Alex Jonokuchi

Alex is a Neuroscience major in his senior year at Columbia University. At school, he is a research assistant in a brain imaging lab, an outdoor orientation leader and Vice President of his fraternity. In his quest to become a doctor, he hopes never to forget how much he enjoys campfires, baseball games, short stories, and the taste of a perfectly hopped pale ale.

Identity, Expectations and Choice: Asian Americans on the Premedical Track

Now that I am a college senior, the most pressing question on anyone’s mind seems to be, “What are you planning to do after graduation?” Many people are visibly unsurprised to hear that I have set my sights on medicine. Their eyes thank me for confirmation of what they guessed I would want. From people who know me well, this is a compliment—that if I keep working hard, I might make a good doctor someday—or, if not a compliment, at least a seal of approval, encouragement to fight the long fight in pursuit of my dream. From people who hardly know me, though, I start to wonder how much the Asian American stereotype affects their perception of me and other Asian premeds like me. And for a second, I start to wonder how our stories and our identities, shaped by the assumptions of others, might affect our own self-perceptions. When I told my parents that I wanted to pursue a career in medicine, they were supportive, but not too supportive, because they knew how difficult the path would be, and told me they didn’t want to influence my decision-making process. My maternal grandmother, on the other hand, kissed me on the cheek and thanked me. When I asked her why, she said it was because she never had a doctor she really trusted, and she wasn’t getting any younger....

The Art of Choosing Who You Want To Be

When I was four, playing with toy cars meant smashing them together as hard as their plastic bumpers could handle. My favorites included a yellow Tonka dump truck, a police sheriff’s car with flashing lights, and a fire truck with a retractable ladder. I didn’t know much then, but I did know that garbage smelled bad, so I wanted to become either a policeman or fireman—mostly so I could drive a cool car with a siren and not have to wait in traffic. When I turned seven, my true calling arrived on the scene in a big way. Everything else seemed like a waste of time—I would become a Pokémon Master. Upon turning eight, my family caved to my demands for a dog, and I finally found myself sitting in the backseat with a tiny yellow Labrador puppy. She was wrapped in a blanket on my lap, like a stuffed animal that had finally heard my prayers and started to wag its tail. Over the course of less than an hour in that car, I abandoned all hopes of becoming a Pokémon Master. I instead set my sights on something far more pragmatic—becoming a veterinarian—so I could take care of my new puppy, if she ever got sick. At thirteen, I wanted to become a baseball player so I could play for the Yankees, maybe next to Derek Jeter,...