International Women’s Day – On Failure, Purpose, and Gratitude


On Failure, Purpose, and Gratitude

For a while now, I’ve been quietly writing letters to my future children (if that’s in God’s plan for me), my godchildren, and my nieces and nephews about certain life lessons that I’ve experienced as a young woman.  I’m hoping it feels easier for them to relate to when they get into sticky life situations many young people experience. Mostly, I hope to be a source of inspiration for them.  While I do enjoy writing, I am more passionate about story telling. The stories I share in my letters are mostly about love, family, dating, relationships, and faith.  Some tell of juicy dates I’ve been on while others about nights I’ve cried myself to sleep from heartbreak, some more inspirational and some more for a moment to laugh. This particular letter is intentionally being posted today, International Women’s Day.  As a minority, a child of immigrants, a person of color, and a woman, I wanted to take this moment to celebrate a victory…because as much as it is my own, it’s also for you, the future.  Here I go…

Dear Daughter,

I matched into a Family Medicine residency program about a month ago. My job as a 1st year Family Medicine Resident will be my first job as a graduate of medical school, so you can imagine my nerves about receiving an e-mail that would not only represent everything I’ve worked hard for but would also reveal my next career move. This is oddly enough a very scary experience for a newly engaged person. The outcome really affects more than just me. I’ll have to write more about that in another letter. Needless-to-say, when I opened the e-mail that said I matched into my first choice program, my eyes flooded with tears and my heart with feelings of gratitude. In all my 31 years of life, this moment is one I’d like to pause in and celebrate with everyone and anyone who has touched my life in some way.

This particular letter to you might contain some of the most important life lessons I want to share, so pay attention. As you approach some of your most challenging times, whether personally or professionally, reflect on my stories. Maybe you’ll find something that resonates with you.

  1. Failure is a crossroad. Imagine yourself standing on a path that divides into two, one that leads you to quit and one that leads you to continue. You always have a choice. My journey in medicine has been far from perfect, often punctuated by exclamation points, run-on sentences, and frequented pit stops for much needed rest while others seemed to move on at full-speed. I learned very quickly that comparison was my worst enemy and embracing my own journey would be my best friend. While my road has had many unplanned twists and turns with too many starting points to mention along the way, I always felt that my destination has and continues to be constant. Being a doctor that helps other people is the destination, and no matter the shape of my path, I always believed I would get to this point in time. I’m getting a little teary-eyed writing this part of the letter because I think this is the perfect time to tell you a little bit about my parents. I’m grateful to have parents who have been, on the particular matter of my struggles in medical school, nothing short of perfect. I have made some very costly mistakes and have at times questioned my choices, but my mom and dad gave me the priceless gifts of patience and a non-judgmental space to grow. They knew of my hardships, and without words, I knew they felt my pain.   They saw me at my worst and yet still managed to make me feel and believe I could do and be anything I wanted to be. They saw me just as I was and still loved me, and that love carried me through some of my most terrifying days. For this, I am eternally grateful to them, and I can only hope to be the same to you, as you grow into your own person. If you fail, pause for rest, change direction, or continue on stronger. If your choice is to never quit, I know you’ll be okay in anything you choose.
  2. Your purpose is to love. Maybe at this point in time, you’re thinking about what you want to do or be when you grow up, or maybe you’re at a point when you’re switching careers. Maybe you have no clue where and when to begin? I know of the perfect place to start. Start with love. What do you love to do? Who do you love? I believe that we all have the same purpose and that is to love, as God wants us to love. This includes being a good person and having kind intent behind every choice we make and every action we initiate towards ourselves, others, and God. When you allow love to be your purpose, you can find meaning, fulfillment, and joy in some of the darkest places and during some of the darkest times in this world. Being a doctor is not my purpose. Having the title of being a doctor is earned by graduating from medical school. Having this title has provided me the medium behind which I choose to use my gifts and talents to help others. Helping others is my act of love and what drives me, and this is my purpose. I think this is what makes a great doctor a great doctor, when he or she chooses love as the purpose behind helping patients. For me, personally, being a doctor is not about the title. It’s about using what I’ve been blessed with to make this world a better place than when I first got here. It is about leaving love in places where more is needed. No matter what you choose to do in life and with your career, embed love into everything you do, and you can do no wrong.
  3. Gratitude is the key to happiness. So, there’s a TV series I want you to watch called This Is Us. Bring out your tissues because this one’s a tearjerker. There’s a famous line that’s brought up several times on the show that sums up its overlying theme. I hope you can live by this one. “Take the sourest lemon that life has to offer and turn it into something resembling lemonade.” I can’t predict what will happen in my life or yours, but sometimes the worst things get thrown our way, and we just have to do what we can to turn some of the most unfortunate events into something better. In my life, I’ve used prayer to help me get through the most challenging times, and prayer is what turned my life around. Being grateful for all the blessings that come your way can change a terrible attitude into a powerful and peaceful one. Keep in mind, blessings may not look or even feel as you want them to in the moment. Sometimes you won’t even recognize something as a blessing when it comes, but if you live being grateful for every moment of life that you’ve been given, your blessing will come. I promise.

