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CYFAMilya Stories

Monica Villegas

Region: 1N

Current level in training/school: First year med student at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine

Interests in medicine: family medicine/emergency medicine

Hobbies: I love watching True Crime documentaries, going to museums, and looking for a good ice cream spot

Highlights: I'm currently doing research in a lab that looks at these neuroprotective cells in relation to diseases of the eye like diabetic retinopathy or retinitis pigmentosa. As someone who has diabetes running in the family and whose relatives have lost their vision due to complications of their diabetes, this research is personal and gives me an opportunity to look into a therapeutic solution for the future.

What are some challenges you faced in your medical journey as a FilAm?

As a First Gen immigrant, I had to navigate this new country with a language barrier and adjust into this new life alongside my parents. I think the greatest challenge has been the application process, more so for college, because they simply didn't know how it all worked. In addition, I took a few gap years to get clinical experience and also got a Masters to make my application more competitive and there was a lot of back and forth during this time, because my parents couldn't understand why I wasn't in medical school just yet.

What aspect of being FilAm helped you in your medical journey?

All the Filipino values (family, hard work, loyalty - are some) helped me stay grounded and level-headed during the application process and in my first year of medical school. I think the biggest one that comes to mind is resilience. I watched a talk by a Latinx doctor and he said "your culture has given you everything you need to succeed," and I really do believe that the Filipino culture is one of the greatest tools I have that is going to help me become a great doctor.

Why do you want to help the FilAm community?

My parents, especially my mom, taught me to always give back even when you don't have much to give. So with that always in mind, I want to help the FilAm community however I can, in this case for now, with mentorship. I want more medical students to look like me and then provide guidance and encouragement when needed, because it's quite the long road.

What is one advice you would give to a FilAm pre-med student? A FilAm medical student?

To a pre-med: If this is what you really want to do, not your family or parents, then stick to it. I did it, so you can do it too!

To a med student: Always remember why you are doing what you are doing. It will get you back on the right path each time.

Geoff Bocobo

Region: Northeast

Level: MS2 at Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences

Interests in Medicine: Specialty hopefully TBD once I do my clinical rotations this upcoming year! I do know that I always want to make an impact outside of purely clinical medicine/direct patient care (e.g. healthcare innovation initiatives)

Hobbies: Listening to Foreign Family Collective’s music & Attending their artists’ concerts- sometimes the only thing that can get me through my Anki & QBanks is throwing a little Odesza on Spotify | Trying new cuisine and regional trademark food favorites- fyi I am from Philly, so ping me and I’ll tell you where to actually get the best cheesesteaks… | Critiquing an eclectic variety of cinematography- been enjoying Guy Ritchie movies as of late | Basketball- always down for a game of pickup or to talk shop about the NBA | Golf- probably what kept me sane during the pandemic, besides Warzone :)

Highlights: On my way to medical school, I cofounded a medical device startup that is funded by venture capital & angel investors; now we are in clinical trials at Beth Israel/HMS in Boston | I am performing breast cancer research right now, though during my gap years I studied a signaling pathway wherein both a cardiopulmonary and musculoskeletal disease were implicated | I am a former college Track & Field athlete, looking to eventually overcome a herniated disc and get back out there. I’d love to compete in some regional meets…the dream would be to represents the PI someday at the SEA Games


I believe having a large extended family that includes doctors both back home, and in the US was certainly influential in my FilAm medical journey. 

In addition, I think there’s so much healthcare innovation going on in the US, that in retrospect, it makes me see how much we can improve healthcare in the Philippines as well - so much unmet needs that I have seen firsthand there. 

It is pretty simple: I want to help my FilAm community since we are connected on a uniquely deep level due to our familial roots. In addition, and on the other hand, I want to connect with you all so I can get more in touch with the culture that I come from (since I grew up in the States and have only been back to the PI a few times). 

Two I can think of: there’s so many FilAm Docs out there - reach out to them and they will certainly help you along the way! I think that is something this community can certainly leverage in the near future, anyhow (mentorship goes a long way and has been indispensable in my journey thus far). Also not specific to being FilAm, but for those premeds out there- apply early! I did not know how much of a negative impact me being “complete" in late September would have on my application cycle! 

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