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Biomedical Studies Meet Alum Renee De La Parra

Biomedical Studies Alumn Renee De La Parra


Hometown: La Quinta, CA
Undergraduate: University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), BS in Psychobiology
Graduate: Drexel University College of Medicine, MS in Biomedical Studies
Medical School: University of California Riverside School


Can you tell me a little about yourself before you came to Drexel?

I grew up in La Quinta, CA, and attended UCLA where I received my Bachelor of Science in Psychobiology. While at UCLA, I was involved in community outreach programs and medical internships. After finishing undergrad, I wanted to expand my medical knowledge and took one year off to work as a clinical scribe in the emergency room, while also volunteering at a free clinic in my hometown.

When did you decide that you wanted to go into medicine?

As soon as I started undergrad, I knew I wanted to go into the health care field but I was unsure of which profession. During my junior year, I grew close with a wonderful pediatrician at Mattel Children's Hospital and shadowed her quite often. During the summer of 2013 while shadowing, we were checking in on our two year-old patient. She was born with a congenital heart defect, and her father only spoke Spanish. I often translated for the pediatrician, and I had the opportunity to speak with the patient's father in his own language. He expressed to me his doubts and fears concerning his daughter. As a pre-medical student there was only so much I could say to him, but I felt sympathetic and expressed to him that I appreciated that he allowed me into his world as it was being flipped upside-down. I shared some encouraging words with him and he smiled because he knew that the medical team was trying their best to take care of his daughter. After our conversation, I knew my purpose was to become a physician and help families like this one. I felt the need to become an advocate for minority populations, especially the Latino communities, because I come from this community and have seen what these people struggle with. I desire to bridge the communication gap between physician and patient while building strong relationships with my patients. To this day, I have worked in several low-income clinics where I have translated for physicians, and I find great delight in giving these patients a voice in the medical decision-making process and helping them feel understood as human beings.

What made you apply to Drexel's Biomedical Studies (MBS) program?

I applied to Drexel's Biomedical Studies program because the curriculum focuses on areas I needed improvement on in order to become a competitive applicant for medical school. The two-year program offers undergraduate science courses that helped boost my undergraduate science GPA. They also offer graduate level courses, including biochemistry, which helped me for the MCAT. In the second year, it became more challenging because I took medical school courses, but the hard work eventually paid off. I was born and raised in Southern California, and moving across the country for graduate school had never crossed my mind. I was nervous yet excited to start, and I am very glad that I chose this program because it was the appropriate graduate program I needed to help me achieve my goal.

Are you in medical school now?

Yes, I am a first-year medical student at University of California Riverside School of Medicine (UCRSOM). Although I enjoyed living in Philadelphia for two years, I was ready to return to California for medical school and be close to my family once again. UCRSOM was my top choice, so getting accepted was by far one of the greatest moments. I know that Drexel's program helped me to become the medical student that UCRSOM was looking for.

How did the Biomedical Studies program help prepare you for medical school?

Drexel's Biomedical Studies program boosted my undergraduate science GPA, gave me the chance to continue serving the low-income populations through outreach opportunities, and improved my MCAT score through the MCAT preparation courses. During the second year of the program, the challenging medical school courses helped me sharpen my study skills and work ethic. Now that I am halfway through my first year of medical school, I can say that I was less stressed than I imagined because I had seen the material once during graduate school. Thanks to the Drexel faculty's support and rigorous yet rewarding program, the medical knowledge I acquired during those two years helped pave the way for a smooth transition into medical school.

What was your relationship like with the faculty and your fellow classmates?

I developed genuine relationships with many of my professors and faculty, some of whom wrote strong letters of recommendation for me. I appreciated the way our professors cared that their students understood the material and were available for questions. My classmates were truly wonderful. I made a close group of friends the first week of school, and our friendship only grew stronger as we encouraged one another during the toughest times and celebrated our successes. We motivated each other and eventually we were all accepted into medical school by graduation. I made lasting relationships with such a diverse group of students that it made graduate school very memorable.

Did you participate in any community service or summer research while you were at Drexel?

Yes, I volunteered at the Salvation Army facility in downtown Philadelphia where we spent time with children and their mothers. I also volunteered in a second grade classroom where I taught students how to read and tutored them in mathematics. During the summer before my second year of the program, I worked on a health care research project. We investigated critical health disparities in underserved populations and sought ways to improve them in the long run. Volunteering in the community was a great way to de-stress, get my mind off of school for a while and re-experience the satisfying feelings of serving others.

Do you know what area of medicine you want to go into?

I am interested in pursuing pediatrics because of my passion for working with children. Ever since college, I enjoyed working with younger students and shadowing pediatricians at different hospitals. Currently, I am working with a pediatrician at a private clinic, and not only am I fascinated with what I learn every time I attend clinic, I also love building relationships with the pediatric patients. Plus, it gives me a chance let my inner child out every once in a while.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering applying to the Biomedical Studies program?

My advice would be to make sure that you are ready to work diligently and possibly change your usual study habits from undergrad. I thought I knew how to study going into graduate school, but I quickly realized that these study habits were inefficient. However, the rigor of the program works to your advantage because you develop resilience and strong work ethics if you push through and utilize the many resources Drexel offers including the tutoring services. The MBS program not only prepares you academically for medical school, but you also learn how to work in a team with your classmates and become proactive when it comes to asking questions for clarification. Before applying, do your research because there are many special master's programs out there that focus on different aspects. Find one that best suits your needs. Fortunately, Drexel's MBS program took care of my areas of weakness and turned them into a medical school acceptance.

Biomedical Studies program graduate students in the classroom at Drexel University College of Medicine.

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