There have been so many influential people who have, in their own special way, been such an important part of my journey, and so it is only right for me to share this moment with all of them. To all of these people (you know who you are), getting into residency is just as much your mark on this world as it is mine. Thank you for paying it forward to me. I hope to do the same for others as I continue to serve.

Thank you Allen for seeing me as I am and for making me feel so beautiful inside and out. Thank you for being so solid for us when I couldn’t be, for helping me turn tears into laughter and anxiety into peace during all the rough nights. Thanks for simply being you…(again, another post for another day)

Thank you Mom and Dad for your immeasurable love and support. Thank you for being patient with my crazy. Thank you for teaching me about God and His love through your own actions. Thank you for being great examples.

Thank you Jed, aka Dr. Padre, for understanding me like no other person and allowing me to vent. Thanks for being there for me through all my heartbreak. Thanks for helping me complete some of my assignments (lol), and for teaching me so much about life, medicine, and family. Thank you also for being the best big brother a sister could ever have. I couldn’t have done this without you. Also, I’m very proud of you. We did it!

Thank you Grandma, Grandpa, Nana, and Tata. I can’t talk about you guys right now because I’ll cry in the middle of a coffee shop, and that’s probably not okay. I’ll save this one for another post.

Thank you to all of my aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, and friends. Thank you for your support and prayers and prepped meals to get me through every day of medical school. Thank you for understanding when I couldn’t be there for you, and thank you for providing so much for me, knowing I couldn’t do or be the same for you in return. Your unselfishness is so much appreciated. Thank you for always being there for me.

Thank you to my future in-laws and #teamgozun for accepting me into your family as I am and for the fun and loving way that you support me! I’m excited for our future and lives together as one family!

Thank you to my jiu-jitsu family. Thank you Professor Williams, Professor Dane, Professor Mike, and all of my brothers and sisters on the mats. You’ve known me even before I started on this crazy journey of mine, and you’ve seen me grow in all that I’m passionate about. Thank you too for always being there for me and for providing a second home, a space where I could breathe, be myself, and get healthy both in mind and body. Thank you for adding so much value and meaning and joy to my life. Thank you for teaching me never to quit.

Thank you to all my mentors in medicine…

Small Group 11 – You’re all doctors now, and the world is a better place because we have people like you treating illness and improving lives. Thank you for being my best friends in medical school and seeing me through it all.

Dr. Madrid – Thank you for being the best example of the kind of family medicine doctor I aspire to be. I hope to be even half as kind, generous, intelligent, and unselfish as you are to your patients and community.

Dr. Safaoui – Thank you for seeing something in me. I’ll never forget our conversation the day I walked into your office for the first time. Thank you for believing in me when I didn’t.

