Blindness has impacted my family throughout many generations. At the age of 8, I witnessed my Grandfather lose his vision due to his diabetes. His father, too, had lost his vision as a result of the same condition. I became extremely frustrated when I realized that this pattern of vision loss in my family could not be attributed to a hereditary condition, but rather to a lack of health and nutrition education; their vision loss could have been prevented with proper health care. At this young age, I was already becoming impassioned to learn how to prevent others from experiencing the detrimental effects of vision loss.
My own lived experiences have served as the inspiration and motivation to actively pursue my dreams. I come from a traditional Mexican family and I am the youngest of five siblings. An industrious work ethic and empathetic worldview was instilled at me at a young age. My journey to where I am today has not been without its challenges. I graduated from a low-performing high school and attended a competitive university. I worked 2 part-time jobs all while being enrolled full time at UC Santa Barbara. After committing a year to service with the non-profit City Year, I was ready and more determined than ever to pursue my vision board dream of attending optometry school. I am currently a third-year optometry student and have integrated myself into the campus community by remaining highly active in the American Optometric Student Association (AOSA), AOA-PAC, Student Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (SVOSH), among other extracurricular activities. I took the first step to realizing my dreams and effecting change by being the first person in my family to pursue a higher education in the medical field. Every day I am grateful for the opportunities that have been afforded to me that have allowed me to be in the position I am today.
Being a Latina female in the optometry field has been such a privilege. The patient demographic at our Eye Institute is predominantly Hispanic. Not only am I able to communicate with patients in Spanish, but I am also able to empathize and understand their culture thanks to my first-hand experience. I am able to build rapport and trust with this population which allows me to further assist them with their medical inquiries. I am aware that it takes a lot of courage for the Latino population to seek health care services. As a result, I have come across patients with severe unresolved health issues and a plethora of questions regarding their current diagnoses. In these situations, I am eager to foster a culturally sensitive and educational dialogue. As a Hispanic health care worker, I will be able to serve as a valuable resource to the Hispanic community, work collaboratively, and address whole-person needs.
I have been fortunate to see the patients I work with thrive when equipped with proper resources and support. I want to continue to serve as an advocate to underserved communities like the one I grew up in. The lack of basic health education, lack of access to preventative health care, and my family’s own experiences continue to inspire me to become an optometrist. I want to be a visual health resource and help prevent ocular issues before they have adverse effects on people’s vision. Additionally, I am proud to represent a minority population in my field and would like to encourage and empower other young Hispanic women to pursue optometry as well.