Samantha Kuong

PPC Student Samantha Kuong Pursues OB-GYN Career to Raise Awareness of Endometriosis and Guide Women Through the Birthing Process

Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) student Samantha Kuong, PPC ’23, has long been passionate about women’s health—and specifically, guiding women through pre and postnatal treatment. As a 14-year-old, Kuong witnessed the treatment her mother received as she prepared for the delivery of Kuong’s baby sister.

“Due to her age, my mother went through many medical complications that risked delivering my sister prematurely,” Kuong said. “Throughout her pregnancy process, I was amazed by her doctors who guided her throughout the process. Eventually, my mother was able to deliver my sister successfully.”

At the same time, Kuong saw how many women struggled to conceive. For example, her high-school teacher had endometriosis—a condition in which abnormal endometrium lining grows outside the uterus.

“She struggled to start a family,” Kuong said. “She had extreme menstrual pain and underwent many treatments to alleviate the pain. She tried to have a child, but it was never easy.”

This was the first time Kuong had heard about endometriosis. Her interest in learning more about the condition grew—particularly because there is currently no cure, and many women with endometriosis go undiagnosed.

“Oftentimes, this condition is dismissed for low pain tolerance,” Kuong said.

Therefore, she decided to pursue a medical career to learn more about endometriosis and help uncover better ways to diagnose the condition and more effective treatments. Additionally, she wants to guide women who are struggling with infertility and work with pregnant women, aiding in the child’s delivery and the mother’s postnatal care.

Kuong has been volunteering at the maternity department of San Antonio Regional Hospital for the past two years.

“It’s been a really rewarding experience,” Kuong said. “I see how nurses work in the hospital and how they can help the patients who have recently given birth. And I see new babies being brought into the world.”

One of her biggest lessons during this experience is the value of patience.

“A lot of times, these new mothers have been through a lot,” Kuong said. “So I try to promote faster recovery by meeting all their requests to make sure they are comfortable during their stay at the hospital. Sometimes even just bringing a cup of water for them makes a big difference.”

She also acts as a liaison between the patients and the nurses.

“If the patients have questions, I help relay them to the nurses so they can get their answers quicker, as nurses can be caught up with helping multiple patients,” Kuong said.

Now, in KGI’s Postbaccalaureate Premedical Certificate (PPC) program, Kuong appreciates the opportunity to further map out her path to a medical career. In particular, she enjoys the close bonds shared between faculty and students.

“That was one thing I felt was lacking during my undergraduate years because I went to a large public school, where the class sizes were 10 times as large as a typical class at KGI,” Kuong said.

“Now, I’m able to speak with my professors, and they’re very flexible and generous in terms of helping us and answering our questions.”

She also likes the fact that KGI is a short commute from her home, which gives her more time to stay on campus and collaborate on team projects. Team projects are another highlight of her KGI experience.

“These projects have helped me to advance my presentation and time management skills,” Kuong said.

Prior to coming to KGI, Kuong struggled with time management.

“When there’s a lot of things going on at once, it’s very hard to organize your schedule in a way that allows you to fulfill all your tasks with the best possible quality,” Kuong said.

Since then, she has learned tools to help her better manage her time.

“Google Calendar is my best friend when it comes to scheduling,” Kuong said. “In terms of ensuring that I meet all my deadlines, I also use Canvas to keep track of my assignments.”

She feels that she’s learned something new and unique from every professor. Dr. Derick Han and Dr. Animesh Ray have been particularly influential.

“Dr. Han is really effective at teaching us how drugs affect our bodies molecularly,” Kuong said.

From Ray, she learned the origins of CRISPR and had the opportunity to dive deeper into the research process.

“He’s advancing research, and I am amazed by his positive energy towards his research,” Kuong said.

Drug Delivery Devices with Dr. James Sterling and Dr. Kiana Aran established a new understanding of different drug delivery systems designed to deliver mRNA and CRISPR effectively into the body.

Finally, Dr. Angelika Niemz and Dr. Travis Schlappi‘s Medical Diagnostics class introduced her to the development of In-vitro Diagnostics (IVD) products and the specific steps involved in bringing the product to key stakeholders.

Kuong’s next goal is to complete the MCAT and attend medical school, eventually becoming an OB-GYN.

“I really enjoyed having Samantha as a student in the Drug Discovery class,” Han said. “She is a bright student who excelled in the class and genuinely enjoys learning. I think she has a great future in science and medicine.”