Biology senior Diana Monyancha will begin medical school at McGovern Medical School in Houston this fall.
Originally from Kenya, she moved to the United States with her family in 2012, just in time to begin her freshman year of high school.
“The main reason why we came to the U.S. was because of education,” Monyancha explained.
With help from her college counselors, she decided to apply to and attend UT Arlington (UTA) because of its diversity and proximity to her family. In addition, UTA was the best choice for her financially because of the scholarships she received.
During her first year at UTA, Monyancha admits she spent a lot of time in her room because she prefers quiet spaces. But thanks to her roommate, she was introduced to the Honors College.
“I would always hear her talk about her contracts…so finally I asked her, ‘What is the Honors College? What do you do?”
Monyancha became interested in the Honors College after learning what contracting entailed. She thought it seemed like a “perfect fit.”
“The Honors College, because it is more academic and people are studying, then I can fit in,” Monyancha said.
Monyancha completed several presentations for Honors contracts, which she says allowed her to become more comfortable with public speaking.
“I don’t like talking…but once I got to do it, I can do it,” Monyancha laughed. She even gave a 30-minute lecture for one of her courses.
By contracting courses in her major, Monyancha was able to further explore infectious diseases, a topic about which she is passionate. Growing up in Kenya, diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and tuberculosis, were very common.
“I really like infectious diseases and every class that I contracted, the professors gave me the freedom to choose what type of topic that I wanted to do,” Monyancha stated. “It was like an escape from regular classes.”
Monyancha originally thought she wanted to become a nurse, but after shadowing one in high school, she realized she wanted to take a more “proactive role” in healthcare. She decided she wanted to become a doctor.
As a freshman, Monyancha was focused only on “grades, grades, grades.” However, she soon came across the Joint Admission Medical Program (JAMP). Although doubtful she would be selected to participate, Monyancha decided to apply. To her surprise, she was accepted into the program.
“You never know,” Monyancha remarked. “Because your story is different from everybody else’s story and you can’t really compare yourself.”
Through JAMP, Monyancha had the opportunity to complete summer internships, participate in a MCAT exam preparation program, and benefit from dedicated mentorship.
She took the MCAT exam in her junior year, but when she received her scores, Monyancha was devastated. She did not meet the Critical Analysis and Reasoning section (CARS) score JAMP required, which meant she might not be eligible to interview with medical schools.
Monyancha described this as one of the “lowest points” in her life.
“Everything was kind of like, just evading me because I used to walk around campus…like a zombie,” she reflected. “I used to cry in my room. I was…heartbroken.”
Monyancha took the MCAT again and received the scores the day after her 21st birthday. She learned, to her dismay, that she again did not make the CARS score she needed for JAMP.
“My parents were calling me…and I was just crying and I couldn’t even talk,” Monyancha recalled.
Fortunately, she did meet JAMP’s overall MCAT score requirement. The JAMP Council told her they would decide if she would be permitted to proceed to the interview stage once all the other students received their scores. Monyancha took the MCAT one week earlier than her peers, so her scores were returned to her sooner.
“It was another week of waiting and zombie walking around campus,’ Monyancha said.
Then on a Friday afternoon in September, she received an email from Dr. Greg Hale, UTA’s Faculty Director for JAMP. The message informed Monyancha that the JAMP Council would allow her to interview. She said she will never forget that moment.
“That was so much relief,” Monyancha stated. “I was thinking maybe med school is not for me…you get different people who are telling you, ‘it’s going to be okay,’ but at that moment it doesn’t make sense to you because this is what you’ve always wanted.”
After completing interviews at all the medical schools in Texas, she ranked her top preferences. Her first choice was the Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio, followed by McGovern Medical School in Houston. Monyancha was concerned that her CARS score would keep her from being admitted to the schools she preferred.
On January 25th at 8 a.m., she checked her email and read the words she had been anticipating.
“I got into McGovern and I was like ‘okay, I’m happy!’” she said proudly.
In retrospect, Monyancha believes that although she ranked McGovern second, it is where she was destined to end up all along.
“The person that I interviewed with [at McGovern] said they also didn’t do well on the MCAT the first time and took it three times,” Monyancha recalled. “And just clues popped up and [made me think] this is the school I was meant to be at.”
When asked what she hopes to do after medical school, Monyancha said she is still unsure.
“I want to do something with advocacy,” she responded. “Something that involves education and information to people or trying to help communities because that’s what I’m really passionate about,” Monyancha said.
A soccer enthusiast, her dream is to one day attend a World Cup and the Summer Olympics.
“Most of my experiences I draw from these athletes,” Monyancha explained. “They have to be on their toes; they have to have good concentration.”
She said seeing the players fail makes her realize that “we’re all the same.”
“I like giving people chances and seeing people win in that sense. You don’t know what people are going through.”
As Monyancha finishes her time at UTA and in the Honors College, she has valuable for other undergraduate students who may be interested in medicine, too.
“You are in the position you are in because you are meant to be,” she shared. “You are your own person…you don’t have to be like somebody else. The experiences that you have and your own unique background are enough to push you, and you can draw from those.”
Monyancha summed up her journey to medical school with one of her favorite quotations: “When life knocks you down, try to land on your back. Because if you can look up, you can get up.”
“That’s the one thing that I’ve always tried to emulate, she explained. “If you fail this time, there’s always another time.”
After experiencing failure, Monyancha said it is okay to cry or “do whatever you have to do to get it out of your system.” But most importantly, she said that one must start again.
Monyancha confesses there were times when she “discounted” herself and thought maybe she “wasn’t good enough,” but realized if she put forth the effort and gave it her all, she would have the tools she needed to succeed.
“You don’t have to be the smartest person, but if you put in the work, then you will always see the results.”