<p> Natasha Sepahi-Ziyaeen<p> </p>

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Natasha Sepahi-Ziyaeen

Pre-Health Specialized Studies ‘15
Leukemia Research Coordinator, Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center


University of Pennsylvania, Pre-Health Programs, 2015
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Bachelor of Sciences, Biological Sciences, 2013

When Natasha Sepahi-Ziyaeen was going to high school in northern Virginia, she swam competitively in long-distance events. These events involve swimming very fast for a little short of a mile. As she stroked through the water, Natasha told herself, “You can do it. Persevere.”

Natasha continued to compete during two of the summers she was home from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, where she started in 2009. She liked how her courses fit in well with her creative and scientific interests and that the campus had a positive atmosphere.

“I loved how the school, even though it is really large, made you feel as if you were part of a close-knit community. It was a wonderful environment. My studies were so different from one another. Biology lectures were held in huge halls where the professor presented to 250 other students, while my women’s studies classes were in a classroom and involved discussions between a group of 10 students and one professor.

I knew that I wanted to go into medicine during my freshman year. I thought I might be able to move things around with my major, and create a program that would lend itself more naturally to a career in medical research. I met with a lot of resistance.

I went to three different advisors and each one told me that it was not possible to do what I wanted. I didn’t feel as if anyone was listening to me. It was so discouraging.

I remembered what I learned from swimming: I would persevere. I would get to where I wanted to go, but I knew it was not going to happen at Virginia Tech. After I graduated in 2013, I took a year off to explore which path would work best for me to ultimately be accepted into medical school.

When I spoke with my aunt, who is a doctor, she suggested I look into a post-baccalaureate program. I began to look at Philadelphia and Boston because of the excellent reputation of their medical schools.

I was invited in to interview for admission into Penn’s Pre-Health Specialized Studies program in the spring of 2014 and came back to find an apartment once I was accepted. Two weeks later, I moved in and started classes in the summer. It was such a good transition for me.

I knew that I was in the right place when I first met with my advisor. Talk about a difference from my previous experiences! There are no uniform answers. Everything asked is considered. Your advisor wants to know what you want to accomplish and works with you to identify the coursework that helps you reach your goals. Plus, you are encouraged to follow your passions.

I now know that once I’m in medical school, I intend to focus on pediatric medicine.

Through the program, I’ve been able to work on the general pediatrics team led by the head attending physician at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. I also am working in the hospital’s emergency department. I started as an Academic Associate and am now a Research Assistant, responsible for reviewing the triage reports for eligible patients to participate in the ten different clinical studies underway. My role allows me to interact with children, which I love. The experience has also helped me know how to get to know the patient in a short period of time, and more importantly, gain the child’s and the parents’ trust.

My perseverance has paid off. Now, I’m looking toward applying to medical school and will continue working at Children’s Hospital. I feel I have such an advantage because of my Penn experience.”

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