Women Of Our Future: Women In STEM With Alejandra Isabel Castillo Cervantes

Interviewee: Alejandra Isabel Castillo Cervantes

Interviewer: Mariajose de Jesus Castillo Cervantes

Editor, Graphic Designer: Pat Sevikul



My name is Alejandra Isabel Castillo, I’m 25 years old, and I studied medicine in Merida Yucatan. Currently, I am living with my family in Cancùn while waiting for residency to become a radiologist. My passions besides medicine are running, reading and going out with my friends.


What was your story growing up and how did that lead you to study medicine?

When I was little, I realized that I was really good at science, anatomy and everything that had to do with the human body. I also loved helping others. So besides being really good at science, I knew that I was passionate about helping others ever since I was little.


The people who have inspired me to become a doctor are my parents, since they’re doctors too. I grew up surrounded by many doctors and seeing them made me realise that the career that matched my passion was medicine.


What do you enjoy about your career the most?

What I enjoy the most is helping others. I really love seeing the smiles of patients that I’ve helped. Even if they are not completely healed, you can relieve their pain just by talking to them, and so I really like that. I think that this is the coolest thing about my profession because the ability to make someone smile when they’re having a really tough time is the best feeling in the world.


I think that this is the coolest thing about my profession is the ability to make someone smile when they’re having a really tough time. It is the best feeling in the world.

- Alejandra Isabel Castillo Cervantes


How would you describe your STEM field to young girls?

My STEM field is a little bit tough. You have to study a lot. Sometimes you have really bad nights, and you have to go on call. But I think that when you’re passionate about it and good at it too, it is worth every difficult moment.


What have you learned from your experiences over the years and how has it impacted your life?

One of the most important lessons that I’ve learnt is resilience. As students, they tell us that the most important thing is our grades. We don’t sleep or eat, and we have to put aside our mental health. I think one of the most important things that I have learned is to take care of myself, while also going through adversity with a smile.


What challenges have you faced and are still facing today working in this field?

Being really sensitive and empathic with patients can be tough. There are cases that patients and their families struggle with more, so you can get a bit emotional too if your own mental health isn’t strong. I think that this is one of the most challenging things is having a thick skin while also not leaving empathy aside.


What are the specific challenges of being a woman in STEM? Are there certain double standards that you face?

The challenges we face in medicine, at least here in Mexico, is that macho culture is still very strong in many fields. Though I do think that we are slowly progressing, we still receive comments about stereotypical gender customs and roles. For example, when women wear white, some comment on our marriage status; if we want to have a family, we are told to study certain specialties that are for “women”; we are told we can’t do some things because we are not strong enough and because we are women.


What change do you hope to see in the future?

I hope that the macho culture ends and that we are able to pursue whatever we are passionate about, regardless of our gender. I also hope that people begin to talk about their mental health more. We should tell students that grades are not the most important thing, and that they can take a pause on your career. It’s okay to take time away from your studies and focus on your mental health.


We should tell students that grades are not the most important thing, and that they can take a pause on their career. It's okay to take time away from your studies to focus on your mental health.

- Alejandra Isabel Castillo Cervantes


How does the lack of representation of women in STEM reflect and impact our society?

In Mexico, I don’t think we have a lack of representation in medicine as many women are currently pursuing medicine. In my generation, there are more women than men, so I think that this is not really a problem. However, I’ve had talks with my mom where she told me that she didn’t feel safe at times because of the harassment she faced, being the only woman at her workplace. Part of why I think it’s important that women take part in STEM is so that we can find a balance in the field, and support each other through the hardships.


Why is it important that we have young women participating in STEM, and why is it important that we have representation?

I think having young women in STEM will help balance the field. In my experience, I think having both men and women can make patients feel more at ease and create a more comfortable environment for them.


How do we encourage young girls to get involved in STEM?

In order to encourage young girls, we should inspire them and educate them about different STEM fields. We should put forward the message that anything is possible if we follow our passions, even if we might feel scared going into it. For me, medicine is really hard too, but I believe if you are passionate about something challenging like STEM, and you have a group of people who you can rely on, then you could prepare yourself so you can take on these challenges the best way you can.


What advice would you give to young girls starting out?

Follow your passion and follow your dreams. Some people will tell you that you’re not capable, or that you’re not ready because you’re too young, but do not listen to them. Just do what you believe you can do. Study and be prepared. That's the best tactic that you can use. Wear your power and passion like a badge, and work for it with a lot of honour.


Follow your passion and follow your dreams. Some people will tell you that you’re not capable, or that you’re not ready because you’re too young, but do not listen to them. Just do what you believe you can do.
Wear your power and passion like a badge, and work for it with a lot of honour.

- Alejandra Isabel Castillo Cervantes


 

Follow Alejandra on Instagram!



 

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