Contributing to Our Community Through Medicine - Jose Parra

My interest in medicine began back in my senior year of high school. I was taking an anatomy & physiology course to fulfill my science requirements for graduation, and fell in love with the content. At the same time, I was working at my local hospital as a nutrition assistant, where I got to work alongside registered dieticians and the clinical team in providing patient education and care regarding nutrition as it relates to overall health.

Interestingly, when I enrolled at Northern Arizona University (NAU) to complete my undergraduate work, I was interested in pursuing a career in law. I wanted to become an immigration attorney and be able to help my community in particular as I know how difficult the language barrier can be in trying to figure out the national system of immigration. I saw my parents go through the application process and become naturalized citizens of the US when I was in 8th grade. I remember helping them study for their civics portion of the exam, and I fell in love with the constitution and our legal system. I wanted to make sure it was protecting my community and truthfully, others who were in the situation my parents were in.

"I wanted to make sure it was protecting my community and truthfully, others who were in the situation my parents were in."

It was a very difficult decision for me to stray from law into medicine, but I think what ultimately did it for me, was that I really enjoyed the sciences, knew that there was work to be done in bridging the healthcare gap for underrepresented minority groups, and it just felt right that I could still advocate for my people, just in a different, yet important way. Through my time as an undergrad, I double majored in chemistry and criminology. My interest in chemistry began in high school, I just really liked the idea of combining reagents to produce something totally different! In college is where I really dove in, and after taking organic chemistry, I knew that it was my favorite subject. I did research under one of my professors in organic synthesis and even got trained to use and interpret NMR spectroscopy. Chemistry is super cool because I loved that it provided this puzzle that I could take the working pieces and come up with a final solution. It really challenged me but it was rewarding when I could figure it out. The elements in chemistry are the basis of life, and my strong foundation helped train my brain to think more analytically. I think this helped with my progression into medicine.

"The elements in chemistry are the basis of life, and my strong foundation helped train my brain to think more analytically. I think this helped with my progression into medicine."

I continued working at my local hospital and worked as a mental health technician while I finished my degree. I spent a year teaching chemistry at NAU after graduation, then attended Touro University Nevada (TUN) and completed a Master of Science in Medical Health Sciences in 2019. I was accepted into the Doctor of Osteopathic (DO) Medicine program at TUN in Fall 2019, and am currently in my third year of medical school and very excited to continue learning!

What I love about medicine is that we can tangibly see the positive change we make in patients' lives, and have the opportunity daily to advocate for our patients. I became involved within my school early on. I was one of the co-chairs for the Latino Medical Student Association chapter at TUN, and served on the executive board for my first two years of medical school. In my second year, I served as the student government association president, and currently, I am the National Chair for the Council of Osteopathic Student Government Presidents (COSGP) where I get to advocate on behalf of all of our DO schools in the country. The coolest thing about the DO program is being able to learn osteopathic manipulative medicine and have it as an additional resource to help treat my patients. Sometimes we can alleviate certain ailments that help our patients feel better with our hands. Additionally, I have personally loved the many friendships I have made in my time as a DO student. I know these will be my lifelong friends!

"What I love about medicine is that we can tangibly see the positive change we make in patients' lives, and have the opportunity daily to advocate for our patients."

As far as advice that I have for a young Latino/a pursuing medicine, here a few perspectives that can help tremendously. What happens inside the classroom most definitely matters. Study strategies that helped get me through difficult courses in high school and college were actually very similar! There are a lot of YouTube videos out there that are very educational and can explain topics in a visual way that I found really useful. Additionally, I always referred to my textbooks. If I could not understand a topic, I would read about it in the textbook and try to answer questions to ensure that I was understanding the material. In college, definitely take advantage of the office hours provided by your instructors. I think a lot of times students (myself included) were too intimidated to reach out to professors, but they really are there to help you! Study environments are everything! Make sure you are in an environment where you can be productive. Budget your time so that you still do the things you love that keep you sane, but make sure when you allocate study time, you dedicate that time and keep your word!

Through this entire journey, at the core of it, was the unlimited support provided by my family. My parents sacrificed everything so that they could provide a better future for my siblings and I. Through all of the hardships that the process into medicine can be, they always stood by and were present at every success, failure, and graduation. One important lesson that my familia taught me was that when things get tough, it is a sign to take a deep breath, rest, and then tackle it later with a clear mind. My parents taught me to never give up on my dreams, and even when they felt impossible, I just needed to take a break and reassess the situation with a clear mind. I can't emphasize how important this was in my journey. To take failure as a learning opportunity but never letting it define me. Ultimately this mentality helped me stay optimistic and continues to when the days get hard.

"One important lesson that my familia taught me was that when things get tough, it is a sign to take a deep breath, rest, and then tackle it later with a clear mind."

Always remind yourself that you can absolutely do it, and you belong at the highest levels of higher education. It may be a little harder for you than your peers, but that doesn't mean you are not good enough. Also, stay connected to your support system and stay humble. This journey requires a lot from you, but never sacrifice those that have always supported you, and always make time for the ones you love. When things get tough, they will be your saving grace.

"Always remind yourself that you can absolutely do it, and you belong at the highest levels of higher education."

As a first-generation Latino, I know that I bring such a unique experience and skills that I will use to help and advocate on behalf of my future patients. I want to serve as a role model for all first-generation students, who have big dreams and want to achieve them despite how many times we may be told no or how difficult the journey is to get here when a system is built that does not tailor to us. I want a future Latino doctor to see me in these roles and know that they too can do it, and we all belong in medicine. As I continue my studies, it is important to me to always be advocating for every patient. Seeing Latinx patients especially and witnessing their comfort in being treated by providers who look just like them has been and will continue to be a stepping stone in our battle against healthcare disparities.


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