‘Maybe it’s time to change your major.’ I couldn’t turn to my parents. I’m happy I didn’t listen to that advice.’: Daughter of Mexican immigrants becomes first generation graduate, inspired by brother’s illness

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“I am playing a game of checkers when the sunken eyes of my normally vibrant brother meet mine. As I watch his skin become pale and little beads of sweat develop on his brow, my stomach tightens with the sinking feeling something is very wrong. My brother is experiencing his first hypoglycemic episode, and I know I have to help him, fast.

Courtesy of Jessica Gomez

At a young age, I did not yet know how to care for a brother with juvenile diabetes, and the feeling of uncertainty and helplessness is not one I want to revisit. Fortunately, my parents knew what to do, but to this day, it haunts me to think if the medical community had not educated my family, the outcome could have been much more grave. Experiences like this influenced me greatly and served as a catalyst for my pursuit of a career as a physician assistant.

Growing up with a brother affected by an autoimmune disease was difficult for me. I did all I could to assist with the care needed for a diabetic child, such as choosing low-sugar food options and learning how to inject insulin. I observed how the endless number of appointments with physicians often overwhelmed my parents and how their lives were made more difficult by their inability to understand the complex, technical vocabulary. Before my brother received his diabetes diagnosis, he was misdiagnosed with a stomach virus. My mother was new to the country, and her broken english made it difficult to communicate with physicians. My family was confused as to how my three year old brother was diagnosed with diabetes. ‘We thought diabetes was associated with a poor diet and lack of exercise.’ As a future PA, I plan to close the gap between medical professionals and Spanish-speaking individuals to ensure misdiagnoses like these do not occur due to a language barrier.

Courtesy of Jessica Gomez

As the daughter of Mexican Immigrants, I have faced several unique challenges. For example, as a child I was my parent’s linguistic and cultural mediator. This increased responsibility helped me enhance my interpersonal skills and understand the fulfillment one attains from helping others. Additionally, as a medical scribe, I helped several Latino patients overcome language and cultural barriers by interpreting for them during hospital visits. Therefore, my bilingual fluency and cultural awareness will allow me to deliver patient-centered care as a Physician Assistant.

Courtesy of Jessica Gomez

Being a first-generation college student is an honor and privilege my parents did not have. Because of this experience, I could not turn to my parents for advice with college applications, scholarships, or selecting a major. I struggled academically during my first year of undergrad education, but I overcame those challenges as resources offered at CSU Stanislaus helped me build effective study strategies to excel in rigorous science courses. I remember struggling and confiding in a college professor who told me, ‘Maybe it’s time you change your major.’ I’m so happy I didn’t listen to that advice because, if I did, I wouldn’t have fulfilled my dreams of becoming a Physician Assistant. Because of this experience, I decided to help other students by becoming a human anatomy teaching assistant and supplemental instructional leader. Through this, I am able to provide a support system and help students stay on track in Human Anatomy.

Courtesy of Jessica Gomez

Fast-forward to December 20, 2018, the moment which changed my life forever. I was working at my previous job as a medical scribe when I refreshed my email (as I had for the last 3 months while anxiously waiting for an acceptance letter from PA programs). It was then I saw my acceptance letter from the University of California-Davis! I was so ecstatic all my hard work had finally paid off. The first person I called was my father. I couldn’t wait to tell him I got accepted into my dream school and I would be the first in the family to receive a graduate education. During our phone conversation I remember him telling me, ‘Mija, I am so proud of you. I knew you would get accepted!’ It’s moments like these when I am happy to share with my parents because I know they are not only my accomplishments, but theirs as well.

Courtesy of Jessica Gomez

Upon completing the PA Program at University of California-Davis, I intend to work in a medically under-served area, with a focus on serving the Spanish-speaking population which has traditionally been overlooked. I am considering working in both family medicine and emergency medicine in a region with a large community of immigrants, so I can provide immediate care to those in need, as well as providing continuing care to families. I am dedicated to the pursuit of a career as a physician assistant and fully confident in my abilities.”

Courtesy of Jessica Gomez
Courtesy of Jessica Gomez

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jessica Gomez of Sacramento, CA. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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