a physician to shadow was difficult and unsuccessful. Another challenge was balancing 2 part-time jobs with my volunteering activities and studies during college. Having college friends who shared a similar passion and working with them in my studies and extracurricular really pushed me above and beyond what I thought I was capable of. My friends really helped me to overcome any major challenges I had in college.

What advice would you give your freshman self?

You must dream big and do not settle for less. Resources are available out there on campus, online, and through connections. If/when you doubt in your ability to do something, you must put your foot down/chest out and TRY IT! Learn from your failures, reflect, and be ready to talk about what you learned at the admissions interview!

Diana Lujan

Class of 2011

Pharmacy student at Marshall B Ketchum School of Pharmacy

Diana graduated from CSULB in 2011 with a Bachelors from the College of Health and Human Services with a degree in Health Science. Before starting her current program, she took two gap years and worked as a pharmacy technician at Kaiser Permanente. Her short-term goal is to finish pharmacy school, and long term complete her residency and ultimately to work as a clinical pharmacist and open her own pharmacy. Diana is a first generation college student.

What was the biggest challenge you faced on your health profession journey?

The biggest challenge I have faced in this long journey was time management. I always took on too many things and at times my grades suffered because of the lack of my time management.

What attracted you to your health profession?

Since I was young I've always known that I wanted to be in the healthcare field. Pharmaceutical drugs always intrigued me, I wondered how they had the ability to make people feel better, extend lives and cure disease. There was no doubt in my mind that becoming a pharmacist was what I wanted to do. This would allow me to understand medications at a different level so that I may be able to educate and help many people.

What advice would you give your freshman self?

I have so much advice for my freshman self. But the main advice I could've given myself would've been to not worry so much about going out with friends. Education is so important and finishing your degree in a reasonable time is well worth the social scene.

May Luong

Class of 2011

Dental student at NYU College of Dentistry

May graduated from CSULB in 2017 with a Bachelors in Biochemistry. Before attending her current program, she took one gap year. During her time at CSULB she was involved with the Long Beach State Pre-Dental program, cancer cell research, and the University Honors Program. May considered her GPA, DAT, and personal statement to be a few of the strengths in her application. One of her short-term goals is to participate in dental research, and long term to provide dental care for communities both locally and internationally.

What was the biggest challenge you faced on your health profession journey?

The biggest challenge was making time to study for the DAT during the semester. It was difficult to make an organized schedule, set deadlines for myself, and then follow through. Although I was able to score well on the DAT, I was under a lot of pressure and stress while studying for it, and wished I had done better in time management.

What attracted you to your health profession?

My experience as a dental patient and the growing appreciation I had for my dentists motivated me to shadow and volunteer in the dental field for years before ultimately deciding that dentistry is the most suitable career for me.

What advice would you give your freshman self?

I would tell myself to try to take the DAT during the summer before I apply into dental school, ask for letters of recommendation early, and submit the application as soon as the cycle opens. I would also tell myself to record all of my shadowing, volunteering, and other extracurricular activities in a journal or excel sheet. Lastly, I'd tell myself how important it is to network and make friends who are pursuing the same career as me.

Leah Medrano

Class of 2012

Medical Student at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Leah graduated from CSULB in 2012 with a Bachelors in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. Before attending her current program, she took one gap year. Her goals include applying to Pediatric Residency programs, but is undecided if she will become a general pediatrician or subspecialize. Favorite aspects of her program include being surrounded by such intelligent, remarkable, and compassionate people. "It has been both an inspiring and humbling experience. The biggest challenge has continued to be the fact that both life and the world don't pause for you, unfortunate things happen in everyday life, and your journey into the medical field doesn't change this."

What advice would you give your freshman self?

Things don't always go as planned, but if you learn to be resilient, roll with the punches, and never cease to give it your all, you will end up where you are meant to be.

Raffi Melikian

Class of 2014

Medical student at Tufts University School of Medicine, MD/MBA Program

Raffi graduated from CSULB in 2014 with a Bachelors in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. Before attending his current program, he took two gap years and used Princeton Review to prepare for exams. During his time at CSULB he was involved with the Sigma Pi Fraternity, Long Beach BLAST, and conducted research in the Gharakhanian Lab. Raffi considered his showing a dedication for medicine, along with displaying strong leadership skills to be a few of the strengths in his application. His goals include becoming a practicing physician and hospital administrator. One of the biggest challenges he has is that in medicine there is no real finish line, it truly is a career of lifelong learning, and one must learn to enjoy the journey.

