SRA Rising Star Kassandra Duran Beas Prepares for her future with Prep Medico

Hello, I am Kassandra Duran Beas, a rising junior at University of California Santa Barbara. I was born and raised in Santa Rosa, California in a predominantly Latino neighborhood. I am a Psychology and Brain Science major, minoring in Spanish and a pre-med on the path of becoming a Physician. Because of my passion to understand the health disparities present in the Latinx community and being a part of the solution to eliminate these inequities I applied to the UC Davis Prep Medico Internship.

Because of the current pandemic, the original six-week in person internship was condensed into a two-week virtual experience. The schedule consisted of virtual meetings from 9 am to 4 pm. Our days were filled with panelists and presenters who shared their journey and discussed topics such as mental health, health disparities, epidemiology, and the different fields available within health care. Our panelists included current medical students, nurses, physicians’ assistants, surgeons, emergency and family medicine physicians. We were also broken into groups and assigned a book, mine was Just Medicine: A Cure for Racial Inequality in American Health Care by Dayna Bowen Matthew, which we would present on at the end of the program. At the end of the day we would break out into our groups to discuss and prepare for the book presentation. During this time, I was able to connect with the other scholars and it was amazing to meet other pre-med students in the bay area who shared similar aspirations and obstacles as me. Through this book I was able to learn about the racial disparities in health care and the factors contributing to them such as implicit bias. And interventions that can be implemented in the clinical setting to eliminate them. On the last day of the internship we had a career fair where we learned about internships and research opportunities we can apply to after the program.

As a Latina the internship was inspiring and empowering. The presenters urged us to become health professionals and provided advice as first generation college students and children of immigrants. From this program, I learned valuable skills and lessons that will guide me in my path towards becoming a physician. I was worried that I wasn’t a competitive medical school candidate because of my grades but through this program I learned that it is never too late to improve academically and that grades are only one factor in the application process. Before this program I was also clueless about the application process for medical school. Now I feel more confident about the timeline of the medical school application process and I was connected with professionals who could offer more advice on the MCAT and personal statements. Through this program I also gained a support system of scholars and potential mentors that are encouraging me on my path to becoming a physician.  

During your time at an internship make sure to actively listen and to connect with your presenters and peers because they offer invaluable advice and support. Even if it is a virtual experience, you are able to connect with others if you put your part and they put theirs. When searching for internships, try to find something related to your career choice but also your passion. I knew I wanted to apply to an internship in the health field, whilst learning about health disparities. Through Prep Medico, I learned about the importance of public health and the social determinants of health such as education, environment and food access and how these contribute to health inequalities. Therefore, I am now considering taking a gap year before medical school to pursue an MPH (Master’s in public health).

I would like to thank my SRA advisor Christy Howard for informing me about this internship. I also want to thank the Prep Medico team and coordinators for creating and converting this internship into a virtual experience. Before this program it was always “if” but now I am certain that it is “when” I attend medical school.