Imelda Pastrana

Imelda Pastrana, MEPN student and medical assistant at UCI’s Comprehensive Digestive Disease Center in Orange.

What is your background?

Imelda: I am first generation Mexican-American college student and could not be more appreciative of the determination and maturity life has required of me. At a young age, I was very much aware of the struggles of money. My hardships and personal experiences have provided me with the confidence and drive required to pursue a Master of Science degree in Nursing. While most six-year-olds spent Sunday mornings watching cartoons, my early years were spent selling food with my father. I matured at a young age and developed the ambition and passion to become something special in life. I could not let my parents’ hard work and the sacrifices they made coming to this country go to waste.

At the age of eight, I discovered my interest for medical care. During this time, my younger sister required frequent medical monitoring for a serious heart condition. Although I was young, I was able to help my mother by translating signage, medication labels and medical forms from English to Spanish. I enjoyed accompanying her. I was always curious about what transpired behind the closed doors of patient rooms.

As I grew, my interest in healthcare did not dissipate.  Instead, it drove me to pursue a career in medicine. Two months after my high school graduation, I enrolled in a medical assistant program.  I felt compelled to work to support myself and help my parents out financially.

 Where have you been working? 

Imelda: My career as a medical assistant, has allowed me the opportunity to explore my passion for medical care in many medical practices over the span of ten years. I currently work at University of Irvine Medical Center as a medical assistant. I have been with UCI Medical Center since 2009. This is when I joined the Senior Health Center, which gave me a new appreciation for geriatric medicine. In 2012, I joined the Comprehensive Digestive Disease Center at UC Irvine Health where I continue to provide care as a medical assistant. I am able to work closely with world-renowned surgeons, gastroenterologists and oncologists, as well as assist physician assistants, nurse practitioners and nurses. I have had the opportunity to assist and witness remarkable procedures as well as learn that every patient is unique. I am also grateful to have their support and encouragement through this journey of nursing school.

What academic degrees have you earned?

Imelda: My educational journey had previously been part-time, due to having to work full-time, and therefore took me longer to accomplish. I received my Bachelor of Science in Health Science in 2016 from the California State University, Fullerton. I transferred to CSUF from Santiago Canyon College where I completed my Associate of Liberal Arts: Math & Sciences..

How did you decide to apply to the MEPN program at UCI?

Imelda: Since the moment I learned of the MEPN program through an email and from a former supervisor, I knew this was the program for me. When I discovered that I met all the pre-requisites, I became emotional knowing there was a possibility I could be attending UCI for a master’s degree in nursing. During the time of applications, my father was receiving treatment for colon cancer. I was in doubt of whether this was a good time to apply because of everything surrounding his diagnosis. But, I also knew he would not want me to halt my career plans because of his diagnosis. It turned out the timing was perfect.  He finished treatment and a month later I started the MEPN program.

What made you think of nursing as a career?

Imelda: After realizing my potential in medical care surpassed the limits I had as a medical assistant, I decided to pursue an advanced career in nursing. My father’s cancer battle has ultimately confirmed my decision to pursue a nursing career and return the care that we received to other patients. His cancer battle has proved to be the most grueling time in my life. But, it has also allowed me to experience nursing from a patients’ perspective. I was left with lasting impressions of the care my father received from his nurses. I hope to, someday, be as impressive as those who cared for us.

What are your plans once you complete the program?

Imelda: As a master’s prepared nurse, I plan to give back and care for others in my community the way my family received help when we needed it the most. My population of interest is low-income families. I have a special interest in colo-rectal surgery as well as oncology care. I hope to be able to turn in my badge as a medical assistant and work as a nurse at UCI Medical Center.

How does it feel to be a part of UCI’s inaugural MEPN cohort?

Imelda: It is an honor and a dream come true to be a part of the inaugural cohort of the MEPN program. I have worked so hard to get to this point, I do not take this opportunity for granted. I am grateful to have the support of my family, colleagues, physicians and nurses alike. This is a rigorous program and can be challenging at times, but I also know as the inaugural class we are setting the expectations for future students. Being part of a cohort of 20 makes us more of a family and allows us to have more individualized assistance.

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