First-Gen Student Spotlight: Valeria Oller (MAMS ’24)

Valeria Oller is a second-year student in the Master of Science in Medical Sciences (MAMS) program at Graduate Medical Sciences. Valeria is a first-generation student and a Community Catalyst Center mentor in the gFIRST (First-Generation) and gSOC (Students of Color) affinity groups. She is currently completing her thesis research at Mass General Hospital. Read more about Valeria below!

Graduate Medical Sciences is publishing this Spotlight as part of the BU-wide First-Generation College Celebration Week, which recognizes the vast achievements and experiences of our first-generation community. Learn more here.

Tell me about your journey to Boston University. What was the adjustment to Boston like for you?  

The adjustment to Boston was challenging. I am from Southwest Florida and haven’t lived in a city like Boston. Everything was so new to me, and adjusting to that along with school was hard. I was lucky enough to have moved here with one of my friends from home and we have made that adjustment together, which has made it easier. I have also made some friends in my program and were able to keep motivating each other with our classes. I am still not used to the cold, but maybe one day.

What drew you to the MAMS program at BU? Why did you decide to apply, and ultimately enroll?

Well, I have always been drawn to Boston. I am not sure why, but it’s just one of those places that I have wanted to spend some time in. At the time, I was also debating whether to pursue a master’s degree, but I thought it was best to get more of a science background before I apply to medical school to see if I can handle the workload. It wasn’t until one of my advisors from my previous university recommended that I apply to the MAMS program at BU that I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to see what Boston was all about!

Tell me a bit about some of the work you’re doing in MAMS. Are you doing research and/or a thesis in your second year?

I am in my second year and am currently doing research! I am a clinical research assistant at the Center for Health Outcomes and Interdisciplinary Research (CHOIR) at Mass General Hospital! My team and I are working on developing a mindfulness-based program for patients who experience upper-extremity pain. I started over the summer and have been enjoying my time there. This project is for my thesis, and I cannot wait to see how that develops throughout the year.

What are your longer-term goals? What do you want to do once you complete the MAMS program?

After I graduate from the MAMS program, I hope to attend medical school. I am planning on applying this upcoming cycle. I am not completely set on a certain field, but I know that I will figure it all out.

What inspired you to volunteer as a gFIRST and gSOC mentor for the Community Catalyst Center?

I decided to volunteer as a gFIRST and gSOC mentor because I just wanted to meet people who have a similar background as I do. I want to have that same sense of community as I have at home. I come from a large Hispanic community in Florida and am always surrounded by my culture, so adjusting was challenging, but finding this opportunity has helped me. I hope to also provide that sense of community in others who join! I also enjoy being a mentor. I was a teaching assistant and have been a mentor in the past. I just love bringing people together and helping any way I can!

How, if so, do you feel your intersecting identities have shaped your perspective as a student and future health care worker?

My intersecting identities have made a significant impact on my perspective as a student and future health care worker. My parents immigrated from Peru and have worked so hard to get to where they are today. They inspire me every day to keep pursuing my goals. I don’t want to take my parents’ sacrifice for granted. It has motivated me to be the best that I can be. It is also the main reason why I want to become a physician. I want to represent my community and prove to people that anything is possible.

Do you have any advice for future GMS students with similar identities who are pursuing a similar educational/research path?

My advice is to just keep at it and find ways to motivate yourself. I know that it can be very challenging but know that your sacrifices are worth it in the long run. I think it is also important to find what feels like home to you. Being open to different opportunities has helped me a lot!

What do you like to do for fun around Boston?

I love to go to different coffee shops and bookstores! It is a great way to pass the time and to just walk around the city. If you want any recommendations or just want to get in contact with me, please do so! I love meeting new people!