What attracted you to your health profession?

Being able to interact with individuals on a daily basis to make a lasting/meaningful difference in their lives; all while being able to use science and medicine.

What advice would you give your freshman self?

You are not entitled to anything, so continue to work hard and do not take anything for granted. That being said, it's important to enjoy this lifelong journey and have fun along the way.

Omar Nagy

Class of 2013

Medical Student at A.T Still University - School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona

Omar graduated from CSULB in 2013 with a Bachelors in Biology. Before beginning his current program, he took two gap years. His short term goal is to do well in school and give back to the community even as a medical student. Long term, he hopes to work in an academic setting where he can practice medicine, do research, and give back to the community through free clinics and international medical missions. What he enjoys about his program is that it is very different than many. The first year is spent in Arizona, the rest of the program is spent at a remote campus in an underserved community where clinical experience is gained. He served in Visalia, CA and enjoyed seeing patients in clinic and applying knowledge from school to a clinical setting. Students participate in many health fairs and give back to the community. Also, he has been blessed with awesome classmates who he enjoys spending time with very much.

What was the biggest challenge you faced on your health profession journey?

I was always working full time and at times an additional part time job during undergraduate and gap years. The challenge was to find time to study and do well in school, MCAT and spend with family.

What advice would you give your freshman self?

Work hard and don't be lazy. Don't take anything for granted.

Reinier Narvaez

Class of 2011

Physician at University at Buffalo Department of Surgery

Reinier graduated from CSULB in 2011 with a Bachelors in Biology. Before working at The University of Buffalo, he attended the University of California at San Francisco. During his time at CSULB he had many involvements some included Pre-Med co-chair of the Minority Alliance of Premedical Students (MAPS) as well as a SAS Center peer mentor and tutor. Additionally, he worked in Dr. Eldon's Research Lab. Some the strengths on his application were extensive clinical experience, and two publications. In addition, working in clinical settings as an ER tech and CNA while also excelling in school. He also has a unique immigrant story; he dropped out of a nursing school in the Philippines, came to the US, went to a community college, and then transferred to CSULB. His short term goals are to, during his surgical residency, finish his MPH and conduct research. After his surgical residency, he plans to pursue Transplant Surgery or Surgical Critical Care fellowship. Long term, he plans to be in academic surgery.

What was the biggest challenge you faced on your health profession journey?

The heavy workload and demands of medical school. This just intensifies as you go up higher on the totem pole.

What attracted you to your health profession?

Ability to diagnose and definitively treat patients. Ability to literally save life and limb and to alleviate the suffering of the ones who cannot be treated. Opportunity to teach future physicians. Possibility of conducting research to affect patients by the population.

What advice would you give your freshman self?

Keep working; always think of the ultimate prize. Take breaks and know that it's okay to make mistakes.

Eli Navarrete

Class of 2011

Doctor of Chiropractic Medicine

Eli graduated from CSULB in 2010 with a Bachelors in Biochemistry and Chemistry as well as Biology. Before working in a private practice, he attended the Southern University of Health Sciences. During his time at CSULB he was a Minority-focused Alliance of Pre-health Students (MAPS) founder, played intramural soccer, played piano and keyboard for bands. He also participated in TOPS, CCM, and LMSA. His short term goals are to, during his surgical residency, finish his MPH and conduct research. After his surgical residency, he plans to pursue Transplant Surgery or Surgical Critical Care fellowship. The strengths on his application were being well rounded and very involved. One of the biggest challenges was being the first in his family to attend college and not seeking support, but instead going from semester to semester alone. Short and long term he hopes to help as many people he can with his practice and eventually open multiple Spanish speaking offices for the underserved community.

What advice would you give your freshman self?

Don't go through this journey alone. Find like-minded people who are driven to help each other through the process. In addition, help your community and underserved communities. Everyone does research community service, and gets good grades. What will make you different and stand out from the rest? Joining organizations like the one we formed with my fellow students, MAPS, that provides services to the community is a great way to stand out.

What attracted you to your health profession?

The chiropractic field is a medical field where you can help people in more conservative ways. Having a conservative perception in medicine is a necessity with all the detrimental side effects some people have. In addition, I work with medical doctors, orthopedic surgeons, lawyers, etc. to help the patient in their time of need.

