Medical Student News

20 UCSF Students Receive First Gen Scholarship

 |  By Janah May Oclaman
First Gen Scholarship Recipients from the School of Medicine | Photo: Kelly Montgomery

First Gen Scholarship Recipients from the School of Medicine | Photo: Kelly Montgomery

On November 15, 2022, UCSF First Generation Support Services (FGSS) held their First Gen Scholarship Award Dinner to acknowledge the 20 student-recipients, who actively make a positive difference in the first gen community. Student-recipients come from programs across UCSF Professional Schools and the Graduate Division. Each awardee receives $3,000 to support their educational goals.

This year’s scholarship awardees, including 11 UCSF medical students, were selected from 79 applications reviewed by a panel of first gen alumni, faculty, and staff. The application process involved answering questions about experiences as a first gen student, how being first gen has influenced their academic journey, current contributions to the first gen community, and future plans.

First gen students – those who are within the first generation of their family to go to college – comprise approximately 30 percent of the UCSF student population. To qualify for the scholarship, students must be enrolled full-time, at least in their second year, and actively involved in the first gen community. Eligible first gen students were identified and invited to apply by First Generation Support Services.

During the First Gen Scholarship Award Dinner, alumni, faculty, students, and their family members celebrated the students’ and the community’s success. School of Medicine student-awardees reflected on their first gen experience, and its influence on their academic experiences.

Rafael Verduzco Guillen, UCSF Medical Student
Rafael Verduzco Guillen, Class of 2025

Rafael Verduzco Guillen, Class of 2025 said, “I found that my experiences growing up first gen instilled in me a passion to return home to care for the community that raised me. My academic experiences have been the avenue through which I'm working to implement that passion.”

Richard Ballena, UCSF Medical Student, Class of 2025
Richard Ballena, Class of 2025

Richard Ballena, Class of 2025 said, “As a first gen student in higher education, there's no handbook on the steps you need to take to reach your goals. We make our own handbook along the way and try to help other first-gen students thrive using what we've learned.”

Awardees expressed their commitment to serving the first gen community in UCSF and beyond, as most serve as mentors and leaders of programs and initiatives that support members of the community and of underrepresented groups. Students acknowledged the role and support of their communities and with their actions, showed their commitment to give back as they support not only the current members, but also the first gen students who come after them.

Nirosh Mataraarachchi
Nirosh Mataraarachchi, Class of 2025

When asked for their advice to future first gen students interested in a career in medicine, Nirosh Mataraarachchi, Class of 2025 said, “It is possible! Your struggles and accompanying resilience to not only pursue higher education but a career in medicine will provide you a unique perspective that others may not have as you tend to your future patients and hear their lived experiences.”

Guillen said, “Being first gen to me is like being handed a blank canvas without any instructions on what to draw, filled with mistakes along the way, and with maybe less craft than you’d like but you adapt as you try new techniques and colors. Before you know it, you have a painting that captures you. My advice is to share your painting and let that be the driving force for your journey through medicine.”

Mohamed Hisham Siddeek
Mohamed Hisham Siddeek, Class of 2025

Mohamed Hisham Siddeek, Class of 2025, suggested future first gen students connect with the broader first gen community. He said, “Reach out to those who have walked this path before you. I would not be where I am today if not for the support I received from my first gen mentors, faculty, and peers.”

The First Gen Scholarship is an annual scholarship started in 2021 with the purpose of recognizing first gen students who have contributed to the first gen community and providing financial support to help students pursue their academic endeavors. FGSS was able to offer this scholarship in collaboration with the Student Financial Services. In addition to the scholarship, FGSS offers a Buddy Program for peer mentorship, a Mentorship Program between first gen students and staff/faculty/alumni/postdocs/residents, workshops, community gatherings, monthly newsletters, individual consultation, and the platform to lead and serve through the FG2C student organization.