Dr. Younes – Thanks for reminding me of where I came from and where I am now. Thanks for your support and continued words of encouragement.

To all my professors and teachers all along the way – your dedication to education and the growth of students is inspiring. Thank you.

Lastly, thank you to my uncle, Dr. Emilio Padre, and my auntie, Dr. Linda Del Pilar. Thank you for showing me that small-town people with tremendous heart and drive can do big and great things in this world for other people.

To my daughter, I anticipate at times I will fail as a parent. Thank you, in advance, for your patience and understanding, as I’m sure it will not be easy having a mom who is a doctor. But rest assured, everything I do stems from my desire to love. Know that I am grateful that you are who you are and that you stand for the things that you do.

And if you ever fail, pick yourself up and start again with the purpose of loving to the best of your ability. And don’t forget to live with a grateful heart, for both the good times and bad times will mold you into the person you were meant to be and prepare you for life beyond here. Lean on your family and mentors, and when you feel alone, know that you are so loved.




Why hello there, Cerritos.

Trying to wake my brain up early in the morning has been a little bit harder these days. I’m having a bit of mental fog. Perhaps I’m a little burned out from the past 10 weeks of intense 12-hour days of studying with no days off. I’m taking my Board Exams on June 14th, and the anticipation has been killer. Allow me to mentally purge of the non-pertinent yet important things on my mind before I hit the ground running with my books. 5 minutes of writing, and then I’ll be good to go.

As I sit here at Bakers and Barista’s in Cerritos, patiently awaiting my tapsilog breakfast that I’ve grown so fond of, I can’t help but reflect on the past few years and everything that’s happened in my life to get me here…. just a few days from impending “freedom” from the intensity of Boards studying. I say “freedom” because in medicine, if you’re not busy studying, you’re busy working, and if you’re not busy working, you’re busy thinking. But I digress…

I want this post to be a short and sweet post about community. Sitting here in this new and bustling, hip coffee shop/restaurant, I feel inspired. The owners seem to be young brothers, innovative, entrepreneurial, creative, and passionate – all the things I feel burning inside me. I grew up in this small, academically competitive, and family-oriented community. I always thought I’d branch out and maybe settle somewhere else but there are just too many good things going on here.

The food, the people, the charm of a small town, and the promise of a better, relevant, and exciting tomorrow are too enticing to really let any of it go. So, sitting here studying, I can only dream of one day opening up a practice here, giving back to the community that feeds my soul in a way that only home can.

The process, or journey rather, of becoming a family doctor in the community I grew up in has been a long one with lots of ups and downs. As I take a step back and look holistically at it all, I eagerly await the day when I can give back to everyone and everything that has breathed life into me. Gratitude through action is my mantra. I’m feeling extremely blessed and happy to be doing what I’m doing. Hopefully, I’ll be able to return to take care of you and all your families…perhaps 5-6 years from now…some day, some way.

Until then, stick with me…we’re going for a ride… and soon enough, we will get there. We’re in this together.


P.S. I’m turning 30 on Sunday…haha. More on that later.

P.P.S. I’m not a doctor yet, but I can offer some good advice: Every day, make an effort to do at least 2 acts of kindness – one towards yourself followed by one towards somebody else. It’s heart healthy.

P.P.P.S. Singing the same tune….can’t wait to get back on the jiu-jitsu mats. ❤

The Road Less Traveled

Yesterday, my mom said something that really stuck with me. We were shopping at Target, and she picked up the blu-ray of the movie Insurgent, looked at it, and said, “I love this movie! I really love female superheroes…strong females doing incredible things.”

