DCP Alumni Spotlight: Armando Forges a Path For Himself and His Community Through Medicine

Growing up in a low-income San Jose neighborhood, DCP class of 2004 alum and first-generation college graduate, Armando Cervantes, didn’t realize he could achieve anything beyond a high school education.

His journey from a wayward teenager to a second-year medical student began when Armando’s mother enrolled him at DCP after seeing his grades steadily declining.

“I didn’t consider college until going to DCP. It’s hard to image a future you’ve never been exposed to. As far as I was concerned, graduating from high school was a victory because most of the people I hung out with had dropped out. Now, [at DCP], I had everyone telling me everyday I’m going to college. After a while, you start to believe it, too.”

Armando (center, white hat) poses with his classmates from the class of 2004. The first cohort of students to ever graduate from DCP.

After struggling through DCP both academically and socially, Armando was able to raise his grades enough to be accepted into San Jose State University.

He graduated from San Jose State University with a degree in advertising and accepted an internship at a prestigious advertising agency in Long Beach. Despite his success, Armando felt unfulfilled with his work. He returned to San Jose with a goal of finding a career that excited him and would allow him to give back to the community that raised him.

His interest in medicine came after his best friend invited him to enroll in an EMT course with him. He instantly fell in love with the intricacies of the human body and knew he wanted to work in the healthcare field, but didn’t know his role.

“There are many roles in medicine that would allow me to apply my knowledge of the human body and fulfill my desire to give back. I did not know I wanted to be a physician yet, but I knew I had found the field I wanted to be in.”

Armando poses with his family at his White Coat Ceremony at University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.

Armando decided to pursue a career as a Physician Assistant (PA) and enrolled at San Jose City College to fulfill the prerequisite for PA school. During his studies, Armando met professors whose stories of childhood poverty, personal obstacles, and drive to pursue a higher education resonated with him. “Hearing their stories of success inspired mine.”

A major deciding point to pursue medical school came after talking with a classmate, from a similar background as his, who had dreamed of being a pediatrician since a little girl, but was beginning to have doubts. “I felt bothered that she would consider anything other than becoming a doctor. I was upset that here was another missed opportunity of having a community role model, someone who would work with the underserved, a minority representation in the medical field. I was upset because I felt as though I was losing my doctor. At that moment I recognized the value of becoming a physician.”

Armando will graduate from the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine in 2020, sixteen years after graduating DCP.

He will finish up several years of residency before returning to the Bay Area to become the first doctor from his community. Currently, only 5% of physicians in the state of California are Latino.

Check out this video where Armando captured “a second a day” of his first year in Medical School.