From Marketer to Pre-Med Student: How a Major Life Event Inspired a New Path
By Ashley Kilday
Miranda Johnson, an Aleut tribal member of the Native Village of Eyak, shared her inspiring story of transition from a successful marketing career to a new path in medicine. Raised in Cordova, Alaska, Johnson’s passion for working with people led her to pursue a bachelor's degree in Psychology at the University of Houston.
“Psychology was relevant to marketing, which became my next career move,” Johnson said. Her ascent in marketing was rapid, tripling her income within three years. She worked in Houston and Los Angeles, gaining valuable experience. “I loved marketing and teaching others how to succeed. We focused on different marketing modalities and strategies, specializing in social media, affiliate, and trade marketing,” she explained.
Johnson’s life took an unexpected turn when her father was diagnosed with colon cancer. Devastated by the loss of the single parent who raised her, she battled depression but found solace in caring for him during his final days. Inspired by her experience as a volunteer at the hospital where her father received treatment, she decided to enroll at UHD and change careers.
Discovering a newfound passion for geriatric and palliative care, Johnson looked into medicine as a profession. Initially considering the physician assistant route, she was encouraged by her professors to aim higher and seek an MD. To meet the requirements for medical school, she pursued a Bachelor of Science in Biology at UHD. Her dedication and academic excellence led to scholarships and recognition, including the competitive Cohen Pre-Med Scholarship, which she was awarded twice.
Johnson also engaged in research activities, working with Dr. Jacob Theruvathu of the Chemistry faculty on research related to detecting carcinogens in hand sanitizers. He recommended she apply to the University of Texas MD Anderson’s Summer Undergrad Research Program. Johnson was accepted into the Partnership for Careers in Cancer Science Medicine and is currently exploring cancer biology research being conducted this summer.
Reflecting on her journey, Johnson acknowledges the unique combination of her background in marketing and her Alaskan Native heritage as well as the educational opportunities provided by UHD. With a desire to give back to rural communities, perhaps specializing in geriatrics or palliative care, Johnson sees herself using her skills to coordinate care for patients’ overall well-being.
Looking ahead, Johnson aspires to attend medical school at UTMB in Galveston or explore opportunities at the University of Houston or UT McGovern. Her passion for caring for the elderly and her gratification in helping others motivates her to pursue her dreams. As a mother herself, she hopes to serve as a role model for other non-traditional students and Alaska Natives aspiring to enter the medical field.
Johnson’s journey highlights the importance of mentorship and forming relationships with professors. She emphasizes the advantages of UHD’s smaller class sizes, which foster close connections with teachers and open doors for fresh opportunities. Her perseverance and unwavering dedication make her a shining example for those navigating their own path to success.
With her expected graduation from UHD in the very near future, Johnson is eagerly preparing for the next chapter of her life. Her unwavering passion and determination prove that it is always possible to make a positive impact on the world.
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.