Melissa Palma, MD MPH, Program Committee Mentor
Melissa Palma, MD, MPH is an Iowa-raised daughter of Filipino immigrants. She graduated with degrees in biochemistry and medicine from the University of Iowa and began her career dedicated to the health of underserved populations. Her medical school capstone project for the Service and Global Health Distinction Tracks focused on health education programs for rural migrant farmworkers and a needs assessment of refugee social services in her hometown of Waterloo, Iowa.
Dr. Palma was a Family Medicine resident at the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center in Lawrence, Massachusetts prior to training in Preventive Medicine at Cook County Health in Chicago, IL, one of the oldest and largest safety-net health systems in the US. She graduated with a Masters of Public Health from Northwestern University in June 2020 and serves on the Organization of Resident Representatives for the American Association of Medical Colleges. Dr. Palma also serves as a board member of FYLPRO, a leadership program affiliated with the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC and the Ayala Foundation, Inc. Her academic interests include immigrant and refugee health, advocacy for health equity and addressing health disparities, and mentorship of underrepresented students in medicine.
Dr. Palma also advocates for the Filipino community as an inaugural member of the Bicultural Iowa Writers’ Fellowship anthology, We the Interwoven, for emerging Iowan writers from immigrant backgrounds. Exploring themes of migration, belonging, and home in the Filipino diaspora, her writing has been featured in the Des Moines Art Festival, the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature Book Festival, and the non-circulating Pilipinx American Library exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Asian Art.
Jaira Mendoza, Head of Program Committee
Jaira graduated valedictorian at Pacheco High School and is majoring in Physiological Science at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
At UCLA, she is the Pre-Health Advising and Mentorship Director of Pilipinos for Community Health, an organization that aims to increase health literacy and outcomes by providing services that directly address the community conditions of the Pilipinx community in the Los Angeles area. She works closely with Filipino Americans in Medicine (FAIM) at UCLA, where they collaborate to hold an annual winter conference to provide UCLA undergraduates resources and advice regarding medical school. She is also a Peer Tutor for Carson High School under Samahang Pilipino Advancing Community Empowerment (SPACE), an outreach project under the Student Initiated Outreach Center at the Community Programs Office. This project aims to provide culturally relevant education, promote student empowerment, and provide resources to high schools in the Los Angeles area with a substantial population of Pilipinx students. Outside of these two organizations, she is a part of UCLA’s Competitive Badminton Team and works at Ackerman Union as an Events Staff Supervisor.
During high school, she held numerous positions in her school’s Associated Student Body and served one year as president. She was also heavily involved in the Interact Club, in which she participated in local community projects every month, and in her free time helped tutor high school students after school. In addition, she played in her high school Volleyball Team for four years and was awarded Scholar Athlete awards by Pacheco High School and the Western Athletic Conference.
Graschelle Hipolito, Program Committee Member
Graschelle graduated top ten at Bear Creek High School in Stockton, California and is graduating from University of California, Davis (UC Davis). in June 2020 with a Bachelor's degree in Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior and a minor in Comparative Literature.
At UC Davis, she served the Filipinx-American community on the Filipinx Association for Health Careers (FAHC) Board for three years in which she helped to plan FAHC's Health Conference to empower Filipinx and other minority pre-health students. She worked with the United States Filipino War Veterans Legion (USFWVL) to coordinate a Veterano Luncheon to honor Filipino WWII veterans and also served as the Logistics Coordinator for UC Davis' Filipinx cultural graduation ceremony, Fil-Grad. As a first-year, she was accepted to work in Bayanihan Clinic, one of the student-run clinics on campus, that serves Filipino veterans and immigrants. She now serves as the Undergraduate Coordinator for Bayanihan Clinic. Also, she is a Campus News writer for the campus' newspaper The California Aggie.
In high school, she was the president of the campus' Filipinx organization Kababayan, which emphasized cultural awareness through community building and traditional dance, and the president of the campus' National Honors Society (NHS) chapter. She was one of the founding council members of the Make-A-Wish Club which worked to form a community that fundraises and spreads awareness for children with life-threatening medical conditions. Graschelle served as Editor-in-Chief of the campus' student newspaper The Bruin Voice and was a National Pacemaker Award finalist. She also played volleyball and participated in polynesian dance.
Katherine Chua, Program Committee Member
Ms. Chua graduated with highest honors from Valencia High School. She is majoring in Human Biology & Society and minoring in Asian American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
At UCLA, Ms. Chua is the Preventive Health Director for Pilipinos for Community Health, 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. As Preventive Health Directors, Ms. Chua and her co-directors envisioned and executed an event with collaborators entitled, Utakatawan: Physical X Mental Health for Pilipinos to explore the intersectionality between the Pilipino cultural identity and physical and mental health. She is also a tutor for Los Angeles Student Education Outreach -- an organization at UCLA that seeks to foster the academic and holistic growth of underserved inner-city youth by serving as tutors and mentors to middle school students, an undergraduate researcher for the Chute Lab at UCLA which is conducting groundbreaking stem cell and cancer research, and a general member of two cultural organizations on campus, Association of Chinese Americans and Samahang Pilipino.
During high school, she played basketball for her high school girls basketball team and became team captain of the sophomore/freshman team in her second year. She also tutored students at a local elementary school as well as her peers in mathematics ranging from basic mathematical operations to college-level calculus. In addition, she was involved in several humanitarian clubs, such as her high school’s chapter of UNICEF and Liberty in North Korea -- where she sought to raise awareness of human rights issues occurring globally. She was also a part of the teen volunteer program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and continues to volunteer as a member of the adult nursing volunteer program in the oncology and infectious disease units.
Irina Adao, MS1, Program Committee Member
Ms. Adao 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 patient 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 is a rising MS1 at University of California, San Francisco and will be continuing her tenure as clinic director at MHC this upcoming year.
Brenden Gregorio, Program Committee Member
Mr. Gregorio is a third-year pre-medical student at UCLA majoring in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology. Passionate about empowering the Pilipinx community and other underserved communities, he volunteers as a peer tutor for SPACE, a campus outreach project that promotes access to higher education through academic and holistic support. Brenden also works as a research intern at Cedars Sinai Medical Center—under the guidance of his PIs, he conducts lab work to study the effects of transcriptional regulators on neuronal plasticity, learning, and memory. On campus, Brenden is actively involved in the Multi-Interest Greek life. He is the internal vice president of Zeta Phi Rho, a multicultural fraternity, and served as the council treasurer for the Multi-Interest Greek Council. Understanding that everyone’s path to medicine is unique, he will be taking a few gap years before applying to medical school.