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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 (Epidemiology Track) 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 current medical student who recently completed his PhD in the Neurosciences Graduate Program. He completed his thesis work in the laboratory of Dr. Edward Callaway at the Salk Institute, where he studied color processing in the primate primary visual cortex. Outside of the lab, Anupam is interested and actively involved in science policy. 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 UCSD graduate students. He also enjoys reading, traveling, running, and spending time outdoors.

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 G3 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. Her main efforts with the MSTP is to increase diversity recruitment, retention, and support at the medical school as well as in graduate programs across UCSD. She has worked on developing an online handbook for students at different stages in the program, designed the coolest sunglasses, and is currently pushing Colin to increase our diversity efforts (even more than he’s already doing). Campus wide, Quynh is the current Legislative Liaison of National Affairs for UCSD Graduate Student Association,  in charge of coordinating all our national advocacy efforts on any issues of concern for UCSD graduate students. Our goal is to make sure that graduate students’ perspectives & voices are represented in all higher education conversation, stressing that as the main labor force of research institutions, graduate students face unique challenges compared to our undergraduate colleagues. She is especially passionate about policies supporting basic needs initiatives (food, housing, healthcare), increasing mental health resources for graduating students, and ensuring protections for sexual assault survivors on campus. During her graduate years, Quynh is keeping her clinically skills fresh by volunteering at Pacific Beach Free Clinic (where she was a general manager) and shadowing pediatric hematology/oncology doctors. In her infinite free time, Quynh enjoys coloring by number, watching the US Women’s National Team and Portland Thorns play real football, and feeding lettuce to her Russian tortoise Turbo (whom she inherited from another MSTP alum!). If you wanna hang out, just buy her an iced Americano and she’ll be there!

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.