Francisco, Class of 2014

  • Hometown: Santa Barbara, California
  • Previous institution: University of California, Santa Barbara


My classmates share my struggles and my joys and knowing that we are all in this together is what keeps me working hard.

Growing up in Santa Barbara, California, Francisco was fortunate to have a handful of positive role models in his community. The manager of his soccer team, who also happened to be a pediatrician, introduced him to the idea of working in health care. He also had a different type of role model: people whose examples taught him what activities and associations to avoid. Now an adult, he uses the lessons from his past to be a positive role model for those around him. “As a child I felt I had been dealt a bad hand because I lacked guidance,” he admits. “It wasn’t until I got older that I could I say I was fortunate, because the people around me were looking out for me and ensuring I could pave my own path.”

Life at UCSB

Francisco originally felt drawn to a major in psychology and pursued that interest for his first two years of college at University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). When he became curious about working in health care, he worked as a medical assistant at a nearby clinic to explore the possibility. Soon enough, his curiosity turned into serious motivation. He investigated different health career paths and decided to obtain experience working in a pharmacy. After realizing he was more interested in treating people with medicine as opposed to diagnosing disease, he felt he had discovered his potential career.

Not so fast

Changing his academic focus as a junior meant Francisco had a long road of prerequisite courses ahead of him with only a few quarters left at UCSB. He remembers a discouraging experience that stemmed from a meeting with an academic counselor, who took one look at his transcript and delivered a blow. “You’re not going to be competitive,” she said. “I don’t think it’s going to happen.” Despite this setback, Francisco went on to complete his academic requirements and graduate from UCSB in 4.5 years, while also completing additional courses at a local community college. On top of his studies, he did personal research on the pharmacy profession and confirmed he was on the right path. “It motivated me that much more,” he reflects. “I knew I had the chance to prove to myself and my counselor that I could make it happen.”

Application time

When it came time to select pharmacy schools, Francisco had some strict requirements. “I wanted to stay in California,” he shares, “and I wanted to stay close enough to visit my family.” For those reasons, University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) looked appealing upon first glance, as did some other schools. He participated in interviews at multiple institutions and walked away from UCSF with a clear decision in mind. “My interview day was great,” he remembers. “I felt the school took the time to get to know me and share the benefits of an education at UCSF.”

Welcome to UCSF

The first challenge Francisco met at UCSF was the culture shock of being a brand-new professional student. “I felt that I did not belong and that I had to have been one of the weakest newly admitted students,” he confesses. The academic transition was tough, but eventually his hard work paid off. Francisco would often reflect on the challenges he’d overcome to earn his place at UCSF and this tactic consistently helped him refocus on his goal of becoming a pharmacist. He also had the strength of the community at UCSF and his network to pull him through, even choosing to meet personally with the dean when he needed support and assurance. “I had an initial struggle, but my colleagues definitely got me through it. The funny thing is, as things have gotten harder, I’ve started to enjoy it even more. My classmates share my struggles and my joys and knowing that we are all in this together is what keeps me working hard.”

Almost there

Francisco is now a year away from earning his doctor of pharmacy degree. After graduation, he’s considering a residency or the possibility of returning to UCSF to teach. Ultimately he wants his career to emphasize patient care. “I see patient interactions as a way to empower people … I want to help individuals succeed,” he explains. The same goes for empowering prospective students. Though it wasn’t that long ago, Francisco smiles when he thinks back to his days as an applicant. “Don’t doubt yourself, and do not be intimidated to take on new challenges and show that you are great,” he advises. “You have to remember your worth, and all that you have accomplished and plan to accomplish because that will be your fuel and the thoughts you have to reflect on when times get rough. I always remember something a friend once told me: if you can do something, do it with pride or do not do it at all. That’s what I’m doing.”

Photo: Joel W. Gonzales

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