Name: Juan Magaña
Specialty: Internal Medicine
Residency: Duke University Medical Center
Medical School: University of Washington, School of Medicine
Undergraduate: University of California, Berkeley
1) When did you decide you wanted to become a Medical Doctor and what led to this decision? I was first inspired to pursue medicine a few weeks prior to my high school graduation. My 92 year old grandfather who was living under our care for five years was very ill with; diabetes, hypertension, dementia, peripheral vascular disease with an above the knee amputation, bowel incontinence and history of strokes with residual weakness. He would pass away just before graduating high school from lung cancer. It was my grandfather, two siblings and I residing in a small bedroom, and we all participated in caring for his needs. After he passed away, I reflected on my experience with him, and thought that it would be great to help others who suffer from illness. And that was the first time I had ever considered a career in medicine.
2) What was the most difficult part of getting into Medical School for you? Their was no real “most” difficult part for me on my journey into medicine. Every semester at school was an academic, financial and social struggle. Adapting to life away from home, keeping pace with course work, osculating feeling of self confidence and not believing that I belonged at UC Berkeley, working 20 plus hours each week and missing out on many social events to prioritize academics. No step has been easy; I owe my success to the many mentors, friends and family who have supported me along the way.
3) How did you study for the MCAT? How do you recommend students study for the MCAT? I dedicated five strait months to studying while working full time. I took a complete preparatory course, which I feel helped to give me plenty of practice exams, coaching on time management and test taking. I studied alone and with study buddies, which were key.
4) What did you do during your undergraduate summers?
My first summer was spent taking courses (big mistake- you should apply to summer programs!), second summer was spent participating in the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program, next summer was spent at a summer medical Spanish immersion program in Mexico. My last summer was spent interning for the Biology Scholars Program, a program that I attribute the majority of my academic and professional success to at UC Berkeley. I recommend students spend their summers for personal, professional, scholarship growth.
5) What is one thing you wish someone told you while you were in college? I was lucky to be an amazing program that supported students from under represented, first generation college, low income backgrounds-the Biology Scholars Program. I was told exactly what I needed to hear, when I needed to hear it. The advice I got: Ask for help, always be yourself, never forget where you come from, strive for excellence every day, its your life and you are right where you need to be on your road to medicine: “ you are behind nobody.” Pay it forward one day.
6) What led you to choose your current specialty? I choose the specialty in internal medicine because 1) I love the hospital and the diversity of patients I get to see every day. 2) The schedule will allow me to have balance between my career and family life (7 days on and 7 days off).
7) What is one thing that a mentor did for you which has had a lifelong effect on your career? My mentor once told me in one of our many meetings, “Juan, I was praying that you would walk through my door and tell me that you failed your courses this semester.” This was my second year of college. I asked him why he would say/wish for such a thing. He told me that I was not realizing my potential because I was over committing myself to community service, and that I was justifying my C’s (2.0 GPA) on balancing community service with a science curriculum. He was hoping that I would double down on my academics and stop hiding/protecting my ego behind the many hours of community service. He told me that “You could do more for your community as a physician, then you ever will as a volunteer.” After that semester, I scaled back on my activities and focused more on my academics. That conversation changed my life.
8) Briefly describe your average work day. I wake up at 5:30-6 AM on most days and get to the hospital at 6:30- 7 AM. I see my patients alone and then with my supervising doctor. I spend the rest of my morning calling consult for my patients and then finishing my daily notes. The afternoon is spent at an educational lunch conference, and from 1-7 pm I am admitting patients from the emergency department and checking on my patients throughout the day before I sign out to the night team at 7 pm.
9) What do you enjoy most about your profession? What do you enjoy least? I love getting to know my patients. I also love that I can meet somebody for the first time and sit across from a person and ask them “how can I help you today?” and be in a position to work with a multidisciplinary team to improve their health. I love that my presence as a minority physician may serves as a familiar face to a patient searching for a connection in a large health system.
10) What words of advice would you like to leave with pre-medical students? I will offer the same advise I was given; Ask for help, always be yourself, never forget where you come from, strive for excellence every day, don’t let other dictate who you are or limit your potential, pay it forward one day. Lastly, always do the right thing, even when you think no one is watching.