Recent Grand Terrace High School graduate Oasis Perez plans to one day become a medical researcher and professor. She’s getting a great start as one of only 15 students chosen for the highly competitive Apprenticeship Bridge to College (ABC) internship program at Loma Linda University.
Oasis, the only CJUSD student in the program this year, was chosen from a pool of about 90 applicants. The eight- week internship focuses on health disparities – a look at why minority and underserved populations are at greater risk of certain diseases. It also aims to encourage students from diverse backgrounds to consider a career in the field of medicine.
“The mission of the center is to increase diversity in the biomedical field,” noted Daniela Soto Wilder, manager of the program. “Surrounding them with people who have the same goal motivates them and lets them know, you can do it!”
Students have an opportunity to get first-hand experience with a wide variety of medical careers and practices. Students practice scientific writing, attend lectures focused on health disparities, and also get an opportunity to work with a Loma Linda University professor in a lab alongside graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. It’s a chance for students like Oasis not only to gain valuable experience, but also to explore careers they may not have considered simply because they did not know they existed.
“This gives them a hands-on, supervised opportunity to do research,” said Dr. Kylie Watts, Associate Professor of Basic Sciences in the Division of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at Loma Linda University. Oasis works in Dr. Watts’ lab.
Oasis, who graduated as a top student at GTHS this past June, will attend UC Irvine in the fall and major in biology. Although she has loved science since taking a biology class her freshman year in high school, this summer’s experience inspired her to pursue a career in research and education. She would like to follow in the footsteps of Dr. Watts, she said.
Oasis said she has appreciated learning about how socioeconomic factors, such as a poor diet or lack of access to quality healthcare unevenly impact some communities.
“I never understood how much it impacts,” she said.
She also has enjoyed getting to know the fascinating world of bacteria and all that goes on inside a little petri dish. She also likes having the opportunity to work with and learn from Dr. Watts.
Dr. Watts said she enjoys working with students like Oasis as well. “They’re excited and that makes it fun to teach them,” she said. “It’s fun to see them get excited about DNA.”