Caroline Opene

Class of 2013

Physician at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center Oakland

Caroline graduated from CSULB in 2013 with a Bachelors in Biology. Before her current work, she attended the University of California at San Francisco School of Medicine, and prior to that took one gap year. During her time at CSULB, she was involved with the President's Scholars Program and was a Supplemental Instruction leader. In addition, she worked as a Bickerstaff Academic Center tutor. Caroline believes the strengths of her application was her strong academic record, good personal statement, and good interview skills. Her current focus is a dermatology residency at UC Davis.

What was the biggest challenge you faced on your health profession journey?

Believing I could get into medical school, then once I was in, believing I could finish.

What attracted you to your health profession?

I love the process of thinking through diagnoses and narrowing as we get more information. I like having the responsibility of caring for my patients and have formed many strong bonds.

What advice would you give your freshman self?

Keep going, you got this!

James Pham

Class of 2016

Dental Student at A.T. Still - Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health

James graduated from CSULB in 2016 with a Bachelors in Biology. Before attending his current program, he took one gap year. During his time at CSULB he was involved with the Vietnamese Student Association, the Pre-dental club, and the Flying Samaritans. Some the strengths on his application were that he was well rounded as well as having many hours of volunteering and extracurricular activities. His goals include becoming a dentist that focuses on underserved communities while pursuing his passion as a music producer. He is also a first generation college student.

What was the biggest challenge you faced on your health profession journey?

Learning from my failures. I've had my fair shares of poor academic performances in undergrad and had to grow from those experiences. It was hard because I would question my competence and career choice. I stuck with my gut and believed that everything in life is a learning experience and will only make me stronger.

What attracted you to your health profession?

I wanted a career that would let me help people and improve their quality of life. In life we are all connected and affect each other in some sort of way. I knew my life would be most fulfilling if could touch someone's life and change it for the better. Being my own boss is also a plus.

What advice would you give your freshman self?

You won't be upset with yourself if you know you tried your hardest.

Gabriela Prado

Class of 2017

Occupational Therapy student at the University of Southern California

Gabriela graduated from CSULB in 2017 with a Bachelors in Sociology. Before attending her current program, she used the Official GRE text bundle to prepare for the exam. Gabriela considers her great letters of recommendation and having a faculty member proofread her personal statement to be a couple of the strengths of her application. One of her short-term goals would be to finish her current Master's program, and long-term to obtain a Board Certification in Pediatrics. She is a first generation college student.

What attracted you to your health profession?

My mom works with a child with special needs who is currently living in a group home. While volunteering in this group home I met an OT, who was providing services to one of the children living there. At that time, I was about to finish my Bachelor and I knew I wanted to continue my education, but I was unsure about what I should do. I believe meeting that OT changed my life completely, learning about the profession and what he did was the best thing that could have happen to me. I absolutely love my program! So what initially attracted me to OT was the possibility of working with children with special needs.

What was the biggest challenge you faced on your health profession journey?

Definitely taking the prerequisite courses in order to apply to the program. Changing to Natural Sciences classes from Liberal Arts was very challenging.

What advice would you give your freshman self?

You're lost and confused but that's totally alright. Right now is the time to make mistakes and try different routes. You will get there and you will find something that you are passionate about. Don't give up, all the hours of hard work do pay off!

Naomie Ranatunge

Class of 2017

Medical Student at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine

Naomie graduated from CSULB in 2017 with a Bachelors in Biologyand started medical school at Virginia Commonwealth University the following Fall semester. During her time at CSULB her extracurricular involvement the included the President's Scholars Program; Research in the Schwans' Laboratory; Flying Samaritans at CSULB (President); CSULB Alternative Spring Break in New Orleans, LA; Tutor at the Bickerstaff Student Athlete Center; CSULB Beach Bollywood Dance Team; CSULB Vice President Student Advisory Group. Her future goals are to complete her MD (three more years!), and eventually pick a specialty that she is passionate about. She plans to get involved in academic medicine to teach future medical students.

What attracted you to your health profession?

Medicine has always been my passion! I found myself thriving in the sciences but knew that I wanted to surround myself with people. Medicine gives me both aspects, while also allowing me to have a degree of autonomy. I can't imagine more job/life satisfaction than devoting my time to taking care of others.

