Executive Student and Resident Committee - 2

Mericien Venzon, MD/PhD Trainee 
(She/Her/Hers)
Research Chair

Mericien is currently a 6th year MD-PhD/Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) student at New York University School of Medicine. She is wrapping up her PhD in immunology under the NIH Pre-doctoral Training Fellowship studying the interrelationships between the gut microbiome, host immune system, and intestinal parasites to identify new targets for treatment of human parasitic worm infections. A Bay Area native and UCLA alum, she loves animal fries, the beach, and looks forward to returning to California to pursue residency and fellowship training in infectious disease. Mericien was excited to be part of the founding student committee for CYFAM and is passionate about increasing awareness and participation of Filipinx in biomedical research through the annual conference symposium, seminars, and mentorship of undergrads to help them get started in research.

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Angela C. Arata
(She/Her/Hers)
Research Chair

Angela Arata is a Napa/Sonoma County native and second year medical student at the University of Florida College of Medicine. She serves as co-chair of CYFAM’s Research Committee and Southern Region. Angela is a former volunteer of the Mabuhay Health Center, a student-run free clinic in San Francisco, which is where she first got involved with CYFAM. As a non-traditional and first-generation college student, Angela is interested in mentorship and increasing diversity in medicine, which she hopes to bolster through work with CYFAM. Outside of school, Angela loves reading, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.

Sheena Faye Garcia
(She/Her/Hers)
Research Chair

Sheena Faye Garcia is a proud Filipino-Canadian biochemist and a fourth year PhD candidate in Biophysics and Molecular Oncology at NYU. Sheena graduated from the University of Toronto in 2018, double majoring in Biochemistry and Human Biology. In the Pagano lab at NYU, her PhD thesis utilizes structural biology, biochemical, and biophysical techniques to elucidate the mechanism of a protein complex implicated in non-small cell lung cancer with the hopes of helping develop a novel chemotherapeutic to ameliorate metastasis formation. Within CYFAM, Sheena aims to use her position in the Research Committee to help connect fellow pre-meds and medical students to seasoned researchers to help them gain both hands-on experience and hopefully a valuable mentor for life!

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Neille Apostol
(He/They/Siya)
Education Chair

Neille John Apostol is a premedical career changer based in Lakewood, California. As a first-generation immigrant born in Brussels, Belgium and raised in Pangasinan, Philippines, Neille John dedicates his time to uplifting the voices of the underserved and addressing health inequities through community engagement. He has a bachelors in arts and science in Biochemistry and French Literature from UCLA (C/O 2015). With his background in education, he hopes to create enriching learning opportunities for medical trainees and professionals through CYFAM. Outside of his full-time job as a clinical supplies manager, he likes to stay physically fit and study languages.

Lemuel Rivera
(He/Him/His)
Education Chair

Mr. Rivera is currently attending the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) School of Medicine and is a member of the San Joaquin Valley (SJV) PRIME program. He is one of the workshop coordinators for CYFAP (wohoo!). He is also the class president for his medical school, medical student coordinator for the Mabuhay Health Clinic, social chair for the Latino Medical Student Association, and a member of HealthLink. He is involved in several research projects with topics relating to alcohol use disorder, physical therapy management and acute trauma. He loves to play basketball and eating Jollibee (spaghetti!!). He hopes to be a physician for California's Central Valley, specifically in Fresno, to address some of the health inequities plaguing this region.

 

Mr. Rivera graduated from the California State University, Fresno as a Summa Cum Laude with his B.S. in Biochemistry and a minor in Anthropology. He was involved in undergraduate research studying neurodegenerative diseases, worked as an ER scribe at a county hospital, served as the student body representative for his college for three years, and volunteered at a local free health clinic. He also served as a facilitator for two different high school summer programs for three years and interned for UCLA's Summer Medical and Dental Educational Program in 2016.

 

Currently, I am interested in interventional cardiology.

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John Cruz
(He/Him/His)
Education Chair

Mr. John Cruz is a first-year medical student at UCSF School of Medicine and is a member of the PRIME Program. He was born in the Philippines and immigrated to the U.S. at a young age. He grew up in California’s Central Valley and graduated with a degree in Human Biology at UC Irvine.

 

As a family-oriented person, Mr. Cruz has always found joy in spending time with family, connecting with others, and building community with those around him. To practice self-care, he loves playing the drums, taking long walks in the morning, learning about and eating food from different cultures, and playing board games at night with friends until the sun comes up.

 

He is also extremely passionate about utilizing education and mentorship to create spaces that emphasize advocacy and diversity and intend on carrying these passions throughout his career. In college, Mr. Cruz was a mentor in the AntLeader Mentorship Program (AMP), a Biochemistry Learning Assistant, the coordinator for the Biology 2A Teaching Assistant Program, and the Founder and Lead Learning Assistant for the Human Biology Learning Assistant Program.

