Public Health :: Minerva Kunzel Town & Gown Scholar
Yessenia’s resume is already peppered with volunteer and internship experiences at leading healthcare facilities such as the Jacobs Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente, UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute and the Flying Samaritans. She attributes her drive to the resiliency she cultivated during a childhood marked by divorce, poverty, a chronically ill mother, the care of younger siblings and life in a high-crime neighborhood – all of which are moving her toward a medical career focused on whole-patient wellness.
“The problems that health disparities pose is one of the biggest issues in healthcare and something I can identify with. I grew up in a disadvantaged area, however, back then I did not realize the extent of damage that a particular neighborhood can impose on your health and the health of your entire community.”
As a member of UC San Diego’s Flying Samaritans student organization, “Through my clinic trips to poverty-stricken communities in Mexico, I was able to witness the full effect of what low resources will do to the health of a community. Here, the people usually go without proper healthcare for weeks. Even when the doctor is available, the patients usually have to travel miles on foot in order to go to the clinic. There is a huge difference between that community and mine, however the root of the problem remains the same.” She’d like to someday do something about it.
Yessenia’s point of view has been influenced by two internship research opportunities. “I was heavily involved in cardiology-related research at the Oakland Children’s Hospital as a clinical research assistant, and was able to present my findings in a professional symposium like an actual scientist would. This past summer, I was selected to be a medical and dental education program scholar at UCLA, where I was able to learn more about health and education promotion. These experiences were very eye-opening as they allowed me to see how intertwined research, healthcare and the community are.”
Yessenia’s goal is to pursue a nurse practitioner’s degree in pediatrics, “because I feel that the nursing model is a better fit for me than the medical model. The medical model is disease-centered, which means it is more of an evidence-based practice to treating patients. However, the nursing model is more focused on the whole-patient approach, which means it would take into account the cultural and social factors involved in treating a particular patient.
“Healthcare is not just about treating patients, it is about looking at the big picture and figuring out ways to improve the system as a whole.”
To that end, “The scholarship award will only push me further towards my dreams of one day having a successful career as a Nurse Practitioner. As the first in my family to attend college, navigating through the college process has not been easy. However, this scholarship will alleviate some of these difficulties and help me focus more on my studies as I do not receive financial assistance from my family. Most of all, this scholarship demonstrates the importance of giving back and I hope to do that in the future as well.”