In this moment, I realized how grateful I am to have parents that have raised me by this standard. They’ve always made me feel like I can do and be anything I want to be. So here I am, a 29-year-old female, traversing the road less traveled. It’s a long road, but I believe every step of the way is shaping me into the person I aspire to be: a female Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black-belt Family Doctor who kicks butt in the clinic, hospital, and dojo. More simply put, I’m hoping to become the superhero my mom intended me to be. 😉

I spent the summer recuperating from a rather non-traditional school year. I planned a 5-week trip through Toronto, NYC, and Peru with 3 purposes:

  • to spend time with family at my cousin’s wedding
  • to train jiu-jitsu
  • to improve my medical Spanish

I pretty much threw my bridesmaid dress, BJJ gi, and scrubs into my luggage and left sunny California in the hopes of experiencing the magic of traveling I’ve often felt on my previous trips abroad.

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I was happy to be able to squeeze in some training time when I went to Toronto for my cousin Anne’s wedding. I visited our sister school, a Shawn Williams affiliate school, OpenMat in Toronto. Professor Elliott, who I met when I started BJJ >6 years go, founded this amazing academy.

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Then I headed to NYC to visit some of my best friends, Anisha, her fiancé Jaimen, Chris, and Katie. I also was able to train pretty much almost every day at Renzo Gracie HQ. I ran into Renzo and sat in on a little teaching session he was giving. AMAZING! I fan-girled for a good moment or two. Also, I got to sit in on the US Women’s National Wrestling Team’s final practice before the PanAms. Renowned Coach Terry Steiner  taught a wrestling clinic after, and I got the best compliment ever when they asked if I had done some wrestling before (Thanks Professor Williams!).

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Then I flew off to Peru for some Spanish courses. I spent 4 hours everyday in Spanish class, refining my Spanish skills. I’m confident that this experience will help me communicate with my future patients. I ended up speaking Spanish for about 95% of my time in Peru, and I was there for a total of 3 weeks. The Spanish school I attended also set me up with the Public Hospital. There, I met Dr. Garcia, whom I’ve made a mentor out of. This man is incredible. He graduated with degrees in Art (He’s a professional cartoonist that draws everyday), Architecture (He still builds things), and of course, Medicine (He’s an OB-GYN). He took me in and let me work extra hours, through the holidays and weekends. He knew I really enjoyed learning all about OB-GYN. I saw my first baby delivery, a c-section. We had a moment. He looked over at me and saw me crying of joy as he sewed up mommy’s uterus. He smiled and knew I was hooked. Oh man….will I go into OB-GYN? We’ll see! It was a really special experience.

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I also managed to fit in some BJJ training while I was in Cusco, Peru. That’s something really unique that BJJ offers, the ability to make new friends around the world. It’s a tight community..a family really. A big thanks to all my training partners at the Bunker Gym. I had so much fun training with you fellas, drinking smoothies, watching the Rhonda Rousey super fight, and partying the night before I had to fly out (yikes)!  Thanks for welcoming me and taking me in. Hope you guys can visit me in LA sometime.

To be honest with you, I came back from my trip feeling really excited. Though I experienced a lot of the magic I had anticipated, I was also ready to make my own magic happen at home. It had been a bit of a whirlwind of a school year, and the vacation was everything I needed to rejuvenate and regain my sense of self.  I felt rested and ready to take on the next school year.

We’re getting closer and closer to my goals every day.

The road less traveled, though difficult at times, is preparing me for the life I know I’m meant to live.  I’m feeling extremely blessed to be able to learn, travel, and train. I know ultimately, I’ll eventually be empowered with the great responsibility and humbled honor of saving lives. Until then, it’s time to grind away…

Attitude Determines Your Altitude

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(The above was taken from the 5 Star Monthly Newsletter)…minor correction…I still have many many many years left of medical school. I kind of wish it was only 1 year. hehe. 😛 It’s alright though. It’s all about the journey. This is a great segway into my next point!

Thank you so much to Professor Williams and coaches for the honor of being May Student of the Month. I couldn’t be more grateful. You know, this honor comes at a time when I’ve had to reflect a lot about the value and meaning behind the word “journey”. The past year hasn’t been easy, though with certainty, I can say that it has definitely been blessed. I often feel the weight of my own personal journey for its sheer length in time and the rigors that come with choosing medicine as my career path and pursuing the martial artist way of life. With that weight, however, I realize and have come to know my own strength, and that in itself is comforting.

