While some students struggle to make it to their 8AM classes from their dorms, Annie Kokoyan undergoes a greater adventure as part of her UCLA morning routine. “I was a commuter student during the day and a caretaker to my grandmother at night,” she explained. Although commuting became the wiser financial decision, this did not stop Kokoyan from putting her full effort in fulfilling both her academic and family duties.
Kokoyan took care of her grandmother by nurturing her physical and mental health which were damaged after being diagnosed with breast cancer. She utilized creative outlets such as poetry which became a shining light throughout her grandmother’s dark times. “I’d bring her some paper and pens, so we could write poems together. The poems would be in different languages, such as Armenian, Russian, and English,” she said.
Kokoyan learned the importance and satisfaction behind sacrifices as she watched her grandma’s health improve. “Even though this meant I couldn’t get to start my homework until midnight most nights, I didn’t mind, because I knew the sacrifices, I made for my family were worth it,” she said. She remains strong and as her mindset roots to her gratefulness in the opportunity of attending the best public university in the country. This motivated her to stay committed in managing and balancing her role as a student and the backbone of her family. “Through my experience with my grandma, I learned the true value of time, and I, like my grandma, choose to never waste it,” she said.
Growing up, UCLA had always been her dream school and she even remembers getting a UCLA blanket as a kid. Her pride remains strong as her four-year college experiences molded her character to resemble the values of a true Bruin: integrity, excellence, accountability, respect, and service. “I have become a driven and optimistic individual who works every day to be compassionate to others and open-minded to new ideas,” Kokoyan said.
Her warm-heartedness and passion in caring for others did not stop in her family but also flourished within other communities. Kokoyan dedicated her time as a co-director of Project Health Fair in the Medical Experience through Service in Healthcare (MESH). She led her team in educating and providing health resources such as performing hypertension and BMI screenings for underserved communities in the Los Angeles area. Kokoyan ensured that her committee members value the experience as an eye-opening experience about the low-income communities and their healthcare needs.
Her UCLA experiences have flourished the service mentality that her mother taught her since she was a child. These experiences become meaningful experiences for Kokoyan as a student pursuing a career in medicine. “I was able to develop the skills necessary to interact with patients of different cultures, socioeconomic statuses and I know this is very important in preparing me for my future health profession”, she said. Hence, her good intentions in serving the community has strengthened her professional development and strong relationships with “close and strong relationships with like-minded individuals who had the same goals as me. And that is worth everything to me,” she added.
Kokoyan’s journey in deciding her major in psychology came with external doubts from relatives, friends and even strangers convincing her that she was taking an “easy” route to medical school. “I soon realized that it didn’t matter what anyone else thought because I am proud of being a Psychology major,” she said. Kokoyan had a strong principle and remained devoted to what her heart desired. This route gave her the opportunity to continuously grow and learn new skills to apply in her daily life and in her future medicine career.
In the long-term, Kokoyan aspires to become a plastic surgeon. Although plastic surgery is often perceived with a negative stigma, she responds with, “I hope to be part of dismantling that negative connotation by helping those in need of these procedures,” she explained. She is prepared to invest her time, effort and skills learned through her major in helping people in a psychologically healthy way through this occupation. “In Dr. Chorpita’s Psychology course, I learned that only 7% of psychology undergraduates pursue mental health in the future. I know that I do not want to be part of the 93% especially because I have a strong passion for mental health,” Kokoyan said.