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Spring/Summer 2011

Alum Profile: Norma Villalon Plans Career in Medicine

Norma Villalon always knew she wanted to go to med school. She took advanced math and science
courses in high school and was ready to navigate the higher education system. But when her family moved from Mexico to the United States when she was 18, Villalon was at a loss how to continue her dream.

Then MESA came into the picture.

Villalon completed her senior year at Santa Paula High School then went to Ventura College. She joined MESA after completing basic English and math classes there. With the help of MESA, Villalon excelled.

“MESA gives you a support system,” the 26-year-old said. “I met a lot of people with the same background and interests as me—we encouraged each other.”

Years later, when Villalon transferred from Ventura to UC Davis as a biology major, she found the huge classes and less interaction with professors at the large university a hard transition.

Once again, MESA helped.

“Luckily, I had a group of MESA students who transferred with me from Ventura to Davis. Five of us. All bio majors. And we lived together. We kind of made our own MESA center,” she joked.

She graduated from UC Davis in 2009, then started studying for the MCAT and applying for med school.

Villalon’s exposure to science and medical conferences while with MESA at Ventura College put her in touch with the mentors and professional networks she still uses today. A doctor she met at the Stanford premed conference in 2006 eventually helped with her med school applications.

“My parents only have an elementary education, which made [pursuing a higher education] harder but thankfully in MESA I found the guidance I needed,” she said.

Villalon was accepted to six med schools including her dream school—Stanford. She’ll begin there in the fall with a 75% tuition scholarship.

“I’m still a little bit in shock. I can’t wait to start. It’s so exciting.”

To save money, V illalon concurrently has held down a full- and part-time job doing clinical research during the last year. She works mainly with people who only speak Spanish. She hopes to continue working with underserved populations after completing med school.


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