On motherhood, medicine and dreams that never dieKristen Delgado isn’t your typical graduate student. She’s more than that. After five children and 15 years working as an accomplished clinical laboratory scientist, Kristen is returning to school full-time to pursue her dream of becoming a physician-scientist. As a Berkeley MEng bioengineering student, Delgado is working towards the “scientist” part of that dream. This is her story.
What did you do as a clinical laboratory scientist?As a clinical laboratory scientist, I performed clinical testing of varying complexity on patient samples, like blood, urine, body fluids, and so on, in order to give physicians reliable results that they then would use to decide how to treat their patients. I worked in hospitals, but clinical laboratory scientists can also work for reference labs like LabCorp or Quest.
Why did you decide you needed a career change?I decided to change careers because I always wanted to be a physician, but I was busy raising my family and I didn’t think I would ever have the opportunity to go to medical school. My youngest child is 8 now, so I feel like it is now or never to pursue my dreams. My family is supportive and we have reorganized our family routine so that I can go back to school.
“I didn’t think I would ever have the opportunity to go to medical school … I feel like it is now or never to pursue my dreams.”
What led you to apply and join the Berkeley MEng program?I want to foster my creativity and have had many ideas about starting my own laboratory and this program will help me build a foundation once I graduate as a physician-scientist. A physician-scientist spends most of their time doing research in addition to caring for patients. My goal is to immerse myself in this master’s program and learn about biomechanics, genome editing, and the function of businesses and start-ups.
You mentioned you have aspirations to start your own laboratory. Is there anything, in particular, you would want to study in that lab?I’m really interested in immunology and creating antibody therapies (called biologics). I want to develop new diagnostic tools and treatment for disease.
What interests you about bioengineering, specifically?Dr. Irina Conboy is working on anti-aging therapies and I would like to participate and learn about this work. I find this field fascinating … Aging is something that affects us all in many different ways — (it’s) harmful to our bodies — and cell death is intriguing.
What do you want to study in medical school?I am looking forward to all of the curriculum, except the cadaver dissection part of the anatomy/surgery block. I feel like we should let the dead rest in peace. I hope that if I get into medical school, I will have a chance to continue my studies from Berkeley in bioengineering as part of my new school’s MD program.
How, if at all, has motherhood impacted your education?As a mother, one learns the fragility of children and their growing bodies. Our job is to make sure they grow up healthy and safe. There are times when our bodies don’t work as well as they should. For example, our 8-year-old Santiago has ureter valve issues with a failing kidney. Santiago now needs surgery to correct a reflux issue in both kidneys. Motherhood has challenged me in so many ways as I returned to school but has also strengthened my resolve. It helped me understand who I am and helped me prioritize the things that are important and really matter in life. Motherhood as I perceived my mother is another motivating factor for my return to school. My mother passed away many years ago from cancer. Her cancer treatment has always remained an issue for me since I was never physically present during her treatments. I feel I need to advocate for better treatment even if it means I work to develop new therapies.
What are some of your non-academic hobbies/passions, and how, if at all, have they inspired your professional goals?I love learning languages and this has helped me learn Spanish on my own. This has fostered my learning of cultures and people. I love K-drama series and enjoy watching them with my 13-year-old daughter Isabel.
What kind of impact do you want to have on the world?I want to have a lasting impact in medicine so that many can be helped by more compassionate treatments or therapies.
Favorite quote:Favorite quote from Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen:
“But in such cases as these, a good memory is unpardonable. This is the last time I shall ever remember it myself.”Edited by Veronica Roseborough.
Kristen Delgado, MEng ’23 (BioE): “It is now or never to pursue my dreams.” was originally published in Berkeley Master of Engineering on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.