Alan Tran’s initial interest in biological sciences was influenced by a life-changing experience during high school when he was a volunteer at the front desk of Kaiser Permanente in Fremont.
“I have one very specific memory that has stuck with me all these years,” Alan recollects. “There was a patient who needed to be transported to a shuttle to take her back to her senior living home. I assisted in wheeling her out to the pick up spot, and while I waited for the shuttle with her we had a long conversation. I don’t remember anything significant about the conversation, but I do remember it was a good one. The shuttle came and our conversation ended and she left, but not before telling me how much she appreciated my company and conversation.
“Afterward I thought to myself, ‘I didn’t really do anything but talk to her and wheel her to the shuttle stop.’ Regardless, I think this experience guided me to search for a profession where I can have meaningful conversations with people while helping them out in any way that I can.”
Yet, Alan didn’t feel quite ready to apply to medical school after graduating from UC Riverside with his biology degree. He needed some time, guidance from his family and an educational boost to his résumé.
“After college, I was faced with the question most graduates ask themselves: Now that I am entering the ‘real world,’ what should I do next?
“In my heart, I knew that I still wanted to pursue health care but I wasn’t sure if I was ready. The summer before my senior year of college, I had taken an EMT course and was nationally certified to work as an EMT. I began working on an ambulance for Rural/Metro. I worked there for about a year; met amazing people and had a wonderful experience, but I knew deep down I wanted more,” he says.
“As I sat in the ambulance, I was always curious about the patients’ diagnoses, and I knew I wanted to take the next step.”
When it became clear that he still wanted a career in medicine, Alan asked a cousin who was in medical school for advice. She told him to become a scribe—a position he had never heard of before.
“Little did I know this position would change my fate,” Alan says. “I was a scribe in the Emergency Department at O’Connor Hospital in San Jose. It was here that I solidified my decision to pursue medical school. I met so many amazing physicians and was able to learn so much. I truly enjoyed my time but what I appreciated most were my coworkers who were also pursuing similar dreams.”
And it was that work camaraderie that led Alan to us.
“I truly believe that attending this program had a huge role in my path to medical school.”
Becoming His Best Self
Alan had reluctantly shared his concern with one of his coworkers about how he felt his undergraduate résumé did not reflect his best. The coworker told him that she had a similar story, and she had just gotten into medical school. Her advice to help Alan achieve his goal: Enroll in a post-baccalaureate program.
“I applied to post-bacc programs in the area and was accepted into UC Berkeley Extension’s Post-Baccalaureate Health Professions Program,” he enthuses. “Also, UC Berkeley is an exceptional institution so I knew if I had the opportunity to learn from the best instructors, I had to take it!”
One of the things Alan found really appealing about our health professions program is its flexibility: “I appreciated that there was a formal program in place, but I needed the opportunity to pick and choose which classes to retake. As an academic enhancer and not a career-changer, my undergraduate degree had placed restrictions on which classes I could retake.”
Of the courses, Alan highlights our Organic Chemistry I course, which he took with Dr. Peter Stonebraker in the spring of 2017. “I would not be where I am today without Dr. Stonebraker. As many premed students can attest to, organic chemistry is a difficult subject. I, too, was a victim of its difficulty during my undergraduate years, so this was one of the classes I had to retake.
“After the first day of that class, I wanted to withdraw,” he continues. “Defeated, I approached Dr. Stonebraker and told him I didn’t know if I could succeed in this class and that I had plans of going to medical school. He pleaded with me to give it another shot. I agreed to stay in the class and push onward. I ended up doing well in the class, and Dr. Stonebraker wrote me a letter of recommendation.
“During my interview for A.T. Still University of Health Sciences, the interviewer told me that he already knew everything he needed to know about me because of Dr. Stonebraker’s letter.”
Not only did our instructors help Alan achieve his educational and professional goals, but our program staff also aided in keeping Alan on track for success. Before he started the health professions program, Alan met with an academic adviser who was extremely helpful in guiding him to the next steps in order to achieve his dream.
Because of his experience with our advising staff, Alan shares these three areas of advice for others who are considering returning to school:
“Continue to network and look for new opportunities. We often have our own ways of doing things and we sometimes think that our way is the only way. This is not true! There are many ways to accomplish the same goal, and it’s important to surround yourself with the right people who can help you achieve your goal.
“It’s also equally important to self-reflect and know your strengths and weaknesses. After you identify your strengths and weaknesses, remain determined and work on them daily in order to amplify your strengths and eliminate your weaknesses.
“Above all else, believe in yourself! That is the single most important thing to achieving your goals.”
Of his own renewed confidence in his academic résumé, Alan says, “In many of my medical school interviews, we talked about my experience in the post-bacc health program, and I truly believe that attending this program had a huge role in my path to medical school.”
On His Way to Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine
Alan ultimately decided on A.T. Still University of Health Sciences because he appreciated their “1 + 3 education model” where students receive earlier clinical exposure.
“I do believe that this extra clinical experience has benefitted my development as a future physician,” he attests. “I also appreciated that A.T. Still University is an interdisciplinary institution, which I believe is important because health care is a multidimensional field, and it is necessary for all disciplines to work together to provide comprehensive patient care.”
Comprehensive is another way to describe Alan’s future goals, as well.
“I am planning to do primary care, and I am interested in specializing in sports and sleep medicine,” he says. “I hope to come back home to complete residency and serve the community that I was raised in. However, I am open to any residency program that can help me become a multidimensional, compassionate and better physician.
“As a health professional, my goal is to have my own practice and open clinics in underserved areas that will provide full-spectrum care to those in need. I would love to work with immigrant, homeless and disadvantaged communities to help improve their quality of life.”
Alan’s professional goals carry over into his personal ones, too. “A personal goal of mine is not only to be the best doctor I can be, but also the funniest and best dressed—just kidding! Another personal goal I have—one I've had since I was young—is to strive to become a better son, brother, friend and person every day.”
That all comes back to the gratitude he has for anyone who has helped and encouraged him along the way and he hopes to convey this in his future practice. “All you need is for one person to believe in you and the things you can achieve are infinite. Special thanks to my parents, my brothers, my family, my friends and everyone who has believed in me and helped me along this journey. None of this would be possible without you.”