Faye Villegas Awarded PCOM's Student DO of the YearFebruary 17, 2022
Monica Anne Faye Villegas (DO '24) has been recognized as the PCOM Student DO of the
Year. This recognition is sponsored by the Council of Osteopathic Student Government
Presidents, a part of the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine
(AACOM). The Student DO of the Year award honors and recognizes an osteopathic medical student who is committed to the principles of leadership, community service, dedication
and professionalism. Ms. Villegas will go on to compete with the Student DO of the
Year from the colleges of osteopathic medicine across the country, including PCOM Georgia and PCOM South Georgia, for the National SDOY award.
Below, Ms. Villegas shares her journey to medical school and the many ways she has
given back to the PCOM community and beyond.
Where are you from and what is your educational background?
I was born and raised in Rome, Italy, to Filipino parents who immigrated to Italy
in the early 1980s. I moved to the Washington, DC area when I was eleven years old.
I received my bachelor of arts in neuroscience from Skidmore College and my master’s
in physiology from Georgetown University.
What clubs and organizations are you involved in?
During my time at PCOM, I served as president of the Asian Pacific American Medical
Student Association (APAMSA), a cultural competency program delegate for American
Medical Women Association (AMWA), the community outreach chair for the First Generation
Committee, the communications coordinator for DO Ambassadors and co-secretary for
the Student Association of American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians.
This year, I was elected Southeast Asian director for the National Board of APAMSA.
I'm currently doing research in Dr. Arturo Bravo Nuevo's lab, where my projects involve looking into the role of neuroprotective Myo/Nog cells in disease models of retinitis pigmentosa and diabetes. I have been part of the DO
Council Diversity Book Club every trimester so far and volunteered at vaccination
clinics through PCOM Hearts, the student-run clinic. I am involved in mentorship programs at PCOM through the Health Professions Recruitment
and Exposure Program (HPREP) and RISE Philly. Additionally, I am involved with organizations
outside of PCOM such as the Council of Young Filipinx Americans in Medicine and the
How have you distinguished yourself as a leader among your classmates?
I chose my leadership roles based on my own identity and interests. As president of
APAMSA during the COVID-19 pandemic, a time which saw a rise in anti-Asian hate, I
helped organize safe spaces for conversations with students and faculty across PCOM’s
three campuses. Last May, during the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage
Month, APAMSA hosted a symposium that showcased AAPI faculty at PCOM and organizations
that support the AAPI community in Philadelphia. As communications coordinator for
DO Ambassadors, my role was to speak to prospective students about PCOM Student Life.
Another way I have distinguished myself is in my pursuit of research during medical school. It takes up time, but as someone who has done animal research
and clinical research in the past, bench research was something I had to try out.
As a first-generation medical student, I had to ask others for guidance. I hope to
pay this forward by volunteering in mentorship programs. One of these organizations
is Underdocs, an organization that provides a mentor to students who are first-generation
immigrants, low socioeconomic status or low stats (such as low GPA or low MCAT scores).
I currently have two mentees who are navigating the medical school process.
What does this selection as the Student DO of the Year from your campus mean to you?
Being chosen as Student Doctor of the Year was a humbling and proud moment for me.
I am humbled because I have witnessed my peers be equally driven by ambitions on projects
and events for their organizations. I have seen the time they’ve also spent in the
labs or doing community service. I am proud because I have come a long way, not just
in pursuit of my dream career but even in this country. My parents immigrated twice,
first to Italy, then to the U.S., each time searching for a brighter future. As a
first-generation immigrant who had to learn English in middle school, it feels like
a lot of my hard work, including the work of my parents, has finally started to bear
What advice would you give to prospective osteopathic medical students coming behind
My greatest piece of advice is to always remember why you started this journey. What
I have learned as a medical student is that resilience gets you only so far, because,
in those low moments, it will come down to the village you built around you for support
and the core of your motivation.
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About Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Founded in 1899, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) has trained thousands
of highly competent, caring physicians, health practitioners and behavioral scientists
who practice a “whole person” approach to care—treating people, not just symptoms.
PCOM operates three campuses (PCOM, PCOM Georgia and PCOM South Georgia) and offers doctoral degrees in clinical psychology, educational psychology, osteopathic
medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy and school psychology, and graduate degrees in
applied behavior analysis, applied positive psychology, biomedical sciences, forensic
medicine, medical laboratory science, mental health counseling, non profit leadership
and population health management, organizational development and leadership, physician
assistant studies, school psychology, and public health management and administration.
PCOM students learn the importance of health promotion, research, education and service
to the community. Through its community-based Healthcare Centers, PCOM provides care
to medically underserved populations. For more information, visit pcom.edu or call 215-871-6100.
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