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Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences at Rocky Vista University (MSBS)

MSBS STUDENT SPOTLIGHT

Yasmine Baytok
MSBS Class of 2023
Colorado Campus

Hometown:
Littleton, CO

Undergraduate studies:
Bachelors of Science in Neuroscience

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born in Houston, TX but was raised in Littleton, CO. After I graduated from Columbine High School in 2015, I attended the University of Colorado in Boulder for the first year and half of my undergraduate education, pursuing a major in Integrative Physiology. I soon realized that my heart still belonged to my first-choice school, Creighton University in Omaha, NE and transferred there my Spring semester of sophomore year. I received my bachelor's degree in Neuroscience with minors in Cognitive and Behavioral Neuropsychology as well as Biology. After graduating from Creighton in 2019, I moved back home to CO and began working as a Registered Behavior Technician with kids on the autism spectrum. As much as I loved working with those kiddos, I knew I wanted to see more clinic-setting medicine, so I started scribing for a pediatrician and later began working as a medical assistant in Dermatology to gain more patient-care experience. I worked in Dermatology for a couple of years while traveling internationally here and there before deciding I was ready to continue pursuing my lifelong dream of becoming a provider. It's been a long few years filled with self-reflection and overcoming life's many obstacles, but I'm finally here in MSBS and the dream seems be getting closer and closer to reality each day!

What initially brought you to RVU? Why did you decide to pursue this degree?
When I first started looking into what I needed to become a stronger applicant for medical school, I quickly realized my largest obstacle would be my undergraduate GPA. I started doing extensive research into different post-bachs, masters programs and any other type of degree that I could pursue to give my application the boost it needed. I looked into a couple of different programs here in Colorado since I wanted to stay close to home and to my support system, and as I went back and forth between RVU, CSU and Regis, my fiancé was working hard in the MSBS here at RVU. As he finished up the program, I realized how challenging the program was but how supportive of a community he was in and wanted that same type of positive and challenging environment for myself to not only improve my GPA, but to develop further as someone who would hopefully become a physician in the future. I submitted my application, completed a couple of different interviews with Holly in Utah as well with Dr. Towne here in CO, and before I knew it I was accepted into a program here in my own backyard that would help propel me into my lifelong dream occupation!

What do you enjoy doing when not at RVU (family life, interests and hobbies)?
If I am not on campus, my fiancé and I are generally at the Smoky Hill Library or at a nearby Starbucks firing through Anki and talking through difficult topics while sipping on that delicious coffee. When I am not studying however, like on weekends following block exams, you can find me online shopping, going to concerts (especially at Red Rocks), or simply chilling at home with our cats watching TV. I have recently tried picking up snowboarding this year (yes, I have lived here my entire life and never learned to ski or snowboard), so you can also find me rolling down the bunny hills as well if I’m not at home curled up with the cats!

What is an interesting or little known fact about you?
Something that people are sometimes surprised to know is that both my parents immigrated here to the states for college, so I am a first generation Turkish-American. I speak Turkish in my household, and I always try to make it back to Turkey as often as I can to see my grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and the rest of my family.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given by a professor or student while at RVU?
I think that one of the best pieces of advice I was given was by another student at RVU; they told me that I need to not only hear my body and what it’s trying to tell me, but to truly listen to it. You’ll hear people tell you to take care of yourself in order to avoid burnout, but I think that more than just taking care of yourself, you need to listen to yourself. Without allowing yourself the time away from studying that you need in order to be fully functioning human being while completing a rigorous academic program, you’ll find yourself feeling tired quickly. I have always been someone who gets sick the week of exams, and I think a lot of that had to do with ignoring what my body was trying to tell me up to that point. I would study 24/7, get tired, and still try to push myself to the limit, which ultimately led to me being sick by the day of the exam and I would then try to function through an exam even though my fever would be 102. Once I talked to this student and they told me to really listen to my body, I decided to give it a try. On days where I was feeling tired and slow, I would take it easy and give myself the break I needed, and the next day I would feel much more refreshed and ready to work. There is so much value in treating yourself like the human you are, and it will show in all aspects of your life whether that be personal, academic, or social.

What are your medical interests?
When I first dreamt of becoming a physician, I always thought about how wonderful it would be to be a pediatric psychiatrist and though that is still a dream I have, I am keeping my mind open. After working in dermatology for a couple of years I have toyed around with the thought of opening my own dermatology practice, but again, who knows where life will take us?

What is a favorite memory you have from being in RVU?
I think that my favorite memory thus far from being in RVU is simply the feeling of a community that you feel while walking through the halls. There is something so incredibly special about knowing that regardless of who is walking your direction you don’t have to feel as if you cannot say hello and have a conversation with them. One of the examples that I can think of is just recently before walking into my block 4 anatomy practical. We’re all in line waiting to enter, and another student that I most certainly did not recognize came right up to me and another classmate, asked what we were waiting for, and proceeded to wish us luck and reassure us that we know this material well. It’s such a supportive and non-hostile environment like you may expect in other medical school settings, and its one that I cherish fully.

