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Embracing What Makes You Different In Your Medical Field

In my youth I relentlessly tried to fit in. My efforts were thwarted relatively quickly though. I mean, my name is Xochitl (which means flower in Nahuatl, the Aztec language), so, upon introduction, people immediately knew I was different. Since I am also ethnically, culturally, and religiously diverse- my background is Mexican, African American, Caucasian, Spanish, Catholic, and Jewish- it often felt impossible to blend in. I am a native Spanish speaker. I am a dual citizen- Spain and the United States. My personality also isn't very conducive to blending in. I am naturally extroverted, cheerful, quirky, and impulsive. I speak enthusiastically. I am hard working, tenacious, competitive, and particularly goal-oriented. It’s a lot of Person to process all at once. Whether it was my personality or appearance, it was difficult to fit in.

However, the moment I began to embrace my diversity and uniqueness, my insecurities started to fade. I began to mature and succeed. I suddenly no longer wanted to fit in. I wanted to stand out, to march to the beat of my own drum. I learned to appreciate and love my name despite the difficulty of getting it spelled correctly at Starbucks (or anywhere for that matter). It makes me memorable. I learned to be proud of my diverse background and identify with each of the many facets, even if the outside world may not.

Those who pursue and work in medicine are often stereotyped to be a certain person or personality. When I decided to go to PA school, I prepared myself for that feeling when you start a new school or a new job. You know, when you have to pronounce and explain your name to over 50 people, explain your ethnically ambiguous appearance, and reassure everyone you have “less nerdy” interests outside of medicine. I was pleasantly surprised to meet my classmates at USC Keck School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program. They were diverse in their backgrounds and their interests. There are not enough minorities in medicine, but my class was relatively diverse and its focus on primary care and the underserved community was evident. Until recently, they weren’t enough females in medicine, but in medical schools and PA schools these proportions are rapidly changing! We had athletes, parents, artists and career changers. Our class had a variety of personality types, including extroverts like me. We had diversity of socio-economic backgrounds, races, and personal histories. In a way, I finally felt like I fit in. There was unity in our diversity; I met some of my best friends in PA school.

Perhaps I am not your stereotypical medical provider, but I am so incredibly proud of that. I am a woman in medicine. I am a minority in medicine. I have a strong, enthusiastic personality and so many interests outside of my career. I have so many opportunities to meet different people and am able to relate to them in some small way whether it be personality, race, religion, career, or hobbies. I am confident in my diverse background which makes me who I am. I am finally completely comfortable in my own skin and don’t feel the need to fit in. I encourage you to embrace what makes you different and share it with the world. There is unity in diversity. March to the beat of your own drum. After all, it’s a lot less exhausting than fitting in.

About the author:

Xochitl is a young female USC KECK trained bilingual Physician Assistant who practices Family Medicine in an medically underserved community in Los Angeles, where she lives with her husband and new puppy. She is passionate about social media, fitness, nutrition, wellness, fashion, wine, and community medicine. Follow her on Instagram!