Moises Terrazas

From Quality Assurance to PA Program Graduate: KGI Alumnus Moises Terrazas’s Journey

For Moises Terrazas, MBS ’14, his trajectory has not followed a straight line. One constant, though, is that he has always been interested in science.

Terrazas immigrated to the United States from Cusco, Peru when he was 14, and as a first-generation college student, he majored in biochemistry at the University of Utah. This experience, along with working as a Spanish interpreter for nonprofit clinics, led him to fall in love with medicine.

In Keck Graduate Institute (KGI)’s Master of Business and Science (MBS) program, he pursued concentrations in Bioprocessing and Regulatory Affairs. He also completed the Postbaccalaureate Premedical Certificate (PPC) program.

Terrazas cites KGI Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Sofia Toro, Senior Director and Instructor of Postbaccalaureate Programs Joon Kim, Associate Professor Mikhail Martchenko Shilman, Dean of Research Larry Grill, former Professors Kirilynn Svay and Matt Croughan, and Professor Animesh Ray as just a few mentors who helped him along the way.

“In addition to my mentors, I had immense support from my peers Robin Modi, Roberto Rodriquez, Flaka Radoniqi, James Miller, and Kevin Kim, just to name a few,” Terrazas said.

“It was so paramount for my education to learn more about the engineering and regulatory aspects of medicine, and thanks to that foundation I got through KGI, I was able to find a job here in Utah.”

For three years, Terrazas worked in quality assurance for the Cell Therapy and Regenerative Medicine Program at the University of Utah. While he enjoyed his job, one thing he craved was more personal interactions with patients.

“From a young age, my mom always instilled in us the essence of helping others,” Terrazas said.

From speaking with the technicians at his job, who had one-on-one meetings with the patients receiving their bone marrow transplants, he began to realize he could do more with his degree.

“My job was reviewing the charts, so I was only meeting the patients on charts,” Terrazas said.

His rare personal interactions with patients occured when he was doing audits for the technicians to make sure that they were following protocol. During this time, he began to learn about the physician assistant (PA) profession.

He eventually applied to and attended the Utah Physician Assistant Program (UPAP) at the University of Utah, which he completed in July 2020. One of the highlights of his program was learning about the sociological and environmental factors of health.

“This is very important because we can treat the condition, but we also need to understand what goes on around the patient, especially right now with COVID,” Terrazas said. “What other factors are affecting that individual? For example, the father or mother could be the sole provider for the family.”

The program educated him about the diverse challenges that people face depending on their culture, background, and lifestyle.

“Even though I’m a Latino, I still learned more about other people from different parts of Latin America,” Terrazas said.

He learned that he should tailor his communication to their unique situations and not assume that their perspective was similar to his own. Terrazas’s goal is to work in family medicine while continuing to conduct research in the field and eventually specialize in either cardiology or pediatrics.

One way that KGI prepared him for his experience in the PA program was teaching him how to work effectively in teams—particularly at UPAP when he had to work with seven people. He acknowledges that teamwork has played and will continue a pivotal role in his life—both on a professional and personal level. As a father of two, his wife’s support has been instrumental while pursuing his education.

“It takes a village to go through this—with support not only from God but from your family and your peers when it comes to studying long hours, and so working with a good team is key,” Terrazas said. “That’s what I loved about KGI. Teamwork is everything.”