Walkania Santos ‘19

Being the Change She Wants to See
UNH biomedical science major Walkania Santos '19

Born and mainly raised in the Dominican Republic, biomedical science major Walkania Santos ’19 is the second in her family to attend college in the U.S. Her plan to become a doctor is rooted in her experience growing up where access to medical care is limited.  At the 2019 UNH Undergraduate Research Conference, Santos presented her research on ways to alter antibiotic and antimicrobial resistant infections so they can be successfully treated. As it stands now, she says, these types of infections are becoming more common and are one of the biggest threats to human health. Following graduation, Santos will be a clinical researcher at Columbia  University Medical Center in New York City.

COLSA: Looking back on your time at UNH so far, what are you most proud of and why?

Walkania Santos: I am very proud of the relationships with faculty mentors I have developed while at UNH. Being an immigrant and a first-generation college student made it extremely difficult for me to navigate the college environment. I am so thankful to my UNH mentors who not only guided me along the way but also challenged me to seek opportunities outside my comfort zone. This has made me more independent and confident in my professional and personal life.

COLSA: What motivates you?

Santos: My biggest motivation is my family and my community. I grew up in a rural community in the Dominican Republic, a community deprived of many basic human needs, such as easy access to medical services. This serves an endless source of inspiration and motivation to pursue a career in medicine so that I am not only able to help here but help my community back home as well.

COLSA: Why did you choose your major?

Santos: I choose my major because the human body has always fascinated me. From a very young age I was always inquisitive about what causes disease, especially how organisms that are so small we cannot see them can make us feel so awful. Looking back at my undergraduate career now as a senior, I am so happy I choose the major biomedical science: medical and veterinary sciences major, and I am so grateful for all the opportunities and diverse courses at COLSA.

COLSA: Any advice for students interested in your major?

Santos: Make sure that you take the classes that spark inquisitiveness and awaken your imagination. Do not let school become about grades, because 10 years down the road you will not be thinking about the A’s you got in one class but about the impact that class or professor made in your life or your career choice. Also make sure that you get involved in activities outside the classroom, were your mind can grow as an individual and as a future professional.

COLSA: What are you planning to do after graduation?

Santos: I am very excited to work as a clinical researcher at Columbia University Medical Center. Columbia Medical Center is in a community predominantly Dominican and immigrant. I am very eager to use my bilingual skills to help non-English speaking patients have a better experience with healthcare. I will work at Columbia for two years before attending medical school in 2021.

COLSA: How is UNH preparing you to achieve your goals?

Santos: UNH has given me the opportunity to become a mentor, a tutor, a lab researcher and a COLSA ambassador. Those different opportunities have helped me learn how to break down complex topics for people who might not necessarily be science majors. Those opportunities have also made me a better listener, a better critical thinker and a better communicator. Those are the skills that will be very beneficial as I pursue a career in medicine.

COLSA: What do you love most about UNH?

Santos: What I love the most about UNH is how easy it is to develop relationships with professors, staff and students.

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