What advice do you have for prospective students?
Work hard and be kind to yourself. You are in a class with so many bright students, taught by so many intelligent and brilliant professors, in a school that will provide you with the resources you need so do not ever feel like you’re alone in this. Immerse yourself fully in the material being taught and always remember to reward yourself for the work you do. Cherish the growth and the learning curves you’ll experience and use those to propel you even further. Reward yourself for the work you do and allow yourself to be human, because at the end of the day we cannot help others if we can’t help ourselves.



Daniel Steele
MSBS Class of 2023
Colorado Campus

Hometown:
Birmingham, AL

Undergraduate studies:
Nursing

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born in Miami, Florida but raised in Birmingham, Alabama. After graduating high school in 2004, I attended Auburn University for a few years but did not graduate. Auburn is a great school and I loved being there, but I lacked the skills to manage full-time student life, part-time employment, and extracurricular. I ended up leaving academia to work for a few years and figure out what direction I wanted to go with my life. I've worked all sorts of jobs over the years to sample different things and figure out my personal niche, and I ultimately landed a medical scribe position in the ED that catapulted me into the health sciences. I earned Associates and Bachelor’s degrees in Nursing and worked as an RN full-time for the better part of the last 10 years - mostly in the Emergency Department. I had the opportunity to do travel nursing intermittently over the years, traveling the US and squeezing in a few international trips as well. I felt the pull of medicine ever since the early days of my nursing career, and in 2019 decided to finally scratch that itch and actively pursue medicine. It's been a long 3+ years trying to get to medical school, but now being in the MSBS I am finally in the home stretch!

What initially brought you to RVU? Why did you decide to pursue this degree?
I applied to the COM in the 2021-2022 cycle but was not offered an interview. I emailed and called the admissions office to insist that they take a second look at my application, which they kindly declined, but followed up with "you might be interested in our Master's in Biomedical Sciences program". I attended a virtual info session with Dr. Towne and Courtney Campbell which really caught my attention as a great means of bolstering my knowledge! The opportunity to get a half-step further towards medical school made the decision a no-brainer!

What do you enjoy doing when not at RVU (family life, interests and hobbies)?
My wife is a Veterinary Medicine student at CSU in Fort Collins, so I spend a lot of weekends in FoCo studying with her and drinking way too much coffee while we both stress about how to digest all this material! When I'm not studying or commuting, I like to cook and try new recipes, try new wines, or go rock climbing. Climbing is definitely my #1 hobby and favorite way to enjoy the natural world around us.

What is an interesting or little known fact about you?
I grew up being immersed in music from an early age - choral ensembles, symphonic band, jazz band, and marching band. I took that all the way to the collegiate level and marched in the band at Auburn University. I absolutely LOVE music, though I no longer perform or play any instruments. I miss it sometimes, but climbing took over about 15 years ago and I don't regret that in the slightest.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given by a professor or student while at RVU?
From Dr. Roberts before our first block exam this semester: "Remember, your score is just a data point and does not define your value as a person. Tomorrow is just another step on your journey."
This really struck me because I have found we humans tend to wrap our identity and value up with our performance. However, the fact is, how we carry ourselves daily and how we treat others offers a better picture of who we truly are, and has nothing to do with our exam grades or GPA.

What are your medical interests?
I frequently daydream about working rurally and serving a smaller, spread-out community. With that said, I am keeping my mind open as I progress to the next phase. I'll also add that since leaving the emergency department to pursue this master's degree, I frequently find myself missing that setting and fast-paced atmosphere. So, Rural Medicine Vs Emergency Medicine? Who knows?!

What is a favorite memory you have from being in RVU?
It's hard to pinpoint a single memory from being at RVU so far, but I can confidently say that one of my favorite parts of being at RVU is the support that everyone exudes. The faculty and administrative personnel are so helpful and encouraging, and on top of that my peers are all super motivated and I find that incredibly inspiring and contagious. The atmosphere at RVU is perfect for staying focused and disciplined, and that is one of my favorite parts of being a student here.

What advice do you have for prospective students?
I will share a Calvin Coolidge quote that my grandfather bequeathed me as a young man: "Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and Determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “Press On” has solved and will always solve the problems of the human race.”