I’ve experienced a number of battles, mostly internally. There are some nights of studying medicine and some nights of training jiu-jitsu where sheer will carried me through, and there are some nights where I felt so energized and on top of everything – such polar opposite experiences yet all a part of the same effort. The common denominator ends up being the everyday feeling I have that I am following a calling with a purpose that’s much bigger than myself. In some sense, there’s a lot of solace in knowing this. With every success and sometimes even moreso every failure, I’m piecing together this really beautiful journey, hoping to inspire others to greatness as I aspire to achieve my own.

Cheers to the little things: the baby steps, the inches gained, the lessons learned, and the small successes that give us hope that we’re on the right track! The little things are the big things.

P.S. Just throwing in some cool pictures my brother took last night since he was finally able to see me in action and experience what all my hoopla is about. Such a good time…always! =)


 Coach Dane doing his thing…great teacher!


Practicing omoplatas.


Learning about transitions…


to the Kimura!


Don’t be fooled. My smile didn’t last very long. Bear put the boot on.


Nice try (talking to myself, of course).

P.P.S. If you’re interested in training BJJ, Muay Thai, Kettle Bells, and/or Cross Fit, come check out the academy where I train!

January’s “Roll” Model – Erena Shimoda – Underwater Healer, Martial Artist

A tribute to my father, a cancer survivor, one of my closest friends, a cancer survivor, my auntie Adelina Flores, who passed away in 2009 from lung cancer, and my sweet niece, who passed away at 9 years old in 2005 from cancer as well   – all incredibly courageous fighters in the battle against such a horrendous disease.

Here I go…

I’m having trouble finding the words to really capture everything I want to say about this wonderful lady, Erena Shimoda. This is primarily because the message I’m hoping to communicate is more of a feeling than anything else. I hope to represent her in a way that is inspiring because that’s who she is to me: an inspiration.

There are some days in medical school that simply get to you. Whether it’s the long hours of sitting in one place, drinking from the fire hose of knowledge, the pressure of getting into residency, or even passing the next exam, medical school can often feel like the biggest doozy ever.

I can say on behalf of my classmates and myself, however, that we continue on and push through the difficulties of scrutinizing exams, sleep deprivation, and what seems like a constant lack of “time for anything else” because we are passionate about healing.

Something they often teach us in osteopathic medical school is that healing can come in many forms, and we, as future doctors, must not see our patients as mere diseases to be treated but real people who are in need of healing. At my school, they engrain in us the importance of viewing and assessing our patients holistically, to engage in patients’ minds, bodies, and souls because all of it – tangible or not – contribute to health and wellness.

This is truly why, in addition to medicine, I love the arts. Particularly, I love music and martial arts. How powerfully healing our bodies become when we’re in good spirits from listening to our favorite songs or exercising and practicing our favorite wrestling take downs! 😛 Our minds and subsequently our bodies are so much stronger when we do the things we love and are passionate about. I won’t get into the chemistry of it all, but I’m convinced there’s more to it than science alone.


Erena Shimoda is a renowned photographer who captures these moments of self-healing, and as I see it, moments of self-love. She shoots underwater photos of cancer survivors in their element, engaging in activities that simply make them happy, that heal them.  I came across a picture she shot while perusing my Instagram one evening. Fightland/Vice did a nice piece on Erena and posted her photo on their IG. The photo was of two female brown belts in their gis doing Brazilian jiu-jitsu moves underwater. It was named one of Fightland’s “Best Photos of 2014”. I traced the photo to Erena’s website and read more about her story and looked at her work. Not only did her photography move me, she moved me. Her kind intentions, dedication to others in need, and genuine passion for healing/medicine by way of the arts were enough to motivate me to email her, and to my extreme surprise and pleasure, she e-mailed me back agreeing to answer some interview questions! So without further adieu, here is our conversation. I hope you feel as deeply touched by her story as I was.


