Author Archives: Sofia Ocegueda

Cover Letter for SMDEP

March 3, 2016

Summer Medical And Dental Education Program
655 K Street, NW, Suite 100
Washington, DC 20001

Dear Selection Committee,

As a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that has strived to combat the minuscule representation of minorities in the professional fields, I feel that I am an excellent candidate for the intern position available for The Summer Medical and Dental Education Program. As a first generation student, I have experienced a rocky road but have overcome those limitations. Thus, I am confident that this program will strengthen my abilities as a student and future medical professional.

Specifically, I am interested in the program site at Duke University. This prestigious university houses an excellent medical school, and I am interested in interacting with professionals who have extensive experience in the medical field. I am aware that there are a number of clinical rotations, and I am curious to observe any differences in patient care from UNC. I’ve interacted and shadowed various physicians at UNC, but I am intrigued to view the differing practice.

Although just a first-year undergraduate student, I have realized how essential it is to aid others that may have had similar struggles that I did. This is why I have started to focus on programs that relate to this issue in some manner. Las Guapitas, a mentoring program that I joined last fall, concentrates on exposing Latino middle school youth to STEAM fields.

When I joined, the current leads of the program saw potential and recruited me to be a part of the executive board. Las Guapitas has not only taught me leadership and the essence of teamwork but to also recognize the importance of sharing what I have learned along this journey to others who may be enduring a similar one. I now understand how essential it is to increase representation in professional fields given that every individual has promise, just differing obstacles. My belief is that we have to start at the root; the branches may be more difficult to reach.

I am certain that The Summer Medical and Dental Education Program will enhance my current skills and enrich my knowledge. As of now, I have taken beginners courses in the sciences and mathematics. However, I feel that is still essential to learn how to navigate these efficiently and successfully. If helped in this aspect, my ability to reach my ultimate goal of becoming a physician will be strengthened.

Furthermore, I look forward to the possibility of joining this program. I am positive it will allow my fascination for healthcare to grow and prosper.

Thank you for your time and your consideration.


Ana Sofia Ocegueda

B.S. Psychology
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Summer Medical and Dental Education Program

The Summer Medical and Dental Education Program desires to increase the representation of minorities in the medical field by providing a program that enriches and prepares students. This program takes place in various locations; the one I am particularly interested in is at Duke University. The program lasts from June 4th to July 16th, which provides an extra time window for anything else I desire to do.

Daily work may include clinical exposure, academic enrichment, career development, or health policy seminars. Individual advising will also be available, as well as financial planning workshops. Pre-medical sciences, math, writing, and learning skills will be addressed, as well as methods for studying.

In order to be eligible for this program, applicants must have a grade point average that is at least 2.5. Applicants must be a current freshman or sophomore in college, and be a U.S. citizen or hold a permanent resident visa. It is important to note that SMDEP makes decisions on a “first come, first served basis”, so applying as early as possible is incredibly advantageous.
While these are the requirements, there are also considerations that may improve the chance of getting into the program. Applicants that identify with a group that is racially or ethnically underrepresented in medicine have priority because this speaks to the mission of this program. Economically or educationally disadvantaged students are additionally taken more into consideration. Outstanding applicants also tend to exhibit an interest in issues affecting underserved communities.

Financially, this program greatly benefits me. I am provided with a $600 stipend, as well as free housing on Duke campus. Meals are mostly covered as well. If I decide to apply to this program but at a different location, I could additionally be provided with $200 to cover travel expenses.
As a pre-med student, SMDEP has various advantages that I appreciate. If I apply to the Duke University location, it would be convenient because it is only 5 minutes away from home. (I’m sure my mom would appreciate this too.) Additionally, it would prepare me for the unknown. Trying to reach my career goal is challenging as a first generation student and I need all the guidance I can get. There is an incredible amount of information I have yet to uncover, and I presume SMDEP will guide me to learn about the essential details. This program would not only provide me with clinical exposure but also assistance in subjects I need to excel in for medical school. I also particularly enjoy the length of the program. It allows me to include any other activity I may want to strive for, like a part time job or the continuation of my research I do here at UNC.

The deadline for this program is March 1st, but I plan to apply next year due to previously made plans and the decreased likelihood of getting accepted this current year. However, I believe it would provide an immense amount of guidance, as well as experience, so it is a program I wouldn’t want to disregard.

Taking the Meat Out of a Meatless Argument: The Debate Over Veganism

vegetable cow

Photo by Luis Ampuero

Sofia Ocegueda

Veganism: a term that may have been heard quite too many times and has been trending worldwide. Veganism refers to a diet that excludes any animal product to be consumed. Additionally, as the population faces the issue of unhealthy eating habits, one constantly hears veganism being discussed as an appropriate alternative. However, this diet might, in fact, run the risk of malnutrition.

A recent study has found the two main reasons as to why veganism has become a diet to follow. This study conducted in Europe and Asia in 2011 questioned young adults about their reasoning behind such diet. The first is the more compelling one, you could say. The love for animals and concern for animal rights has led to a population that shames bacon like no other and questions the origins of every brownie made. The study found that vegans were specifically concerned with not only animal rights but also their welfare as well as experimentation and spiritual symbols.

