With the goal of becoming a doctor, Bianka Pena ’25 does not shy away from challenges. She seeks them out. Born and raised in the Dominican Republic, the pre-med psychology major with a chemistry minor was looking for internships this past summer that would enable her to expand her research skills. After hearing from her mother about an opportunity to work at the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo, Pena quickly applied, writing and submitting three separate research proposals in both Spanish and in English. After the interview process, she was hired.
Pena completed research on the maternal mortality rates of women of different age groups throughout the Dominican Republic. The work required tremendous persistence and drive, as Pena traveled to different local hospitals, meeting and speaking with medical professionals and reading through many medical records. She was motivated by a strong desire to explore more deeply the Dominican Republic’s history of child marriage and its implications for children’s health and safety.
Pena viewed this internship as not only as an opportunity to learn, but also a chance to revisit her roots, saying, “This internship allowed me to reconnect with where I belong, where I was born--[to reconnect] with my country, and it actually made me realize that maybe there’s hope for a change.”
While the research she conducted could be time-consuming and frustrating, it also taught her the importance of believing in herself. “Sometimes even when things look really hard, you need to know you can do it,” says Pena. “I didn’t know I could write that [research] paper, and I wrote it. I didn’t know I could make a poster, and I did most of the things by myself. I didn’t think I would be capable of doing such a thing, but I did it … I learned that we are stronger and more capable than we believe we are.”
Behind Pena’s grit and determination is a motive that underlies everything she does. “I don’t even know how long I have in this world,” she says. “Maybe I can die tomorrow, I can die in 10 years, but I want to spend every minute, every second I have on this earth doing what I want and doing something that makes me happy and makes a difference because I really want to make sure [that for] people like me--people who don’t have English as a first language – that people see us … I want to show them we can do more.”