Med student Faye Villegas Awarded PCOM's Student DO of the Year
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Faye Villegas Awarded PCOM's Student DO of the Year

February 17, 2022

Monica Anne Faye Villegas (DO '24) was honored as PCOM's Student DO of the YearMonica 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 Underdocs.

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.

Medical student Monica Anne Faye Villegas (DO '24) stands outside at PCOM's Philadelphia campusWhat 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 fruit.

What advice would you give to prospective osteopathic medical students coming behind you?

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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For the past 125 years, 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, a private, not-for-profit accredited institution of higher education, 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. The college also offers graduate degrees in applied behavior analysis, applied positive psychology, biomedical sciences, forensic medicine, medical laboratory science, mental health counseling, physician assistant studies, and school psychology. 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 or call 215-871-6100.

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