My Journey Through College Extracurriculars in the Pre-Health Track
As a minority female and the child of first-generation American citizens, I know the value of true hard work and sacrifice to pursue the American dream. I enrolled in the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) to make my academic and professional goals a reality, and to hopefully give back to my parents through my success.
Ever since my freshman semester, I have had an extremely positive experience. This was particularly true following my induction into the UTSA College of Public Policy's Pathway to Health Professions Program, and that initial offering evolved my future career, networking and leadership opportunities. During my one and a half years in the program, I was given numerous opportunities to expand my public speaking and researching capabilities, and I even received certification as a community health worker through the UTSA/Texas A&M University's Colonias Program and the Texas Health and Human Services Department. I was able to collaborate with researchers, directors and program leaders in the pharmaceutical sciences and community health industries, which formed my understanding of health-related careers.
Through that program, I hosted and managed a community-wide health fair at the UTSA Downtown campus, where my team and I served the San Antonio residents of the downtown area. Later that summer, I participated in the Pathway to Health Professions' Program's Medical Ethics Capstone course, where we discussed and gave speeches on our consultations of hypothetical patient case studies. That experience not only gave me a deeper understanding of medical consultations, but it also opened my eyes to another style of public speaking. Even though the UTSA Pathway to Health Professions' Program had to unfortunately end due to funding issues, I am very grateful for all of the activities that I was able to participate in, which prepared me for a role as a peer health mentor and educator for UTSA's Student Health Services Department.
Over the past year, I have been a peer health mentor and educator for my university's health education program, where I have publicly spoken to over 1,200 college students about relevant health topics. The topics included preventing the spread of influenza, reducing tobacco use and managing financial health. As a peer health mentor, I served as a resource and leader for the UTSA community, developed health education activities and materials for weekly health topics, conducted outreach to students, promoted healthy behaviors, and created and presented my own outreach presentation on the dangers of Adderall abuse on college campuses.
During this summer, I interned for the Texas Biomedical Research Institute and the Chromosome 18 Registry and Research Society and gained significant leadership and networking skills. I am a hard-worker and I love time management, so handling two internships among other tasks allowed me to perform my best.
Due to the recent pandemic, I also launched my own virtual volunteer project called "HERO Cards", which are cards of gratitude sent to health care and research facilities in San Antonio for essential and frontline workers. In just over nine weeks, my team and I have made partnerships with almost 30 healthcare and research institutions in Texas and received over 3,500 cards from 152 volunteers.
I am truly grateful for all of the extracurricular opportunities that I took part in, since I am a more well-rounded person with the new skills I developed. I plan to continue expanding my knowledge base as I participate in more volunteer, leadership and internship roles, and I know that my ambition will lead to something great. I encourage other students to take on extracurriculars in college whenever possible, because these programs can give you a fuller picture of your career path and help you develop strong skills that will help you in the future.
About the writer: Dewan Protiva is a current senior at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She is majoring in microbiology and immunology with a concentration in pre-health studies. She launched a virtual volunteer project called "HERO Cards: Providing Thanks to Essential Workers" in June 2020, and is also an intern for the Leadership and Volunteer Services Department at her university. In her free time, Dewan enjoys painting, spending time with her family and playing with her cat.
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