Mexican-American medical student Brenda Perez, 24, was the first in her family to go to college and struggled through the stresses of her pre-med studies. When she started as an international medical student at the Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara, she had no idea how challenging her path to residency would be.
“International medical graduates have little chance of being matched to their first choice of U.S. residency,” said Jayline Perez, Brenda’s younger sister.
“(Brenda) deserves more,” Jayline said of her sister. “She has fueled me through everything. It’s not her fault that she didn’t have an older sister or someone else to guide her (in her higher-education decision).”
So Jayline Perez, 20, a senior majoring in biology at Roosevelt University who aims to be a surgeon, did something about it.
Jayline and Brenda are helping launch a mentorship program at Rush University Medical Center. The program — RU Ready MedSchool Boot Camp — is slated to launch in August and will prepare students for medical school through the five pillars of pre-med readiness: Volunteerism, leadership, research, clinical experience and community service. Jayline, who has been involved in the Rush Education and Career Hub (REACH) programs since 2017 and has participated in the MedSTEM Pathways and College Career Pathways programs, initiated the idea with Rukiya Curvey Johnson, who leads the REACH program.
“Mentorship to brown and Black students, first-generation students and students from all walks of life is so important,” Jayline said, “because they deserve to live their dream and have someone to rely on in their pre-med journey.”
“When I looked for a mentor, I wanted someone who truly took action about inclusiveness and diversity,” she added.
She reached out to 40 doctors and connected with surgical oncologist Rosalinda Alvarado, MD. “Being able to job-shadow a surgical oncologist was special because it truly reminded me of my deceased abuelo, Lupe, who died from cancer and who raised my sisters and me while my parents worked at a factory all day,” she added.
Now, Jayline’s goal is to serve her community — Latinx and African-American people — and encourage others to do the same.
The power of REACH
“I have this inner voice telling me, ‘You need to represent brown and Black people, to be a doctor for other people who need access to health care.’”
Rush Education Academic Career Hub (REACH) participant Jayline Perez, who is thrilled the program is giving her learning experiences to help prepare her for a career in health care.
In just the last 12 months, REACH has:
- Served 3,000 students from pre-K through college
- Provided interns with 25,860 paid, work-based learning hours
- Achieved 100% postsecondary enrollment (2- to 4-year college or military) with 92% pursuing STEM or Health Sciences majors REACH is an initiative of the Rush BMO Institute for Health Equity.