Human Biology Major One of the First UC Merced Students Accepted to Medical School

Human Biology Major One of the First UC Merced Students Accepted to Medical School

When he was in elementary school, Jason Castillo decided what he wanted to be when he grew up: a garbage man. That job, he thought at the time, would give him an opportunity to meet all sorts of people.

Now a graduating seniorat UC Merced, Castillo has a new professional calling, one that will still allow him to meet an array of people. But this career choice gives him the chance to do something else he loves: help others.

Castillo, a human biology major, is one of the first students at UC Merced to be accepted into medical school. The Clovis native applied to more than 20 universities with allopathic medical programs. So far, he's received eight interviews and acceptance letters from UC San Francisco and Virginia Commonwealth University. Many medical schools begin to notify students of their acceptance in March and some as late as May.

Castillo started to rethink his career choice as he got older and started taking more science classes. But by the time he reached junior high school and started entering science fairs, many of his projects were health or medical related.

"The projects really sparked my interest in science," he said. "They ranged from evaluating how much stress a backpack puts on a student's back to measuring the accuracy of blood pressure cuffs."

Just as he is weighing his school options, he's still considering which specific field of medicine he wants to practice.

"My current interest is in primary care, however, I am entering medical school with an open mind as I hope that more clinical experience will solidify my specialty," he said. "The thing that I like about a family practice is that you get to develop a relationship and become a part of the community."

Castillo is also acutely aware of the need for family practice physicians, especially in the Central Valley, which has long experienced a shortage of doctors. If he chooses to become a general practitioner, he would like to establish a practice in an underserved region. "If not in the Central Valley, then some other place that has a need for doctors and is underserved."

He didn't have to look any further than his immediate family to see the impact a family practitioner can have on patients. Castillo's father is a long-time family physician. "It's been nice having that constant exposure," he said. "I was never pressured to go into that specific field. My dad has been a role model."

Another option he's considering is becoming a surgeon since he likes working with his hands. A three-dimensional art course he took at UC Merced gave him "a greater appreciation for dimension, structure and anatomy."

Jason said that his undergraduate experience at UC Merced has been invaluable. "I've had so many opportunities here that I would not have received at another institution."

While here, he founded Delta Epsilon Mu, a pre-med professional club and is currently its president. The local chapter received national affiliation last fall. He also was a peer health educator with UC Merced's Health Education Representatives for Opportunities to Empower Students (HEROES) program.

As he embarks on his last semester as an undergraduate, Castillo has advice for future UC Merced students and those just starting their academic careers.

"Take the time to become involved in activities, maybe things you didn't do in high school," he said, while adding that studying needs to remain the top priority. "Students need to make sure they are focused on their academics. You have to stay focused on reaching your goals."

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