On the other hand, the second reason why this diet is practiced is the concern for individual health. The same study conducted by researcher Serdar Izmirli et al. found that health was not as prominent as protecting animals, but was still present as an established reason. The seeming obsession with health has led to various individuals clinging to tofu and crying over spilled [soy]milk. However, the issue might be that many do not know of these alternatives. Additionally, many alternative products are more costly. As the following will go over, many vegans, in fact, do not get the sufficient amount of nutrients in their diet.


As taught in numerous health and physical education classes, a healthy body requires a nutritious intake. Cynthia Radnitz et. al observed the level of nutrients in an international sample of 246 vegans in 2014, and hypothesized that individuals following this diet because of health reasons would practice healthier habits. They also examined vegans who were more concerned with ethical issues and were predicted to follow a less nutritious diet. In order to examine their diets, researchers looked for specific foods known to provide health benefits. Such would include items with soy, omega-3 fatty acids and of course, fruits and vegetables. Foods with harmful contents were also taken into account in order to evaluate peoples’ diets.

After analyzing the results, it was found that the hypothesis was only partially correct. Those concerned with ethical issues actually had a longer commitment to their diets and took a greater amount of vitamin supplements to fulfill their recommended nutrient intake. Those who chose to be vegan because of health reasons simply reported eating more fruits and fewer sweets than the other group. This exhibits a general overview of how vegans handle their diets. Let’s dig deeper into the topic!

Like any restrictive diet, veganism requires extra care and effort to still maintain your body as healthy as can be. A study conducted in Germany in 2002 recruited 868 vegans in order to evaluate the average nutrient intake of the vegan community. In addition to nutrients, weight and body mass index were recorded.

In general, vegans tend to have healthy lifestyles, as reported by the participants. However, it was found that an immense quantity of participants had a low consumption of calcium, iodine, and Vitamin B12.

Seventy-six percent of people did not reach the recommended level of calcium in their diet, which makes sense because of the lack of dairy products. The intake of iodine and Vitamin B12 were extremely low, as only 5.3 and 1.3% of the participants reached the ideal level. Protein needs also tended to be below the recommended level, as well as the total energy intake. An additional finding was that a fourth of the participants were underweight, which further supported the emphasis of consuming the appropriate amount of nutrients.

While considering veganism, it may affect not only you but also your family. Children with vegan parents are likely to follow the same restrictive diet, which may not be ideal if not practiced with care. Consider the case of Patient X.

Patient X is a 6-year-old boy of two vegan parents who implemented vegan diet restrictions. As a vegan is to do, he consumed no dairy or egg products. He additionally refused fruits and vegetables and relied heavily on the junk food for his primary nutritional needs. He did not receive any nutritional supplements.

Because Patient X was not receiving the appropriate amount of nutrients, he fell ill and developed the disease, Keratomalacia, an eye disorder that results from vitamin A deficiency. This further led to two corneal transplants, because the lenses had been lost. In the report, his mother admitted to not acknowledging the importance of reading nutrition levels.

This moreover highlights the importance of getting to know your diet, and how essential it is to be informed of what the body needs. One needs to know the benefits, but also the risks. Deficiencies can be extremely harmful as Patient X showed.

The advantages of becoming vegan are present as well. The majority did surpass the recommendation of fruits and vegetables. They also tend to avoid alcohol, as well as smoking. Iron levels were also adequate, as 93% of the group reached the recommended level. In order to excel in their diets overall, vegans must consider taking the supplements that may be absent in their intake.

Query Letter:The Debate Over Veganism

Sofia Ocegueda
514 Paul Hardin Dr.
Chapel Hill, NC 27514

February 3, 2016

My name is Sofia Ocegueda, and I am a first-year undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Reading the Journal of the American Medical Association, I have realized how my most recent article, Taking the Meat Out of a Meatless Argument: The Debate Over Veganism, is quite compatible with your prestigious journal. I invite you to ponder on this question:

Does the love for animals negatively affect our health? In other words, does leaving animals out of our diet deprive us of the nutrients we need to be at our best health? In the past decade, veganism, a diet that prohibits any consumption of animal-related products, has risen. This piece will review the research necessary to let you decide if veganism is worth the adverse health effects.

Veganism is a diet that has been practiced worldwide and centered around two main reasons, as found by British researchers. The first is the more compelling one, you could say. The love for animals and concern for animal rights has led to a population that shames bacon like no other and questions the origins of every brownie made. But let us not leave out the essentials. While vegans are saving the lives of numerous animals, is their health equally wholesome? Is the majority of the vegan population actually risking their health for this immense love? On the other hand, the second reason why one turns vegan leans towards a health concern. That is, one adopts veganism as the healthiest option out there. Animal rights? Yes, that’s a benefit too, but it isn’t the main concern. The recent obsession with health has led to various individuals clinging to tofu and crying over spilled [soy]milk. Are these individuals as healthy as we imagine them to be?