 

Growing up in under-resourced communities and working directly with those affected by natural disasters provided Mr. Cruz with a passion to pursue a career in medicine to care for the most vulnerable in his community. He was one of four students awarded with the UCI Undergraduate Student Great Partnership Award for his advocacy and mentorship work on and off-campus. For several years, he was the Patient Education and Resources (PEAR) chair at a Free Clinic, a Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT) Intern, a research associate for the Trauma Research Associates Program (T-RAP) at the UC Irvine Burn and Wound Clinic, and a worker for the National Phoenix Society World Burn Congress. He is currently interested in specialities that will allow him to provide comprehensive care to patients affected by burns (i.e. EM, trauma, disaster medicine, general surgery). Through CYFAM, Mr. Cruz is humbled by the opportunity to grow in his passion for Filipinx and Immigrant Health and is determined to represent and amplify the voices of those belonging to the Filipinx Community as a physician and community leader.

Sophia Anne Marie B. Villanueva
(She/Her/Hers)
Mentorship Chair

Sophia graduated from Eagle Rock High School and is a fourth-year majoring in Biochemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). As co-head of CYFAM's mentorship committee, she has helped organize the first of its kind national Filipino American mentorship program. The CYFAMilya Mentorship program looks to connect Filipino American pre-medical and medical students to a mentor that can help them navigate and shape their career in medicine. She is invested in growing the program to include and accommodate more students and physicians nationwide and to provide a sense of community, mentorship, and belonging for Filipino Americans in medicine.

At UCLA, Sophia is an undergraduate researcher in the Colwell Lab which focuses on circadian rhythms and sleep. By better understanding the basic biology of this timing system, their lab is studying new therapies to improve the quality of life of patients with neurological and psychiatric disorders and the people who care for them. She anticipates on continuing her work in the Colwell Lab during her gap year and potentially pursuing research in a medical scientist training program. She is the vice president for the UCLA Taekwondo team and served as the communications officer and treasurer in her second and third year, respectively. She is also a general member of the Pilipinos for Community Health (PCH), an organization that aims to improve the health literacy and outcomes of the Pilipino community as well as the greater Los Angeles area through its components of Preventive Health, Pre-Health Advising and Mentorship, and Community Outreach.

During high school, she played varsity tennis for two years and was involved in the swim team for one year. She was an active member of the 2018 Class Officers for multiple years and served as secretary in her senior year. She worked as a tutor at her local elementary school for three years and was an active volunteer in the Diabetes Center and Sterile Processing Unit of Glendale Memorial Hospital. In addition, she completed and received her diploma for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program.

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Philippe Labrias
(He/Him/His)
Mentorship Chair

Mr. Labrias is a fourth year medical student and an aspiring obstetrician/gynecologist at the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University. He is a first generation immigrant from the Philippines, first generation US college graduate and soon to be a first generation physician in his family. Currently in CYFAM, he is a mentorship co-chair where he is invested in shaping and managing the first-of-its-kind, virtual longitudinal Filipino-American mentorship program comprised of 97 pre-med and med student mentees and 25 physician mentors. He is also the 2021 Conference Co-coordinator for the 2nd Annual CYFAM Conference together with Irina Adao, MS1, with this year's conference theme as: "Ikaw, Ako, Tayo: Our Identities Interwoven" in order to celebrate the various intersectionalities of our identities that we Filipino/a/x Americans share as individuals, as doctors and doctors-in-training, and as a global community.

He is passionate about research with a track record of publications ranging from basic science zebrafish models to clinical research in multiple fields such as genetics, gastroenterology, general surgery, and gynecology. He is currently in a scholarly year studying the effects of steroid hormones, in vitro fertilization, and fertility medications on the maternal-fetal microbiome and health outcomes on mothers and their babies with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. He graduated magna cum laude and received departmental honors in biology for his undergraduate thesis also at Quinnipiac University, and while at Netter SOM, he was recognized with High Distinction in Clinical Research for his capstone project on osteoporosis and geriatric health promotion. He also founded Netter's Notes, a music in medicine interest group and raised money for local non-profit organizations and started "musical missions" where they visit local nursing homes and serenade elderly residents. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he became a student lead for the Crisis Text Line at his medical school and led a cohort who signed on to do a total of 2,800 hours of crisis counseling work. During his free time, he is training for the 2021 Hartford Marathon, sings karaoke with his friends and family, and plays Dance Dance Revolution recreationally.

