ASU grad prepares for career helping people navigate the health industry

Monday, May 3, 2021

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.

After she graduates this spring, Monica Medina hopes to continue doing what she spent her last few years at Arizona State University doing: helping people. 

Medina, who is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in health sciences with a concentration in health policy from the College of Health Solutions, has spent the last two years involved with ASU Undergraduate Student Government Downtown, serving first as a senator and then this year’s vice president of services. 

“I was one of the co-founders of student government at my high school, so I’ve always had a passion for wanting to help others advocate and bridge the gap between students and administration,” Medina said. 

Medina also felt proud to help improve student life on the ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus and has even made some of her best friends in USG. 

“I think it’s just a great community of people who have the same interests and passions, and it’s just a great little family,” she said

Medina said that being in student government during the pandemic has perhaps been one of her most rewarding experiences. She spent the year working to get students engaged, even virtually, and helping first-year students adjust to college life in the context of the pandemic. 

In addition to USG, the Prescott, Arizona, native was part of Barrett, The Honors College, worked as a Devils’ Advocate and was asked to serve on the student advisory committee for the newest residence hall on the Downtown Phoenix campus. As she prepared to graduate, Medina shared her reflections on her time at ASU and advice for current Sun Devils. 

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: I had originally started as a medical studies major, because I wanted to be a doctor, but then as I progressed, I wasn’t doing as well in those classes. I changed my major to health policy, and I just narrowed down what I really wanted to focus on, and that was helping people and helping them navigate the health care system. 

In the United States it’s very troublesome and very difficult to try and get help when you need it. After working in a pharmacy, I had experienced students, people our age and people older than us, kind of being taken advantage of by insurance companies. It was terrible, so I decided to go into health policy and health sciences to figure out a path to kind of guide people and help them with their health care.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: Something that I learned is that you can’t help everyone. There are some cases where there’s nothing you can do, and it’s finding that balance of doing what you can. They also have to meet you halfway, in essence, because you can only help those who want to help themselves as well.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because it was close to home. When I toured the downtown campus, I fell in love with it. It felt like home because it was small enough that I didn’t feel overwhelmed to walk into class or overwhelmed being surrounded by the 70,000 students that we have at ASU; instead it was only about 10,000. 

In the middle of Phoenix, you don’t feel like you’re on a college campus, and I like that sense of independence, and I just like the community aspect. I can walk down Taylor Mall for class and I can see the same familiar faces who are also going to class at that time. You just learn to recognize those people, and it’s nice.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: My freshman-year chemistry professor, Dr. (Doug) Sawyer, was a great professor. I really enjoyed his class, and he taught me the importance of loving what you do. 

He would always joke every single class, and he would say “OK, so here we are, and I see some of you guys still aren’t chemistry majors but it’s OK, we’ll change that.” And he always had a passion for chemistry. He always wanted to share that with you. 

His office hours are always open, and when you went, he had a smile on his face and if you asked a question he would get excited and be like, “OK, let’s go over the different ways that we can explain this.” I think what I learned from him is that if you have a passion for what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Enjoy your time. I am graduating in three years, half of them being during a pandemic, and I would say, take time to enjoy the little things. Even if you don’t enjoy going to the dining hall, you never know when the last time you will eat at the dining hall is. You don’t know the last time that you’ll hang out with a certain friend because friendships change and fluctuate, so just enjoy the little things and take time to soak it all in.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? 

A: Oh, I think we always met up in the USG-D office, even if none of us had office hours, and we would just be in there hanging out. That was my favorite spot because it was secluded a little bit in the basement of the Post Office.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I’m hoping to go to law school, but I might be taking a gap year just to figure out if law school is for me, or if there’s another graduate program that I can do. I’m trying to take a pause and figure out the rest of my life.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would want to work on menstrual equality. Being a person who menstruates, I know how expensive products are, and I would want to ensure that those who menstruate have access to products that can help them and don’t cost an arm and a leg. 

Written by Marisol Ortega, ASU Student Life