Thank You For Being Such A Vital Part Of Our Team, Ivan. We Look Forward To Sharing More About You So Others Can Get To Know You Better!
Tell us a bit about your backstory and what lead you down your current life path.
I was born in San Jose, CA to hardworking immigrant parents. Raising me in a low-income household, my parents stressed the importance of education as a path toward financial independence. As a result, I became the first in my family to graduate from college (at Yale of all places!). During the 2020 pandemic summer, I volunteered as a teaching fellow at Breakthrough Silicon Valley and realized how much I loved working with students with a similar background to mine. At the same time, at Yale, I was highly involved in HAVEN, a student-run free clinic for low-income patients in the New Haven area. Because of these two integral experiences, I have decided to apply to medical school this year to become a future physician who utilizes his platform to advocate for community health by addressing the intersection between education and medicine.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career?
Mariana, who was a medical student I worked with at HAVEN Free Clinic. She exemplifies someone who is selfless and invested in her patients’ longitudinal care. Not only did she serve as the clinic’s executive director, but she would also spend hours after clinic hours delivering PPE, at-home COVID-19 tests, and medications to patients who had difficulties getting to the clinic. At the same time, she was always thinking about how we could better advocate for our patients outside of the clinic. For example, she would testify in front of the city council and policymakers to urge them to expand Medicaid and Medicare to undocumented immigrants.
What is one thing you are most proud of achieving in your life?
I am proud of persevering despite the odds. Getting into Yale was a momentous achievement, but it was also scary to leave my friends and family behind to attend a school across the country. It was lonely and stressful, and imposter syndrome hit me like a truck. There were many moments when I just wanted to drop out of college. But seeing my parents’ faces light up when I walked across the stage on graduation day made it all worth it. In the end, I came out stronger and feel more confident in my ability to achieve my future goals.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I am grateful for my grandma who has always had my back. Growing up, because my parents had to work long hours to pay the bills, my grandma was my primary caretaker. For 16 years, she gave me unconditional love and asked for nothing in return. She was my biggest supporter and was always the first to congratulate me on my achievements. In this way, she instilled in me the confidence to tackle the challenges I face in life head-on. While she has since passed away, her unwavering belief in me continues to drive me forward.
What do you enjoy most about teaching/tutoring?
What I enjoy most about being an educator is being there for my students’ “Aha!” moments. It’s so exciting when a concept finally clicks in a student’s head, and I am grateful every time to have that opportunity to facilitate the moment. In addition, I love it when my students are able to give me a fresh perspective on things. I love being challenged by a student and getting to say, “Wow, I never thought about it that way.”
What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to spend my free time doing things that nourish my soul. This includes spending time with my partner and our dog Apollo, whether that means lounging around on a lazy Sunday or going hiking outdoors in warmer weather. At the same time, I also love to explore food – not only exploring the different cuisines around Chicago but also spending time on new recipes in the kitchen. Other things that I like to do include reading books that provide new perspectives and also playing video games – one of the few ways I can continue to connect with my friends back on the West Coast.
Tell us about an amazing trip you took. Where did you go and what did you enjoy most?
In the summer of 2019, I attended the CET Beijing program in Beijing, China. There, I not only learned advanced vocabulary and grammar in Mandarin but also immersed myself in Chinese culture. Conversing with my roommate who studied traditional art history, I learned about China’s rich cultural and political history and gained an intimate local perspective on China’s current political state. While at times our differing viewpoints clashed, these valuable conversations encouraged open-mindedness in my own perspective, a trait that has become central to my personal philosophy. At the same time, I soaked in different Chinese customs and interacted often with locals. One memorable conversation I had with a family of rural apple farmers on a packed train to Xi’an. From them, I learned about the wide differences in wealth from rural to urban areas in China. In turn, I embraced their curiosity about U.S. politics and my college lifestyle. These cultural exchanges had an invaluable impact on me.
Is there something exciting you are working on now? What is it and why did you choose to start it?
One thing that I’m working on that excites me is learning Spanish. My girlfriend is Mexican, and I always get embarrassed when I can’t communicate with her mom because of our language barrier. So this year, I’ve been steadily learning Spanish so that we can eventually have meaningful conversations. It’s been slow progress so far, but I’m excited about the opportunity to communicate with Senora Rico, who is such a lively person. Also, learning Spanish will allow me to better connect with my students and future patients who come from Spanish-speaking households.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? What is it and why did it resonate with you?
One book that I cherish is When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. It is an autobiographical novel of sorts, but mostly the philosophical musings of a burgeoning neurosurgeon, who on the verge of the end of his residency, is diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Kalanithi is an extraordinary writer, and it was really interesting to learn about death and dying from both someone who has experienced being both a provider and a patient. It definitely helped me towards making peace with my grandma’s unexpected death.
The road to success is difficult and requires tremendous dedication. What advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
The single piece of advice that I would give to someone who would want to follow in my footsteps is to be genuine and true to yourself. While being genuine to yourself and to others may be difficult, doing so has allowed me to build a circle of close, lifelong friends and also focus my energy on carving out my own path in life. As humans, we have only one life to live. Don’t waste time and energy vying for acceptance from people who don’t care about you or pursuing goals that aren’t your own. Instead, take the time to self-reflect and understand what it is you truly want.
Please share your favorite Life Lesson quote. How is it relevant to your life?
“Every possibility is a binary. It either happens or it doesn’t. Life is about what you do when the coin lands on tails when you wanted heads.” – Unknown.
I don’t remember when I first saw this quote. But oddly, since I’ve first seen it, I’ve never been able to forget it. When I am anxious or overwhelmed or stressed about something that feels out of my control, I lean on this quote to help me refocus my energy toward my next action. This mindset has helped me perceive rejection as a window of opportunity to grow into my truest self. It’s a mantra that has come in handy throughout my life: when I didn’t get a scholarship I applied to, when I was rejected from countless jobs, and most recently when things haven’t been going my way during the medical school admissions process. I know what my goals are. Every rejection is just a stepping stone in the process of achieving them.