Marycon Jiro
(She/Her/Hers)
Mentorship Chair

Marycon Jiro is an incoming third year medical student and masters student at the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program (JMP). She was born in Iloilo, Philippines and raised in Union City, CA, and her experiences from her environment informed her decision to join the Program in Medical Education for the Urban Underserved (PRIME-US), a program for medical students committed to serving marginalized communities in medicine. Driven by her passion in addressing systemic health inequities faced by disenfranchised communities, especially her Filipinx-American community, and tying in her interest in eliminating eye health disparities, her thesis under her masters degree in Health and Medical Sciences within the UC Berkeley School of Public Health focuses on understanding the needs and barriers of the San Francisco Bay Area Filipinx-American community in terms of eye care. Additionally, she is also a co-founder of the White Coats for Black Lives (WC4BL) Berkeley Chapter, medical coordinator at UCSF’s Ophthalmology Shelter Clinic and medical volunteer at the UCSF’s Mabuhay Health Center. Currently, she's interested in pursuing Ophthalmology. Her immigration experience, family and culture drive her to continue “lifting as she climbs” and prioritize serving her first generation, minority and disenfranchised communities as a medical student at at the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program (JMP) and PRIME-US. She continues this work as the Mentorship Co-Chair. In her spare time, she loves listening to music, playing tennis, singing, spending time out doors, going on adventures, reading, and cooking new meals!

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Justin Anthony Lopez
(He/Him/His)
Mentorship Chair

Justin (he/him/his) is a first-generation medical student (MS2) at UC San Francisco. He is currently interest in either Psychiatry, Ophthalmology, or Endocrinology. He is part of the UC Berkeley/UCSF Joint Medical Program where he will also obtain an MS degree. Justin is also part of UCSF's Program in Medical Education for the Urban Underserved (PRIME-US). As the first in his family to attend medical school — let alone a graduate college— from an intergenerational, working-class, non-health profession, immigrant family from the low-income community of South Sacramento, health equity is something that Justin cannot separate from medicine. He transferred from community college to UC Davis and graduated with a major in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. During undergrad, Justin was part of the student-run clinic Clínica Tepati where he experienced a transformative understanding of the conditions and disparities of the community he grew up in. During his gap years, Justin did a post-bacc, served for AmeriCorps in the Bay Area, and then led his local FQHC health education program back home in Sacramento. During these times, he involved himself in various community mentorship programs as both a mentee and mentor. Because of this, Justin comes to CYFAM excited to facilitate inter-organizational mentorship relations, improve the pipeline to medical school for minoritized communities, and strengthen his Filipinx identity amongst the nuance of the greater Filipinx diaspora. Apart from CYFAM, Justin is involved with White Coats for Black Lives, and the UCSF student-run clinics Mabuhay Health Center and Clínica Martín-Baró. During his spare time, Justin enjoys trying new foods, conversing in Spanish, learning new languages, growing cacti from seed, and skateboarding.

Monica Castillo, MD
(She/Her/Hers)
Regional Interest Chair

Monica Castillo is originally from the suburbs of Chicago and is currently a PGY-2 in Psychiatry within the Research Track at the University of California - San Diego. Monica was very involved in the Pilipino American Student Union (PASU) while an undergraduate at Stanford University and the Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association (APAMSA) while a medical student at Loyola Stritch School of Medicine. She wanted to continue to have a Filipinx community as a resident physician and is grateful to have found CYFAM. She was actually friends with her now Co-Chair Robi while at Stanford and looks forward to growing the community of CYFAM residents across the country! Her professional interests include research in psychoneuroimmunology, medical education, physician/medical student wellness, and promoting mental health and reducing stigma especially within the Filipinx communities in San Diego. She also enjoys playing piano, world travel, eating fun foods, and instagramming San Diego sunsets!

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Robi Bucayu, MD
(He/They)
Regional Interest Chair

Robi Bucayu is a 1st year resident physician in pediatrics at UCSF in PLUS (formerly Pediatric Leaders for the Underserved, now Pediatric Leaders Advancing Health Equity). He is from Santa Maria, California; his mother is from Isabela and his father from Quezon City. He did his medical training at UC Irvine in the Program in Medical Education for the Latino Community (PRIME-LC) and received his Masters of Public Health degree at UCLA in Community Health Sciences. He is interested in HIV/STI work and infectious diseases, health disparities in communities of color and sexual minority communities. He first became involved over in CYFAM when: he met his first Filipino medical student mentor, Antonio Moya, while in undergrad in 2010; he met Jasmin Reyes-Moncada at the PRIME Statewide conference at UCSF in 2015; finally, he met Iko Razon at the Annual NCSP National Meeting at UCLA in 2018. That fateful night at UCLA, he, Antonio, Iko, and Jasmin (via Google hangout) met to share "kwentuhan" (story-telling) of their own experiences as fellow Filipino Americans in medicine, building on the foundations for what would become CYFAM. My goal in CYFAM is to increase visibility of Filipino Americans in the medical field. One of my hobbies is singing karaoke :)

