Mr. Collazo participated in SHPEP in 2018 at Western University of Health Sciences. Today, he is a medical student (M1) at Ponce Health Sciences University School of Medicine in Puerto Rico.

What path did you take when you first started college?

When I started college, I was interested in the allied health professions, but also interested in biological sciences. Following my interests in biological sciences, I enrolled at the University of Puerto Rico-Humacao to study biology. During my undergraduate studies, I was exposed to volunteer work in clinical settings and shadowing opportunities with physicians that increased my interest in the health professions.

What led to your interest in a health profession?

Volunteer work in clinical settings led to my interest in the health professions. One day, I visited the Puerto Rico Children’s Hospital where I had the opportunity to interact with the patients. During my time there, I witnessed a trusting and kind patient-doctor interaction that inspired me to pursue a career in medicine. Participating in SHPEP at Western University of Health Sciences also solidified my goal of becoming a physician.

Who are what inspired you?

My family has been a great inspiration. They taught me values that have helped me fulfill my goals. I come from a family who truly cares for others and are always helping people. This is fundamental for me and will help me become a health professional who puts the needs of patients first.

What obstacles did you overcome in your educational or career journey?

I had to overcome the destruction that hurricane Maria caused in 2017. One of the most affected areas was Humacao County, Puerto Rico, where my school was located. The University of Puerto Rico-Humacao was the most affected campus in PR. The infrastructure was severely damaged which left us with no electricity which made studying difficult. I could only study during sunlight hours. Facing challenges with the hurricane and now the COVID pandemic, I was determined, disciplined, and composed enough to overcome these obstacles which made me stronger and more focused on the path ahead of me. Thanks to the support of my family, friends, and the faculty at UPR-Humacao, I was able to continue my studies and surpass those difficult times.

What are some of your recent milestones?

One of my most recent milestones was earning my Bachelor of Science in biology with honors from the University of Puerto Rico-Humacao. It was a difficult process with many challenges, but thanks to the support of my family, friends, and school faculty, I was able to fulfill my goal. Also, being accepted into an US medical school is a milestone for which I am very grateful; a dream for me!

What makes your story unique?

Determination and resilience have been part of my journey constantly. Coming from Puerto Rico, during my years as an undergraduate, I had to overcome challenges such as hurricane Maria, earthquakes, and the pandemic. These events, despite being very difficult, allowed me to become an extremely resilient person and improved my ability to adapt in difficult times. Overcoming these challenges allowed me to develop more empathy to better connect with and help others. I have learned that times of hardship can help people find strength to achieve goals.

What surprised you the most about graduate/health professional school?

I have been impressed by the level of professionalism, the trust demonstrated by faculty and administration for every student, and the resources available to help me achieve my goal of becoming a healthcare professional. Also, the diverse student body. Everyone works to improve every day so that we can give the best to patients in the future.

Do you remember your first day of graduate studies? What memory stands out the most?

It was a day of a lot of excitement. Meeting all the medical students in my class was a joyful moment. Getting to know my peers for the first time and receiving a warm welcome from school faculty and administration will be a memory that I will not forget.

What has been your favorite part of the process? The most difficult?

My favorite part of the process is reflecting upon the progress I have made. Overcoming challenges and realizing that the journey to achieving a goal, is what fosters growth. The most difficult part of my journey was going through the medical school admissions process during the COVID pandemic. However, with support, focus, and determination, I was able to complete the process successfully.

What is the best career advice you have received?

To always work to improve yourself day-by-day. Never compare yourself to others. Work to become a better professional while developing the necessary skills to be the best version of you. We are all different and take different paths to reach our goals.

What advice do you have for students pursuing a health professional career.

Always do your best, not matter what. Ask questions and look for opportunities and resources that can help. Opportunities, such as SHPEP, are a life-changing experiences that will help you be better prepared. You can do this!

Posted: September 2021