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Jessica is a Pediatric Injury Prevention Scholar at Children's Hospital LA and is looking to apply for a Master's in Public Health.

"Do what you love! If you are doing something because someone else wants you and not because you want to, life will be much harder. I felt a lot of external pressure to become a doctor, but my true passions lied with public health and community work. Let your passions drive your career path and motivate you to persist through hardships."

Jessica Castro
Class of 2018

@jvacastro

Me and other members of Philipinos for Community Health giving blood pressure screenings at a local health fair for underserved communities in Los Angeles.

MILESTONES

My career roadmap has been somewhat defined.

After attending Camp CHLA during the summer of my sophomore year, in which I was able to shadow employees in different healthcare specialities at Children’s Hospital, I developed an interest in pursuing medicine in the future.

Throughout my 12 years as a Girl Scout, I had a growing passion for community service and helping others. I hoped to incorporate community work into my career.

One of my life-changing experiences is when I went on a mission trip to Nicaragua with my church during my junior year. There, I discovered the dire need of marginalized communities and inspired me to devote my life to serving marginalized communities and spreading love to those around me.

Volunteering at Henry Mayo and Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center helped me gain clinical experience and taught me more of what it’s like to work as a doctor. While I enjoyed this experience and learned so many skills, this experience helped me realize my passion for service through healthcare but also that becoming a doctor is not for me.

At UCLA, I joined Pilipinos for Community Health (PCH): a community-oriented health club that primarily targets Filpino communities. I eventually became a staff member and developed an interest in pursuing a career in public health that intersected medicine, community service, and my Filipino heritage.

To gain more experience in public health, I looked for public health-based research opportunities. I worked as a research assistant in the Minority Health Disparities center at UCLA where I helped develop a research training curriculum for a local promotores community.

To further my experience in public health, I am currently working as a Pediatric Injury Prevention Scholar at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles where I reach out to advocate for child safety and injury prevention. I am also working as a research intern for the Filipino Family Health Initiative where I assist in family-based workshops to teach families proper values and skills to foster optimal youth development.

Through these opportunities, I hope to solidify my path towards graduate school in public health while gaining experiences in project development, networking, health education, community-based research. Though my career path has shifted over time, my passions have led me to the path best fit for me.

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EXPERIENCE

Here are my extracurriculars relevant to this pathway

DURING MY AOC CAREER

  • National Honors Society for 3 years: Executive Secretary during my senior year


  • Yearbook for 2 years: Student Life and Senior Editor

  • Founding member of Performing Arts Club: Secretary and Vice President


  • Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital for 2 years: Med Surg volunteer and trainer, volunteer for the Music for Healing program


  • Girl Scouts for 12 years: Bronze, Silver and Gold Award recipient

DURING MY COLLEGE CAREER

  • Social Justice Chair at the University Catholic Center (UCC) at UCLA: I provide faith-based service opportunities for the UCC community


  • Medical Outreach Director and Health Fairs Director of Pilipinos for Community (PCH): I plan a medical mission in the Philippines and organize local health fairs for underserved communities


  • Care Extender Intern at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center: I volunteer and shadow physicians and provide music therapy.


  • Pediatric Injury Prevention Scholar at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles: I educate and outreach to the community about child injury prevention


  • Research Intern at the Filipino Family Health Initiative: I assist in research and workshops for Filipino families to teach values to improve mental health during youth development

CAREER

What I'm currently doing/hope to do

Currently, I am working as a staff member for Pilipinos for Community Health, a Pediatric Injury Prevention Scholar at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and a research intern for the Filipino Family Health Initiative. After my undergraduate career, I plan on taking a few gap years to gain more experience in public health and serve abroad. After my gap years, I plan on applying to graduate school (master’s and/or doctorate) for public health, with emphasis on community health sciences and global health. My goal is to research and develop community programs for marginalized communities, primarily the Filipino community, to reduce the minority health disparities, improve well-being, and incorporate aspects of my Filipino heritage and Catholic faith into my career.

ADVICE

How to maximize your AOC experience?

  • Advice #1: Utilize office hours and don’t be afraid to reach out to your professors and TAs. They are often open to help and establish a connection. Connections are extremely important, especially when applying for a job and graduate school. If you’re looking for a research position, simply email your professors whose projects interest you and be persistent.


  • Advice #2: Balance your time. Try your best in school, but don’t spend all of your time studying. Participate in extracurriculars that truly interest you: your extracurriculars should paint a picture of you. Find extracurriculars that you’re passionate about and stay committed: make connections and obtain a leadership position. Quality over quantity.


  • Advice #3: Use your time wisely. Take advantage of your summers and breaks. Learn a new skill, contact old friends, take online classes from other universities. Make the most of your time at AOC and at your respective university. Get involved in your school and local community.


  • Advice #4: Be social. Make friends and connections with your peers and educators. Having a support system is extremely important not only for your career but for your mental health and overall well-being. College can get extremely stressful and can lead you to burnout; having a support system can help you through stressful times. Feel free to reach out to me if you ever want to talk about anything!


  • Advice #5: Do what you love! If you are doing something because someone else wants you and not because you want to, life will be much harder. I felt a lot of external pressure to become a doctor, but my true passions lied with public health and community work. Let your passions drive your career path and motivate you to persist through hardships. Life is more fulfilling when you truly love what you’re doing.



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