Aspects of a Learner | Lucas Dominic Martinez
Lucas Dominic Martinez - Physician Assistant Program - Class of 2022
Where did you grow up?
I was born in the Philippines just south of the capital, Manila. I am the youngest of three siblings and we were raised by a single mother. When I was 20, my sister and I moved to the U.S. so we could find jobs and help my mom back home. Our goal was to eventually become citizens and bring my mother and brother to the U.S
Where did you attend college? What degree(s) did you earn?
I started off with an Associate’s Degree in Diagnostic Imaging from my local community college. I worked as an ultrasound technologist for five years while taking a few classes every semester. Eventually I was able to complete a Bachelor's of Science in Healthcare Leadership from the University of St. Francis. I am the first in my family to attend and finish college.
What inspired you to enter the physician assistant program?
I absolutely loved my career as sonographer. But after five years in that role, it began to feel like I was handcuffed to my machine. I was willing to do so much more for my patients. That's when I knew it was the right time to advance my career and become a provider.
How did your challenges affect you?
Being born and raised in a developing country truly gives you a unique perspective on life. Our family struggled to remain afloat. It was a huge challenge for my mother to provide for three kids on her own. As a kid, I remember studying for tests by candlelight because we were always late on our electric bill. Our house did not have running water so I would have to pump water from a well and fill buckets to haul back to our house. My sister and I both had to drop out of high school to help my mother make ends meet. I’ve been through a lot of setbacks in life, but I wear each one as a badge of honor. Despite growing up in poverty, my family and I never felt pity for ourselves. In fact, we were happy just being together. I am proud of my roots and my upbringing, and I believe this is what makes me diverse.
When I moved here, my sister and I worked humble jobsand learned life in America one day at a time. I worked as a dishwasher, a stock boy, a waiter, a sales associate, anything that would allow me to send money back home. On my third year as an immigrant, my mom was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer. Having not seen her in three years, I knew I had to drop everything and leave. I went back home to the Philippines to be with her.
What was truly painful about the situation was learning that my mom tried to hide her condition. She knew our family could not afford to treat her and she refused to leave her children in debt. She passed away a few days after I arrived. I spent the next few months blaming myself for not being there sooner and not knowing any better. It was a turning point in my life. It was the moment I decided to pursue healthcare as a career. I picked myself up and flew back to the U.S. with a fire within me, and a new goal in mind. I applied for college and eventually got accepted into an ultrasound program. I went to clinicals in the morning and worked at a restaurant at night. After completing my degree, I was finally able to start my career as an ultrasound technologist. And here I am today with a five-year career in sonography, halfway done with the didactic year of PA school. The fire still burns, and I can almost taste my end goal.
My older sister also returned to the U.S. She decided to pursue her dream of a career in the culinary industry. She worked her way up and I am super proud of her! Despite not having a culinary degree, she became a pastry sous chef at a Michelin star restaurant in New York City. She was even featured on a Filipino TV network. She now owns and operates her own pastry business in Manhattan. She and I became U.S. citizens in 2017, and we were able to petition for my brother and my nephew to come to America. In 2019 my brother and his son were able to get their green cards. Our family embodies the American dream, proving that people from all walks of life can find success in this country as long as they are determined and hard working.
What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
I want to help someone beat cancer. I was 23 when I lost my mom to lung cancer. I still remember that feeling of being helpless. Our family couldn't afford to treat her, and my siblings and I lost the only parent we ever had. It was the darkest point of my life and I kept thinking how life could be so unfair. If there is one goal I want to accomplish in my entire career as a PA, it would be to tell a dedicated mother that her cancer is all gone.
What advice would you give to other young men and women who are faced with adversity because of poverty, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.?
Never underestimate your own potential. All it takes is that one spark to ignite whatever passion is within you. Anytime I am struggling or stressed, I think back to where I came from and realize that I have come so far in life. Use your setbacks as coal to keep your flame burning. We are often stronger than we think.