Irina Adao
(She/Her/Hers)
Conference Coordinator

Born in the Philippines and raised in the Bay Area, Irina Adao is a second year medical student at University of California, San Francisco. She graduated from UC Davis in 2017 with a degree in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior and a minor in Education. While at Davis, she cultivated her passions for service, medicine, and her community through her involvement within the FilAm community; she served on Mga Kapatid’s board as webmaster, coordinated the Filipinx Graduation in 2015 and Filipinx Association for Health Careers (FAHC)’s Health Conference in 2016, and served as president of FAHC her senior year. She also volunteered at Bayanihan Clinic, a student-run clinic for the underserved in Sacramento, for 3 years as a clinic intern and Diabetes Empowerment Program Advocate. After she graduated from Davis, she completed a post-baccalaureate program at CSU East Bay, worked as a pharmacy technician and medical scribe in the emergency department, and currently continues to serve the Filipinx community in the SoMa district of San Francisco as one of Mabuhay Health Center’s (MHC) clinic directors. She became involved with CYFAM as a way to connect with and lift up her community and is excited for what this year’s conference has in store. In her free time, she loves to rock climb, go to concerts, eat and (attempt to) cook good food, and spend time with her loved ones!

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Philippe Labrias
(He/Him/His)
Conference Coordinator

Mr. Labrias is a fourth year medical student and an aspiring obstetrician/gynecologist at the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University. He is a first generation immigrant from the Philippines, first generation US college graduate and soon to be a first generation physician in his family. Currently in CYFAM, he is a mentorship co-chair where he is invested in shaping and managing the first-of-its-kind, virtual longitudinal Filipino-American mentorship program comprised of 97 pre-med and med student mentees and 25 physician mentors. He is also the 2021 Conference Co-coordinator for the 2nd Annual CYFAM Conference together with Irina Adao, MS1, with this year's conference theme as: "Ikaw, Ako, Tayo: Our Identities Interwoven" in order to celebrate the various intersectionalities of our identities that we Filipino/a/x Americans share as individuals, as doctors and doctors-in-training, and as a global community.

He is passionate about research with a track record of publications ranging from basic science zebrafish models to clinical research in multiple fields such as genetics, gastroenterology, general surgery, and gynecology. He is currently in a scholarly year studying the effects of steroid hormones, in vitro fertilization, and fertility medications on the maternal-fetal microbiome and health outcomes on mothers and their babies with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. He graduated magna cum laude and received departmental honors in biology for his undergraduate thesis also at Quinnipiac University, and while at Netter SOM, he was recognized with High Distinction in Clinical Research for his capstone project on osteoporosis and geriatric health promotion. He also founded Netter's Notes, a music in medicine interest group and raised money for local non-profit organizations and started "musical missions" where they visit local nursing homes and serenade elderly residents. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he became a student lead for the Crisis Text Line at his medical school and led a cohort who signed on to do a total of 2,800 hours of crisis counseling work. During his free time, he is training for the 2021 Hartford Marathon, sings karaoke with his friends and family, and plays Dance Dance Revolution recreationally.

Vincent Grospe
(He/Him/His) 
Website Designer and Consultant

Inspired by his experiences with under-resourced communities in Los Angeles,
Mr. Grospe is passionate about reducing inequities for vulnerable populations. Since 2015, h
e is the co-founder and CEO of several educational organizations dedicated to mentoring low-income and first generation students and advising educational institutions through collaborations with higher ed scholars (ranging from medical students to professors and politicians). Currently, all students of these programs have been accepted to four-year universities and received $3 million in financial aid during their four years. With his experiences, he advises nonprofits, small businesses, and start-ups.

He is also passionate about utilizing community health strategies in order to improve health outcomes in vulnerable patients. He is a research assistant for the UCLA Pilipino American Stroke Intervention Project, which researches barriers affecting acute stroke care among Pilipinx-Americans, and UCLA Division of Cardiology Women's Cardiovascular Center, which investigates how technology affects health outcomes. He also volunteers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center's cardiology units as well as clinics in underserved regions. Mr. Grospe recently graduated from University of California, Los Angeles with a Bachelor of Science in Human Biology and Society as well as Latin, highest departmental, and Chancellor's Service Award honors. During his free time, he enjoys spending time with family and friends, analyzing cinema, and exploring Los Angeles.

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