By John Nichols, AIA, LEED AP, Pre-K-12 Practice Leader

Ricky Custodio, a graduate of the Health Academy at La Sierra High School in Riverside, is a Designing Futures Foundation scholar and an aspiring dermatologist. He was nominated by his teachers to receive the scholarship because he, “…is an outstanding student who always performs at the highest level.” I had a chance to sit down with Ricky to discuss his background as well as his professional aspirations.

From left to right: Nurse Mila, Ricky, and Emergency Care Assistant Joey during Ricky’s volunteer internship at Kaiser.

Tell me a little about yourself and your family.
Growing up, my family was not the wealthiest, yet not the poorest. We lived a simple and average life. My mother is a registered nurse and my father is a car salesman. Though we were comfortable, I learned from my parents’ mistakes and wanted to do better. Every year I did my best to be at the top of my class. I held myself to a high standard and I was very driven. If I received an 80% on a test, I would strive for a 95% or higher on the next test. Every year as the classes got harder, my drive became stronger and stronger. Though I started sacrificing time with my friends and sleep, it helped me get to where I am today. I thank my parents for all the support they have given me. They have always been there for me.

Congratulations on graduating from La Sierra High School. What is one memory you will never forget from your high school years?
I will never forget being named Most Valuable Player and Captain for the Varsity Golf Team. I joined the golf team my freshman year with no idea that the team had held the league title for the past three years. I quickly realized that I was the worst player on the team and everybody hated me because I was so bad. I told myself, “I will be better at golf one day, even if it takes me an eternity.” Everyday I practiced and practiced. I poured my blood, sweat, and tears into golf and each year I progressively got better. During my senior year I was elected captain of the team. At the end of the year banquet I was awarded the Most Valuable Player award and this honor was the most memorable moment of my high school career.

This fall you will start as a freshman at La Sierra University. How did you choose that school?
I chose La Sierra mainly because it is a Seventh-day Adventist school, and being born and raised an Adventist, it felt right to come here. La Sierra will help me as I begin the long road to becoming a dermatologist, and they have a close relationship with Loma Linda so I will have a greater chance of getting into one of the most prestigious medical schools in the country.

What career are you planning to pursue?
I plan to earn my bachelor’s of science in nursing, then earn a doctorate in dermatology. I want to become a nurse first because of financial constraints. If finances were not an issue, I would become a physician first.

Why do you want to be a dermatologist?
When I was younger, I traveled to the Philippines. A mosquito bit me and a bump formed on my hand. After we returned to the states, the bump was still there. I went to my pediatrician and he gave me some cream that didn’t help. I went back to the doctor and was prescribed pills, which also didn’t help. For six months I was given a variety of medications and nothing got rid of the bump. Finally, one day I just stopped taking the medications. About two weeks later, the bump disappeared overnight. No one knows what happened and the experience made me want to become a dermatologist.

How did the Health Academy at La Sierra High School prepare you for a career in medicine?
It all honesty, it gave me a reality check. I knew what I wanted to be and what I was getting myself into but because I was in the Health Academy at La Sierra High School, I was placed in the allergy/dermatology clinic during my internship at Kaiser. At that clinic, I learned about how skin conditions are often the first sign of allergies. The experience at Kaiser was challenging and there were situations I really couldn’t handle at first. However, as I gained more experience, I got tougher and it made me want to become a dermatologist even more. At Kaiser, I also did a rotation in the the emergency room and that was truly an experience I will never forget. The emergency room was very fast-paced and I loved it.

What is one lesson you have learned from your volunteer work at Kaiser?
The most important lesson I learned while working at Kaiser is that hospitals are not just dealing with physical pain. Many older people are frequent patients in hospitals and often health professionals don’t have a lot of time to chat with them. I really made an effort to engage the patients in conversation while performing my duties and I noticed how spending a little extra time with them could put them at ease. The elderly patients really enjoyed talking to me and sharing their stories. Sometimes just a simple conversation could make someone’s day. It truly is a unique feeling when you know you were the one that put a smile on a patient’s face. I learned that the patient’s mental state is just as important as their physical state, and by taking the time and making an extra effort, I could make them feel very special.

Above: Emergency Care Assistant Greg, Ricky, and Nurse Andy. “Greg has really put me into the field. He has truly shown me what real patient care is about.”

About the Designing Futures Foundation Scholarship Program
The Designing Futures Foundation (DFF) scholarship program is one of the many ways HMC and its employees give back to the community. The program provides financial support to deserving and capable students who aspire to careers in architecture, design education, engineering, and healthcare. The purpose of the program is to help students pursue a college education and to enable outstanding youth to realize their dreams and aspirations. The DFF provides two types of college scholarship awards:

1. Interim Scholarship – A one time $1,000 college scholarship award

2. College Prep Scholarships – A seven year scholarship; students enter the program in their junior year of high school and receive financial support through college