Alumni Spotlight: A Passion for Helping Others Inspires Gianna Ramos’ Career in Medicine

“Biology was the how and sociology was the why,” says Gianna Ramos ’10, who recently earned a medical degree from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. It was during her time as an undergraduate at Loyola Marymount University that Ramos discovered the value of interdisciplinary collaboration between natural and social sciences.

Ramos initially began as a biology major, but quickly realized that adding sociology as a second major would help her understand people and patients in a more holistic way. “I could wrap my mind around being made up of cells, but I didn’t know what it felt like to be a cell, or connect to chemical reactions. But then I took an introductory sociology course, and it helped me feel more connected to my classmates, professors, and studies,” says Ramos.

Ramos attributes much of her success in sociology to her mentors, Jim Faught, professor of sociology, and Nadia Kim, professor of sociology, who both encouraged her to incorporate what she was learning in the classroom into her goal of using health care to improve the lives of others, especially in underserved communities.

Ramos’ journey also included service with Teach for America. After graduating from LMU, Ramos visited a classroom in Colorado and fell in love with TFA’s mission. She worked as a biology teacher in Richmond, California for two years and still considers it a life altering experience.

“You learn so much about yourself when you are on the other side of a classroom. My students were amazing, and I still keep in touch with a lot of them,” she says.

Following TFA, Ramos gained acceptance into medical school at UCLA where her liberal arts background has helped her social skills, as well as her understanding of the world in which patients live.

“People have this misconception that medicine is all about science, and while a strong science background is helpful, medicine, at its core, is about people. It’s about connecting with people when they are in extremely vulnerable situations and making them feel human. Medicine is about making people feel heard while working to treat their illness. My understanding of people, of society, was extremely augmented by my degree in sociology.”

Recognizing a need for LMU pre-med students to interact with current medical students early on in their education, Ramos started a program called LMUCLA Connection. The program brought together UCLA medical students with LMU pre-med students in a casual environment to participate in panels and workshops. Ramos is proud of the LMUCLA students who have been accepted to medical school at UCLA.

Ramos also offers students interested in multiple disciplines the following advice: “People didn’t always understand my interest in social sciences as a future physician (and I got even more questions later when I got a master’s degree in social work and public health during medical school), but in my opinion it has made me a better physician. I try to understand complex social problems in my patients and not just the science behind the disease they may have. Whatever career plans students have, there is no downside to studying both science and liberal arts, except perhaps the time. You end up becoming a more well-rounded, compassionate individual, and that’s good for anyone.”

Ramos will move back home to Oregon to complete a general surgical residency in Portland. She hopes to become a trauma surgeon at a county hospital dedicated to the care of underserved patients.