Mercedes Castillo
MSBS Class of 2023
Southern Utah Campus

Hometown:
Huntington Park

Undergraduate studies:
B.S. in Biological Sciences

Tell us a bit about yourself.
Prior to moving out to Ivins, or "Mars" as some of us have lovingly dubbed it due to the vibrant coat of red sand around Rocky Vista University's Utah campus, I'd lived in Southern California the entirety of my life. I got my Bachelor's degree in Biological Sciences at the University of California Riverside. While there, I got the opportunity to attend free clinics situated in Tecate, Mexico, organized by a club called "Flying Samaritans". I functioned as a volunteer Spanish-English translator for our volunteer physicians to communicate with their patients and vice versa. Prior to UCR, I attended community college in East Los Angeles where I also volunteered at the LAC+USC Hospital emergency department. I've wanted to be a physician for a long time, and my experiences both in Tecate, and in East L.A. cemented my hope to one day serve the underserved, especially belonging to an underrepresented minority in medicine.

What initially brought you to RVU? Why did you decide to pursue this degree?
I finished and received my Bachelor's of Science during COVID; after that, I had to do some reevaluating. I knew I still wanted to be a doctor but I also knew that I needed to explore the options I had and what I could do to bolster my GPA. I looked into master's degrees and that's when I found out about MSBS. I got the opportunity to meet with Dr.Brooks and Holly Bagot, who I spoke with at length over Zoom and learned more about the program. When I applied and got in, I was ecstatic- no other campus made me feel as welcomed or as wanted as RVU. In my time here, I've learned what study approaches work best for me, and have done a lot of adjusting. I don't think there's a program out there that would prepare a person for the rigors of medical school -or provide the support to lead their students to success- as well as this one.

What do you enjoy doing when not at RVU (family life, interests and hobbies)?
I love reading books! My favorite author right now is Ali Hazelwood-- she's a real life neuroscience PhD that's written peer-reviewed articles on brain science but has recently -and very successfully- tried her hand at writing romance novels where her main characters are always working somewhere in STEM. I have my dog Lola living with me out here, and she's very hyper. I try to take her on walks 3-4 times a day for both our sakes! I love BTS (the kpop group) and listening to whatever new music Spotify decides I'll probably like. I also have a PS4 which I don't get to use often, but my favorite games include the Last of Us franchise, and Detroit: Become Human.

What is an interesting or little known fact about you:
I graduated high school at 16! It's little known because I just forget that it happened. From a young age, I was fixated on medicine (and how long of an academic path it would be) and when the opportunity presented itself to take the CHSPE and conclude high school after sophomore year, I took it and ran with it. After that, I went to community college before transferring to UCR where I got my bachelor's degree... and now I'm at Rocky Vista University!

What is the best piece of advice you have been given by a professor or student while at RVU?
What is an interesting or little known fact about you?
"No one cares when you learned to tie your shoes" is probably a piece of advice that had made its rounds every few weeks when imposter syndrome is hitting the hardest. Dr.Brooks is the one who's told me this and the gist of it is that regardless of how long it takes you to get to where you want to be, you WILL get there. Once you're a doctor or whatever else you aspire to be, no one will be asking how long it took.

What are your medical interests?
I've always been interested in endocrinology. I was diagnosed with T1 Diabetes a few years ago, and have to see an endocrinologist regularly to discuss treatment regimens. I also like psychiatry and neurology quite a lot. I assume my medical interests might change over time, especially the more I get to learn about the human body.

What is a favorite memory you have from being in RVU?
One of my favorite memories at RVU has been standing in a circle with friends outside of the school after each Block exam. We're all joking and venting and a little scared of what results we'll see when grades get released. We're also relieved that it's over and we're figuring out how to celebrate. It sounds a bit mundane but being in this program has allowed me to really bond with my peers and I've never had that experience before. It's a tight-knit community and we're all working together and lifting each other up; the mutual support is real.

What advice do you have for prospective students?
This program is going to be one of the hardest things you've done up until now; you'll struggle and there's a learning curve to finding what works for you in terms of studying. Every one has their own approach and it might take a while to find yours. If your first exam grade isn't what you wanted, find out what other people are doing and adjust. No one is walking in knowing everything- so don't be hard on yourself if you have a hard time. Get comfortable asking for help, going to office hours, and putting in the extra time to learn that one thing that everyone "seems" to get. You have to be bad at something before you can get really good at it.



Tanisha Crosby-Attipoe
MSBS Class of 2022
Colorado Campus

Hometown:
Highlands Ranch

Undergraduate studies:
Bachelor of Science in Cognitive Neuroscience

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born in California but grew up here in Colorado! I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Cognitive Neuroscience with minors in Chemistry and Psychology from the University of Denver. I have wanted to be a physician since I was a kid, but my road to medicine took a few minor turns. Before attending the MSBS program, I worked as a clinical research assistant in two different neuroscience labs. One focusing on how stress impacts brain development in children and adolescences, and the other studying how patients regulate stress and their emotions. Afterwards, I spent some time working as a clinical scribe in various emergency departments across the Denver Metro area.