What was the biggest challenge you faced on your health profession journey?

The application process is so daunting. I doubted myself along the way, even though I knew I had done everything that I possibly could. You have to keep reminding yourself that you are an excellent candidate and all it takes is one acceptance!

What advice would you give your freshman self?

Find the right balance in all things! You'll know what you are passionate about based on how much time you're willing to dedicate to it.

Andrew Rosales

Class of 2015

Medical Student at USC Keck School of Medicine

Andrew graduated from CSULB in 2015 with a Bachelors in Biology. Before starting his current program, he took one gap year. His short term goals are to successfully make the most of his medical education and obtain invaluable experiences that will contribute to his personal and professional development as a future physician. Long term, he hopes to serve as a physician advocate for communities of underserved populations and work toward the elimination of healthcare disparities. One of the most challenging things he faced during his health profession education is that early in his education he lacked guidance and direction. It was not until he became very active in his education by seeking support, resources, opportunities, and mentors that he recognized how he needed to more efficiently navigate through his education to successfully accomplish his goals. He is also a first generation college student.

What advice would you give your freshman self?

Finding and maintain a healthy balanced schedule. Structure your semesters efficiently so as to not overwhelm yourself with challenging courses, and keep in mind anything else you may have to dedicate time to, like work and time for yourself especially. Never hesitate to take advantage of all campus resources, especially the tutoring services. Be active in your education and get involved in research, clinical experience, and join student organizations! Always seek help and support whenever needed, and make it a point to visit your professor's office hours. Finally, find yourself mentors who can help guide you through your education and empower you to accomplish your goals. They are truly invaluable and vital resources to your success.

Ryan Seaver

Class of 2013

Psychiatry resident at the University of Texas

Ryan graduated from CSULB in 2013 with a Masters in Biology. Including the time he spent earning his masters he took 4 gap years before attending Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. During his time at CSULB he was a teaching assistant for Biology, Physiology and Human Biology. He was also a member of the CSULB sailing club, and was a Long Beach VA volunteer. Some the strengths on his application was that he had research experience, and a Master's degree. His biggest challenges was making the decision to go to medical school and managing distractors during medical school. He didn't know that he wanted to pursue medical school right away, which is why he decided to get a Master's degree at CSULB in order to determine if he wanted pursue medical school or continue on with a PhD. Ryan mentioned that the hardest part was actually managing challenging situations with his family back in Texas and having a child during medical school. His short and long term goals include becoming an excellent psychiatrist, and an attending physician at an academic medical center.

What attracted you to your health profession?

It took me until after undergraduate and well into my Masters training at CSULB to really decide to become a physician, and it wasn't an easy decision. I wasn't one of those people who knew their sub-specialty from the womb, and I wouldn't have thought I would be going into psychiatry if you asked me four years ago. I think all the health professions are great in that you get to use a specific set of skills and knowledge that you have to help improve people's lives. That even includes vets, since a good vet will communicate well with the pet-owners. I would recommend any of the health professions and have had the good fortune to work closely with most during medical school. I am biased, but I think being a doctor is a pretty good gig.

What advice would you give your freshman self?

Deciding to become a physician is a huge commitment and investment, and people who are exploring this path should consider it carefully. If you are like me, without another doctor in the family to understand what it is like, it's very important that you shadow early and shadow often. Find out what people like and don't like about being a doctor and figure out how that applies to your personal situation. You could also try to get involved in EMS or paramedic work to get some practical experience that will help to see if you really like taking care of patients. Get involved and talk with your pre-health advisors early.

Pardis Sharifabad

Class of 2017

Dental Student at NYU College of Dentistry

Pardis graduated from CSULB in 2017 with a Bachelors in Biology. Before beginning her current program, she took one gap year and used the DAT Bootcamp to prepare for exams. During her time at CSULB she was involved with Peer Mentoring at the Jensen SAS Center and the Pre-Dental Club. Some the strengths on her application were her clear personal statement, exposure to the field of dentistry, and her GPA. The biggest challenge to her health profession journey was keeping up with all of the coursework and managing her time efficiently. Her goals are to pursue dentistry and specialize in either orthodontics or periodontics.

What attracted you to your health profession?

