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Student Highlights

Alec Calac

Alec Calac (Pauma Band of Luiseño Indians) is passionate about Indigenous health equity and promoting education attainment for Native youth. He plans to pursue his PhD in the Joint Doctoral Program in Public Health (Global HealthTrack) between UC San Diego and San Diego State University. His advocacy efforts led to the formation of our newest student affinity organization, the Association of Native American Medical Students (ANAMS), which has been a strong force for change at the School of Medicine. Students are now able to enroll in the Tribal Ambulatory Healthcare Experience (MED-235) elective, which allows first and second year medical students to shadow physicians at the Indian Health Council, which is a tribally-operated Indian Health Service facility in North County, San Diego. Before joining the MSTP, Alec worked for two years at the National Institutes of Health, where he formed connections with the NIH Tribal Health Research Office, National Indian Health Board, and D-HHS Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs. He graduated from the University in Arizona in 2016 with a B.S. in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science, Molecular and Cellular Biology, and minored in Biochemistry. There, he led the UA Chapter of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), which supported the professional development of URM students in STEM-oriented disciplines. 

Cong Dinh

This is Cong. He likes to do lots of things while he is studying cheese and some genetics stuff. Cong presents for a variety of groups, from on campus events such as the BSU overnight program and the Sally Ride for Science talks to events in the community like in elementary/high schools, Cheese Expo, and visiting students. He’s often invited to classes with impressionable young students to share his story. This summer, Cong also taught science to students at the George Bailey Detention Facility, showing how science can be applicable to their future jobs in construction. Cong jumps at any chance to recruit students to UC San Diego, representing our school at ABRCMS, even when he isn’t invited. Cong also works on the Basic Needs Committee and Sadgressive Committee, which works to fight hunger, homelessness, limitations in mental health and childcare on UC San Diego’s campus. With Anupum and Quynh, Cong harasses our elected officials in San Diego, Sacramento, and D.C. to increase funding and legislative protections for basic needs, sexual harassment, and research funding (gotta get dem bills). Nearly every week, Cong sees patients at UC San Diego’s Student Run Free Clinic; he loves sitting in the tiny kindergarten chairs because it makes him look very big and strong. He tries to get free coffee for MD-PhD students through a Wellness Committee fund. 

As you can see, Cong is amazing and awesome! You should totally come to UC San Diego just to say hi and give Cong some chocolate.

Anupam Garg
Anupam is a fourth-year medical student who completed his PhD in the Neurosciences Graduate Program in the laboratory of Dr. Edward Callaway at the Salk Institute. For his thesis work, he studied visual processing in the primate primary visual cortex. Outside of the lab, Anupam is actively involved in science policy and science education. During the 2018-2019 academic year, he was elected as Vice President of External Affairs of the Graduate Student Association (GSA), where he organized the UCSD Legislative Advocacy Committee and frequently traveled to Sacramento and Washington, DC to meet with legislators to advocate on behalf of graduate students. In addition, he worked with UCSD undergraduate engineering students through UCSD’s Global Teams in Engineering (TIES) to help develop an Android application aimed at educating pediatric patients about diabetes prevention and management. He also enjoys photography, reading, traveling, running, and spending time outdoors.

Emily Ho
Emily is currently finishing up her thesis work for the Neurosciences Graduate Program (NGP) in Pamela Mellon’s lab, with funding from the Genetics Training Program. Since entering the MSTP in 2015, she has been a fierce advocate for student mental health and is a founding member of the MSTP’s Wellness Committee, which facilitates regular peer processing groups and recruits speakers for mental-health focused workshops. She serves as the student representative for the UCSD Healer Education, Assessment, and Referral (HEAR) Program, which provides confidential mental health support and resources to healthcare trainees and providers. Her role in HEAR has given her the opportunity to engage in educational outreach, facilitate debriefing sessions and Schwartz Rounds for various units across UCSD Health, and establish a new med school elective course, P228 “Mental Health Topics for Clinicians”. In grad school, she has been active in the NGP’s Peer Advising Committee, works with CAPS as a Graduate Well-being Associate for the Grad Division, and is a student representative on the MSTP’s Admissions Committee. She believes in celebrating the personhood of her peers and is committed to supporting her community however possible. She enjoys long walks in Balboa Park with her husband Kevin and their dog Dottie, which always end with their cat Yoko waiting at the front door to welcome them home.

Daniella McDonald
Daniella McDonald is a San Diego native who went to UCSD for her undergraduate training getting a dual degree in Human Biology and Theatre, followed by a Masters in Biology. She is currently studying in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program working in regenerative medicine and novel methods to engineer vascularized human tissues. She is the first openly out transgender woman in the School of Medicine. Daniella is the founder and organizer of “Transgender Week of Visibility” at UCSD and flew in world-renowned transgender-identifying surgeon Dr. Marci Bowers, who’s made previous appearances on Oprah, to give a keynote address on transgender health. Daniella won the “Outstanding Graduate Student Leader” award for her advancements in UCSDs medical curriculum and expansion of opportunities to learn about trans health. Her career interests lie in Plastic Surgery and Regenerative Medicine, advancement of medical education, and designing a trans-inclusive and -specific clinic and surgical suite catering to all needs of trans patients. In her free time, she sometimes can be caught modeling for local San Diego fashion designers. 

Quynh Nguyen
Quynh is a G4 in the Goldrath lab working on tissue-resident memory T-cells in the intestine which means she spends an unhealthy amount of time pushing poop out of mice guts. She is known for her constant sassy remarks, an unhealthy inability to say no to obligations, and her semi-aggressive (but never passive) emails asking people to sign up for things. This academic year, Quynh is the President for UCSD Graduate Student Association, which means she spends the majority of her time (if not in lab) on Zoom calls and sending emails. If you have any questions on how grad students can get involved, she's your go to gal! In her "free time", Quynh enjoys watching women play sports especially USWNT, FAWSL, WNBA, and WTA. 

Maribel Patiño
Maribel is currently a G3 in the Neuroscience Graduate Program. She is conducting her thesis research at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in the lab of Dr. Edward Callaway. Her research involves developing new circuit mapping technology and investigating the efficiency of monosynaptic rabies tracing. Maribel is passionate about increasing and retaining diversity in science and medicine. She is a co-founder of the organization Colors of the Brain (CoB), a graduate student organization dedicated to increasing diversity in neuroscience, which recently received the 2020 UCSD BEARLS Celebrating all Cultures award. Through Colors of the Brain, she helped partner with the KAVLI Institute for Brain and Mind to create a new summer research fellowship for URM undergraduates that will launch in the summer of 2021. In the past she has also been a mentor for pre-medical undergraduate students through Chicanx/Latinx for Community Medicine and UCSD SoM Mentors. In her free time she enjoys making puzzles, playing with her cats Kira and L, and trying to skateboard.

Helen Wang​

Helen Wang is currently in the Neurosciences Graduate Program. She is conducting her thesis work in Dr. Edward Callaway’s lab at the Salk Institute, where she studies the contribution of parallel pathways to tuning for visual speed in mouse higher visual cortex. Outside of the lab, she is involved in the MSTP Women Physician-Scientists Advocacy group, which aims to strengthen the physician-scientist community at UCSD and highlight unique challenges women often face in their training and careers. She was also instrumental in starting the Pre-Medical Advising by Medical Students (PAMS). She volunteers with the Neurosciences Outreach program, which introduces students of all ages (K-12 and college) to neuroscience and research. In her free time, she enjoys baking, crocheting, and taking advantage of the year round 70F weather for runs.