Alyssa Tijerina, a nursing and psychology junior, always knew she would pursue a career in medicine. Having witnessed firsthand how family members fought different life-threatening illnesses, including cancer, she developed an aptitude for assessing the potential needs of patients.
“I knew from a young age that I wanted to be in the medical field and help people,” she says. “I have such a strong passion for helping cancer patients and for mental health, and I hope to one day become a psychiatric nurse practitioner.”
Tijerina’s interest in both oncology and mental health led her to an internship—the first of its kind—with the Texas Center for Proton Therapy. The center treats cancer patients using an advanced, highly precise form of radiation that employs protons to destroy cancer cells while minimizing damage to surrounding tissue.
Through the internship, Tijerina assesses social and emotional interactions between the patients and staff for the duration of patient treatment.
“Having been in their shoes, I can definitely sympathize and empathize with our patients,” she says. “In the future, I hope to counsel patients and their families through the uncharted territories involved with oncology diagnoses. It’s a privilege and an honor to help those who need it.”