Name: Joanna Liao

University: University of Washington (UW) – Seattle

Major: Biochemistry, education minor

High School: Camas High School


In 2016, Joanna graduated from the UW with a major in biochemistry and a minor in education. Since graduating, she’s taken two years off from school before she plans to begin medical school in August.

Joana wasn’t always sure she would pursue the field of medicine. An internship at the Parkinson Center of Oregon at the Oregon Health and Science University piqued her interest while in high school. Participating in a lot of extracurriculars and embarking on some personal research and reflection to find her passions helped affirm her interest in medicine. “There are so many different paths you can choose in a career. Ultimately, I came back to medicine for aging adults. I want to help people live as full of a life as possible, particularly as people age,” said Joanna.

As Joanna went through the process of applying to medical school she picked up some stress reducing practices. Applying to medical school is tough. Many people experience moments of self-doubt or anxiety while completing the process. She wants other Opportunity Scholars to know this is normal and encourages others to incorporate stress-relieving practices into their application process.

Watching Netflix and finding new hobbies helped Joanna decompress from the process. She is grateful to have the luxury of time now that she’s completed the process and doesn’t have to worry about scheduling every minute of the day.

Her biggest piece of advice for finding relief during the process is to look to your network for support. Joanna looked to other students who already navigated the process to share advice.  She also looked to friends and acquaintances who were going through the process at the same time to commiserate and ask for advice. She also participated in a program that matched her with medical student mentors. There are also opportunities to shadow physicians, like this UW program.

She also encourages anyone interested in medical school to start the long application process early. A particularly fraught part of the process can be writing the essay. Joanna recommends starting the essay early and borrowing lessons learned from essay writing in English courses to craft a stellar application essay.