Ixchel “Izzy” Gomez is on a mission to practice medicine — and she wants to bring others like her along with her.

Growing up in a largely Hispanic, Pentecostal church community, Gomez often accompanied her parents to visit church members who were sick, many of whom felt neglected or misunderstood by doctors and pharmacists due to language barriers. Along the way, she recognized a need for more Spanish-speaking physicians. And she developed a desire to encourage young people in her community to aspire for more than they thought possible.

“It’s very rare that you see a physician who’s Hispanic, especially in California,” said Gomez, a senior majoring in biological sciences with plans to become a general surgeon. “So I wanted to be that difference and to help out my community and let them know it’s possible. Since I grew up in a low-income community, the furthest [many people] get is graduating high school and then getting a job to help out your parents.”

Gomez and her older sister, a Biola alumna, learned about Biola through their church pastor. She knew she wanted to be a science major but didn’t know how hard it would be.

“Being a first-generation student, I had no idea what college was going to be like,” she said.

One of the hurdles she faced was feeling self-conscious in a community that was no longer predominantly Hispanic. But then she found a sense of community at the Collegium, a dedicated space on campus for Biola’s commuter students. She also faced difficult science courses her first year and had to retake general chemistry.

In the face of these challenges, Gomez didn’t give up. Instead, she was inspired to start “Minorities in Medicine,” a club for other students of color who would benefit from having mentors and a place to connect with others from similar backgrounds. The club’s mission is to provide knowledge, service and Christian fellowship — equipping underrepresented science students with the tools needed to pursue their goals in the healthcare field.

Looking back on the opportunities she’s had at Biola, including speaking at chapel, she’s thankful for the chance to inspire other students.

“I feel like a lot of the opportunities I’ve had, I may feel like I’m not qualified for it but God says I’m qualified,” she said.