Chandra Bouma '18


Name: Chandra Bouma 

Graduation Year: 2018

Major: Biology

Your Story:

I grew up in Madison Lake, near Mankato. After graduating from Mankato East High School, I enrolled at Gustavus, attracted by the strong science and music programs. At GAC, I studied Biology and Spanish and participated in the Gustavus Wind Orchestra (on bassoon) for four years. My involvement in the Spanish Department’s community outreach programs within the Hispanic community greatly influenced me to become fluent in Spanish so that I could become a bilingual doctor, and to study public health alongside medicine so that I could help address the barriers to healthcare access faced by immigrant populations.

I found a home within the Biology and Chemistry departments, and spent two summers in research labs, once with Dr. Amanda Neinow at Gustavus, and once researching at Mayo in Rochester. As much as I enjoyed these research experiences, I never became truly engrossed in my research until my public health research project in Chile, where I investigated the role of Aymaran (indigenous Chilean) intercultural facilitators within intercultural Chilean health care system. In this interview based project, I spoke with facilitators, Aymaran patients, indigenous doctors and Chilean healthcare workers, about the successes and shortcomings of Chile’s intercultural health system. My preference for interacting directly with patients and healthcare workers over working in a wet lab, helped me confirm that I wish to pursue a more clinical based practice with plenty of direct patient interaction, while still possibly conducting public health related research.

After graduating from Gustavus in 2018, I chose to fill a gap year by serving in the AmeriCorps in Boston. In Boston, I worked as a full time 8th grade math tutor in a public charter school which serves minority students from low-income neighborhoods. My year in education helped me develop professionally and allowed me to work with people from diverse backgrounds.

Top Five Activities/Experiences: (in no particular order)

1. J-Term Medical Shadowing through Gustavus

2. Gustavus Wind Orchestra

3. Semester abroad in Chile conducting public health research

4. Summer research at Mayo and at Gustavus through the FYRE program

5. Working at the Concordia Languages Spanish summer camp


1. I would strongly encourage pre-medical students to do some extensive shadowing in various clinics and medical specialties, and potentially in other areas of patient care such as PT, OT, and nursing . These experiences helped me decide that I truly wanted to pursue medicine, since for much of my time at Gustavus I was debating between medicine and other areas of healthcare. Of course, these experiences also provide many key talking points during interviews.

2. Take time to explore your own interests and develop yourself as a person by participating in activities, jobs, or volunteer work which highlight your interests. During my medical school interviews, the majority of my responses revolved around my experience working with diverse populations in Chile or in volunteer work within the Hispanic community, and my work teaching children as a camp counselor and as an AmeriCorps volunteer. Though these experiences may not pertain directly to medicine, they show that an applicant is well rounded and prepared to face the interpersonal challenges they will encounter in the medical field.

3. During the application process, I was quite confident in my GPA and MCAT scores, so I applied to only highly selective medical schools. If I were to go through the application process again, truly understanding the competitive nature of the process, I would diversify my list of medical schools to include a broader range. In the end, I was accepted at the University of Minnesota, one of my top choices.

Future Plans:

The summer of 2019 will mark two major transitions in my life, as I will be getting married to a fellow Gustie and starting medical school at the University of Minnesota. I have not yet decided on a specialty, though I am interested in Allergy/Immunology, Psychiatry, and Pediatrics. I hope to pursue a Masters of Public Health alongside my Medical Degree.