Local Student Finds Community, Support, Opportunity in his Own Backyard

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Azan Yousaf ’25 grew up only 10 miles north of campus. However, he knew little about the many opportunities available at Dominican until a college advisor at Marin-based college access nonprofit 10,000 Degrees suggested that Dominican could be a good fit.

Azan was searching for a school with a strong science program. He also wanted the benefits of a smaller college – personal attention from faculty, and easy access to advisors. A first-generation college student, joining a close-knit campus community but still being able to live at home also was important.

So, Azan took a closer look at Dominican – and has not looked back.

Today Azan is a rising senior pursuing double majors in biology and social justice. His Dominican experience has been extensive and rewarding.

In the past three years he has worked in a lab alongside a faculty mentor, spent a year shadowing physicians at Kaiser Permanente, worked with a local nonprofit that delivers healthcare services to low-income and uninsured residents, gained leadership skills as an Education Dedicated to Justice and Equity (EDJE) Student Fellow, and was inducted into the California Kappa chapter of pre-health honor society Alpha Epsilon Delta.

Azan is building a resume and gaining connections that will serve him well when he applies to medical school. 

“I had not been aware of the wide range of research options just down the road from me,” he recalls. “One of the first things I learned was that Dominican had a science research program that begins your first year. I liked the fact that I could work in a lab directly with professors instead of just working on one research project with a TA.”

All Dominican biology and chemistry undergraduates participate in a research methodology course series early in their academic journey in which hands-on laboratory or field-based research is integrated into the majors. Working with a faculty mentor, Azan studied the impact of fire on the long-term health of amphibians living in California’s forests. He gained key skills while learning how to collect microbial samples, perform genetics analysis, and identify bacteria using DNA sequencing assays.

His sophomore year, Azan participated in the year-long Kaiser Pre-Med Mentor Program, which gives undergraduate students interested in a career in medicine the opportunity to experience firsthand a typical day in the life of a doctor. Each student is matched with a Kaiser Permanente physician mentor and meets with the mentor on a regular basis throughout the year.

Working with his mentor, an emergency room physician, not only reinforced Azan’s goal of becoming a doctor, but helped him narrow down a specialty to emergency medicine.

While the science program drew Azan to campus, his experiences as a social justice major have helped shape his undergraduate years.

A first-year service-learning placement at San Pedro Elementary School inspired Azan to explore and later add the social justice major.

Through service-learning, students learn to analyze structural injustice to understand how larger social forces impact people’s opportunities and lived experiences.

“I went into service-learning thinking I would just be volunteering my time, but I have learned so much from the courses,” he says.

Through his work at RotaCare, Azan has gained insight into marginalized communities by applying his classroom learning to social justice contexts. The work has helped him recognize and understand the many inequities that exist in the health care system.

The impact, Azan says, will stay with him as he pursues his goal of working as a physician.

When not working or studying, Azan enjoys a traditional college experience. He hangs out with friends, works out in the Conlan Recreation Center, and hikes on the many trails close to both campus and home.

“I love nature and hiking, so it is great being outside in Marin where pretty much everywhere is a beautiful hike,” he says. “I am close to my family, so having them as a part of my college experience is important to me. Living with my family will be helpful as I study for the MCAT and prepare for medical school. There will be less stress with them around.”

Indeed, Dominican has become a family tradition. Azan’s younger sister is a first-year biology student whose goal is to attend a graduate program in physician assistant studies.

Azan stays in touch with his old high school, representing Dominican’s science program as a STEM Ambassador at San Marin High. There he assists with class projects and provides study assistance.

He also recommends students beginning their own college search look at the four-year college located just down the road.

“I love Dominican,” he says. “The college closest to my home turned out to be the best place for me.”

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