The choice to become vegan might seem easier than it seems; there is no perfect diet without the attention it requires. No matter the diet preference, the body will still require the same nutrients one hundred percent of the time. Researchers have additionally looked at the nutrient deficiency in children with vegan diets. Recently parents have started this diet and have included their children as well. Let it be noted that adults and children have different nutritional needs and that restrictive diets require extra care when it comes to implementing them for children.

In the complete article, numerous points will be brought up to let you decide whether veganism is indeed as nutritious as proclaimed. A study released in 2015 will address the difference in nutrition levels between vegans and vegetarians, and how they live up to the recommended level. Additionally, we will explore the consequences of a restrictive diet on a child, and will specifically describe the case study of a young boy with Keratomalacia, a rare disease caused by largely restrictive diets. Has the topic of veganism brought new perspectives? Could a healthy option, in fact, bring malnutrition? Do not limit your questions because I am sure this article will answer more. Please consider publishing my article, for it will uncover some of the precautions needed to be taken while practicing this trending diet.

Thank you for your time,

Sofia Ocegueda

Annotated Bibliography: Veganism and Malnutrition

Colev, M., Engel, H., Mayers, M., Markowitz, M., & Cahill, L. (2004). Vegan diet and vitamin A deficiency.Clinical Pediatrics, 43(1), 107-9.

This article focuses on the effect of vegan diets on children, and how certain nutrients may be insufficient in their diets. It incorporates the importance of the parents’ role, and how they are the main figures in the children’s lives, which further means they are the main influence in their diets. Furthermore this article highlights the importance of education of parents regarding restrictive diets, and how they can reach healthy eating habit goals without breaking their beliefs. If they are not following the recommended diet guidelines, then they are at risk of running health risks such as not getting the essential amount of nutrients.Izmirli, Serdar, and Clive J.C. Phillips. “The Relationship between Student Consumption of Animal Products and Attitudes to Animals in Europe and Asia.” British Food Journal 113.3 (2011): 436-50. Emerald Insight. Web.


Izmirli, Serdar, and Clive J.C. Phillips. “The Relationship between Student Consumption of Animal Products and Attitudes to Animals in Europe and Asia.” British Food Journal 113.3 (2011): 436-50. Emerald Insight. Web.

The article highlights the relationship between the attitudes of young adults and consumption of animals. This study was completed throughout countries of Europe and Asia, and inquired the reasons behind the decision of becoming vegan or vegetarian. Two prominent reasons were the support of animal rights and the concern of personal health. It should be noted that there was a distinction between reasons of vegetarians and vegans, and that vegans were more towards concern of animal rights. This article exhibits the reasoning behind the decision of becoming vegan.


Messina, V, Mangels, AR. Considerations in Planning Vegan Diets Children. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2001;101(6):661–669.

This article highlights the case of a young boy who was diagnosed with Keratomalacia, a rare disease that is associated with bizarre diets, along with other factors. Other than gaining information about the disease, the study also underlines the importance of parents being educated in nutrition, and how restrictive diets require extra attention to fulfill essential nutrients. This case study, although rare, demonstrates a potential consequence of not providing a nutritious diet for their children.


Radnitz, Cynthia, Bonnie Beezhold, and Julie DiMatteo. “Investigation of Lifestyle Choices of Individuals following a Vegan Diet for Health and Ethical Reasons.” Appetite 90 (2015): 31-36. Science Direct. Web.

The study looked into the health of vegans, particularly how much of a nutritional value their diet had. First, researchers inquired about the reason for their diet. The researchers further investigated their diets, and calculated the nutritional value, whether the reason was of ethical or health concerns. It was hypothesized that individuals who leaned towards making healthy choices were typically those with higher nutrition in their diets. However individuals whose purpose was related to ethical concerns reported a longer time being on their diets and as well as taking a higher level of nutrient supplements. Individuals who were concerned about health simply reported eating more fruit and less sweets.


Waldmann, A., Koschizke, J. W., Leitzmann, C., & Hahn, A. (2003). Dietary intakes and lifestyle factors of a vegan population in germany: Results from the german vegan study.European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 57(8), 947-55.

This article focused on a study conducted in Germany that examined adults with vegan diets, regarding their nutrient levels. Although there were lower BMIs as well as higher energy intakes, there were some nutrients that were under the recommended level. Participants of a subgroup who consumed a small number of animal products were able to gain these nutrients at an appropriate level. Furthermore, vegan diets require additional supplements to fulfill the favorable vitamin and mineral intakes.

Today’s Reading Summary

This article focused on autism, and the path to it being named a condition. Certain individuals who were observed to have a different style of thinking were labeled “idiots”, although with a different connotation that it has today. Over time, observations led to the naming of the condition, autism. People with autism may not seem intelligent because of the way they interact with others, but may be brilliant in mathematics. It is quite interesting to see the journey of the diagnosis of autism.