First-gen School of Molecular Sciences undergraduate on path to becoming a physician

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Oscar Ramos, an Arizona native and first-generation college student, is wrapping up his final semester at Arizona State University's School of Molecular Sciences as a biochemistry major. Ramos is involved with the Latinos in Science and Engineering organization on campus, where he serves as the second-year secretary for the club. This club has allowed him to grow both personally and professionally into a Latino leader.

Ramos also enjoys giving back to his community through volunteering. He volunteers at an elementary after-school STEM club in Mesa, Arizona. His focus is to serve as a mentor for young individuals, who he hopes will gain a passion and love for the sciences and in the future also join a career within the STEM field.

In addition, Ramos — who is learning French and Portuguese — enjoys learning about new cultures and languages. 

Question: What college accomplishments are you most proud of?

Answer: Having the opportunity to conduct research at two prestigious institutions makes me very proud. In the summer of 2018 I was evaluating the effectiveness of a new method for detecting the rate of false alarms in cardiac ECG (electrocardiogram) monitors at the University of Michigan Medical School. I learned a lot of new things during my time there and had the chance to get out of my comfort zone to learn something new.

Last year, I worked in a lab at the National Institutes of Health, which is the largest funding agency of biomedical research in the world. I have to say this experience was pretty incredible! This place is huge, and everyone working there is conducting research on just any topic you could think about. I was in a biochemistry and genetics lab working on a protein that is known to be expressed in cancer cells. I was developing yeast as a model to study the mechanism of this protein in further detail, to be used as an alternative to using human cell lines or other models.

Q: How has being a part of the School of Molecular Sciences at ASU helped propel you in your career?

A: I have had great professors who have been willing and eager to help out with my classes. They have shown their passion for science, and I appreciate that a lot. I think that showing passion for your field and demonstrating that eagerness to help others is important for fields where you work directly with people. Going into medicine, I want to do the same thing for my patients. Seeing how my professors demonstrated their concern for my success is something that I want to take with me into medicine, where my patients can also see my passion for helping them live healthier lives.

Q: How do you plan to make a difference after you graduate?

A: In my journey toward pursuing medicine, I want to start by making a difference in my community. Arizona as a whole is lacking enough physicians to treat our aging and underserved populations. Maryvale, especially, needs physicians who can understand them and connect with them to build that trust between provider and patient. This community is often overlooked by physicians because the majority of the population is uninsured and low-income, so there is not much opportunity for them to go into private practice. This area of Phoenix faces significant health disparities, especially since the majority are from a minority background and low income. I see it every day, and I think that it’s pretty absurd that people are facing these health disparities in a first-world country.

As a future physician, I plan to deliver exceptional care and reduce those health disparities in my community. Using my language skills, I also see myself serving abroad on medical missions in impoverished countries to extend that care to others in need.

Q: Do you have any tips for other undergrad students?

A: Don’t focus so much on having the perfect grades. Most people think that grades will open doors for you, but the real world doesn’t use GPAs. I think that building yourself as a person who can effectively communicate, make a connection with someone and take initiative is much more valuable than being a 4.0 student. You can’t get these things from a classroom; you have to go out into the community and interact with people, help those who are in need. So I say to devote some of your time to volunteering doing something you enjoy and stick to it. It will teach you so much and make you grow as a person.

Written by Mariela Lozano, communications assistant, School of Molecular Sciences. Jenny Green contributed to this story.