What initially brought you to RVU? Why did you decide to pursue this degree?
My mentor recommended RVU to me! She was one of the physicians I assisted during my time working in the ER. She witnessed my struggles of getting into medical school, and thought it could benefit me. Because I had been out of school for several years, I decided to pursue this degree knowing that it would give me the skills and study habits needed to be successful in med school. After looking into the masters program at RVU, talking with former MSBS students, and attending a couple of their online information sessions, I decided to take my mentor's advice and apply to the program.

What do you enjoy doing when not at RVU (family life, interests and hobbies)?
In my spare time, I enjoy the going to live concerts, painting, watching movies, and being outdoors. I love traveling around the world (Japan, Peru, Nicaragua, Ghana, etc.), learning new languages, and spending time with family and friends.

What is an interesting or little known fact about you?
A little known fact about me is that I am a first generation American! My parents immigrated to the United States in the late 80s. I still have extended family members living all over the world!

What is the best piece of advice you have been given by a professor or student while at RVU?
Don't be afraid to change things up when it comes to how you study! What works for you in one course may not be ideal in another. Be open to trying new methods to integrate your learning. Also, be sure to take time for yourself whether that be your favorite self-care regimen, maintaining your hobbies, and getting a decent amount of sleep. Just like Dr. Robert says before every exam, "sleeping is preparing." And most importantly, give yourself grace. Don't compare yourself to your classmates and have confidence in your abilities because you do know more than you think come exam day!

What are your medical interests?
I have many medical interests! Some of them include pediatrics, emergency medicine, global medicine, gastroenterology, and psychiatry.

What is a favorite memory you have from being in RVU?
My favorite memories during my time in the MSBS program includes the white coat ceremony, my first standardized patient encounter, and forming close friendships with my classmates.

What advice do you have for prospective students?
The MSBS program here at RVU lays the foundation that you will need to get through medical school. This program is very challenging but it will grow you in so many ways. Word hard and be sure to utilize the resources that are available to you. And don't hesitate to ask for help when you need it!!! The faculty here are wonderful and they want you to succeed in whatever career path you choose. Furthermore, use this time to figure out how to balance life both in and out of the classroom. Getting into a routine now will make transitioning into medical school so much smoother.



Carson Bomstad
MSBS Class of 2022
Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences (MSBS)
Class of 2022
Southern Utah Campus
Hometown:
Earlville, IL

Undergraduate studies:
Molecular Neuroscience

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I grew up in Earlville, IL which is a small rural town with about 1500 people. Earlville is where I have lived my whole life as well as many of my close family members. This is very special to me because family is so important to me and I was able to grow up so close to everyone! My father is a Civil Engineer, and my mother is the Vice President of Nursing (CNO) of two rural hospitals in Illinois. I also have two brothers who I am very close with and they are my best friends! Growing up I was very into sports, especially volleyball and basketball. I played all through high school and I was given the opportunity to play in collegiate volleyball at North Central College in Naperville, IL. This is where I received my bachelors degree in Molecular Neuroscience. I also love spending time with kids and I was a nanny in college!

What initially brought you to RVU? Why did you decide to pursue this degree?
I was very interested in the masters program at RVU because I knew I needed to learn how to study more efficiently and to develop better study habits. This was the perfect opportunity for me to do both as well as meet so many new people! I really enjoyed my interview which is what drew me to this program the most. I loved how much of a family atmosphere the school had and I could tell the professors cared so much about me and they would help me achieve my goals.

What do you enjoy doing when not at RVU (family life, interests and hobbies)?
I am very close with my family so I love spending time with them! It is hard living so far away from them so I plan lots of FaceTime calls. I also love going to the lake, swimming, water skiing, kayaking, hiking, really anything outdoors. I also love to relax sometimes and binge watch a Netflix show.

What is an interesting or little known fact about you?
I can slalom water ski!

What is the best piece of advice you have been given by a professor or student while at RVU?
Do not compare yourself to others and find what works best for you to learn the material. Everyone starts the program at different levels and has different backgrounds, so it is important to remember, "you are meant to be here in this program and you are capable to succeeding".

What are your medical interests?
Pediatrics

What is a favorite memory you have from being at RVU?
All of the hikes that I have gone on with my classmates! I found this to be a great way to get to know everyone outside of class as well as see the beautiful area! It was also a great study break and good to get outside and get some exercise.

What advice do you have for prospective students?
This is a very fast pace and challenging program, so it is important to make sure that you keep up with the material. Make sure you put in the time to study, but also to have fun! It is so important to take breaks and time away for studying to clear your head so you do not get burnt out. Lastly, enjoy your time in this program and find what study habits work best for you!



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