I chose dentistry because it is a rapidly growing field, especially with innovative technological advancements and I want to be amidst the excitement! I love being in a work field where I can continuously learn, and I trust that dentistry is exactly that - there are so many different approaches to go about the same situation depending on each patient, which allows one to expand their knowledge far beyond what is learned in school. I hope to use my knowledge in dentistry to bring greater awareness to oral health as well as bring happy and healthy smiles to my future patients!

What advice would you give your freshman self?

I would tell my freshman self to enjoy these years as an undergrad. Time WILL fly and you WILL graduate, so just take a deep breath and move forward. There will be times where you think you can't do it anymore or that you want to give up but remember, there is a patient out there who needs a dentist. Keep pushing through it and you WILL make it.

Stephen Smith

Class of 2011

Medical Student at Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine

Stephen graduated from CSULB in 2011 with a Bachelors in Biology. Before attending Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, he took two gap years. His goals are to finish his Pediatric Residency and Critical Care Fellowship. What he likes about his program is being around like minded individuals.

What advice would you give your freshman self?

Take BPCM courses concurrently with MCAT to follow shortly. Early clinical experiences and scribing (was the best experience for me).

Julie Smithwick

Class of 2011

Medical Student at A.T. Still University - School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona

Julie graduated from CSULB in 2011 with a Bachelors in Biology and Business Management. Before attending A.T. Still University-School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona, she took one and a half gap years. Her goals are to finish her Internal Medicine residency and Pulmonary and Critical Care Fellowship. Her favorite aspect of her program is learning and understanding medicine—she is proud of how far she has come and is excited to learn more. Challenges of her health profession education so far is being away from family and always maintaining a healthy work-life balance. She is also a first generation college student.

What advice would you give your freshman self?

Work hard--it's worth it and it usually just requires a little more effort above and beyond.

Lauren Sylwanowicz

Class of 2010

Physician at UC Irvine Health Department of Emergency Medicine

Lauren graduated from CSULB in 2010 with a Bachelors in Biology. Before attending the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine, she took two gap years and used the Kaplan test prep materials to prepare for exams. During her time at CSULB she was involved with NCAA Basketball, the President's Ambassadors, and the Student Athlete Advisory Committee. In addition, she also conducted research. Her application strengths were her grades and extracurricular activities. The biggest challenge in her health profession education has been sacrificing time with family and friends and pursuing extracurricular activities, which she says was exhausting physically and mentally. Her goals are to finish her emergency medicine residency, and to pursue an international fellowship or work abroad.

What attracted you to your health profession?

I originally thought I wanted to be a veterinarian when I started college. I quickly realized I was a "people person" interested in physiology and problem solving. Medicine was a better fit for me. I did some volunteer work while in college and was instantly attracted to both the scientific and humanitarian aspects of medicine. After college, I worked abroad volunteering and as a ER scribe in the community. Both experiences further confirmed my decision to pursue a career as a physician. My time as an ER scribe also exposed me to emergency medicine which was ultimately the specialty I chose to train in after medical school.

What advice would you give your freshman self?

Before starting down the path to becoming a physician make sure you understand what the road entails. It will be filled with ups and downs so you must demonstrate to yourself a love for the field before deciding if it is the right path for you. Volunteer, shadow, talk to doctors, learn about different specialties. Focus on your grades, but also make sure you pursue other activities to work on becoming a well-rounded applicant. Make sure these activities are ones you are passionate about.

Brittni Vogal

Class of 2013

Physician's Assistant student at Touro University Nevada

Brittni graduated from CSULB in 2013 with a Bachelors in Biology. Before beginning her current program, she took two gap years. During her time at CSULB she focused her extracurricular involvement on the pre-med club and considers her scribing experience to be the strongest part of her application. Her short term goal is to graduate in November 2018 and then to secure a job as an emergency room PA. She is a first generation college student.

What was the biggest challenge you faced on your health profession journey?

While I didn't pursue a post-bacc, I did get a one year masters of medical health science degree at Touro University Nevada which allowed me to show the PA program that I can improve my GPA and successfully complete graduate coursework.

What attracted you to your health profession?

The work-life balance and the lateral mobility between specialties.

What advice would you give your freshman self?

Don't have blinders on when it comes to pursuing a career in medicine. Explore other options.

Calling All Alumni

If you are a CSULB Alumni and you would like to be featured on Alumni Spotlight, please email healthprofadvising@csulb.edu.