Me: Tell me a little bit about yourself. Where were you born? Where did you grow up? How did you end up where you are now?

Erena: I was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan until I turned 14. My whole family moved to the Bay Area in 1989 and we were welcomed by a huge earthquake! It was a long journey to end up who I am now. I started traveling the world in 2003. I discovered scuba diving in Honduras, and I absolutely loved the experience. I think it’s all girls dreams to be a mermaid, right? I was always fascinated by the underwater world, and I wanted to live underwater. I became a Dive Master in Venezuela and started taking photos with my compact camera. I love capturing moments, bringing it to the surface, and sharing stories with other divers. We can be geeky talking about fish all day. I’ve been diving for more than 10 years and scuba diving and underwater photography became my passion. One day, I came across underwater portrait images of 2 inspirational artists. They blew my mind so much that I wanted to be like them. I attended a workshop in Texas almost 5 years ago, and I learned how to be an underwater portrait photographer.

Me: I was extremely excited when I read that you too train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Not only were you photographing some of the people I look up to in this wonderful martial art, you train jiu-jitsu yourself! Can you tell me a little bit about how you got into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and why you enjoy training?

Erena: Hahaha! I feel really bad to say that I practice BJJ like you guys! I’m totally ok admitting to myself that I’m a typical inconsistent white belt! I was practicing Muay Thai since I was 19. I loved kicking and punching (bags, of course). After 20 years, I’m realizing that I’m slowing down. I decided to try BJJ because my female friends inspired me so much. They are willing to teach me with their experienced skills, and they are also super humble. When I’m on the mat, learning the moves, it reminds me of being underwater. I feel the freedom in a 360 degree space.  I’ve been super busy, but I want to stop making excuses and dedicate my  time for BJJ this year!

Me: What is your inspiration for photographing cancer survivors? How did you decide to pursue this passion?

Erena: Back in 1997, I was in a car accident during my family trip. I lost my father, and I almost lost myself. I injured my entire body. My family went through a major change, but my mother stayed strong and held my sister and I together in one peace. To overcome my loss and physical and mental pain, I decided to volunteer for the American Cancer Society’s Look Good Feel Better program. Cancer patients learn how to put makeup and wigs on to overcome their self image issues. By helping patients, I realized my regular underwater clients gain confidence by being beautiful underwater. Then I thought I can reach out to cancer patients to heal their mind and spirit with my underwater portrait magic. It’s been effective, and I see the tremendous result. I truly believe that the water has the power to give us courage, open new windows, and let things go. I’m grateful to be a part of their lives. I was inspired by all the survivors and I decided to share their stories. I self-published a book, exhibited portraits in a gallery in Tokyo, presented my work at a Genentech Medical Conference, USMA, and gave a talk at the Apple store in downtown San Francisco.  I was also featured in various online media sites like CBS News, Laughing Squid, and The Huffington Post

Me: Do you have a favorite photo that you have taken? If so, which one and why?

Erena: I love all the images I’ve taken!!! But Besides working with my portrait clients, I’ve been working on a Japanese folklore stories. Once I take 10 monsters, I would love to publish a book!

Me: What is the most challenging aspect of your work?

Erena: Clients’ reactions in the water and how I can make them feel comfortable.

Me: Who is your favorite MMA fighter and why?

Erena: Ronda Rousey.  I was inspired and touched by her life story  growing  up with a single mother. I read her interviews, and it all makes sense to me.

Me: Who were your life and career mentors? What were the most important lessons that they taught you?

Erena: My mentors are my father, mother and my best friend. They taught me to follow your dreams and make them happen.

Me: Do you have any advice for other young women looking to pursue either photography or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

Erena: Follow your heart.

Me: If someone is interested in having a photograph taken by you, how should he or she contact you?

Erena: The money raised from regular portrait sessions will go toward funding future underwater healer photography sessions for cancer survivors (so that they can have this life-changing experience without financial obligation) in the summer of 2015.

You can view my last year’s project here


If you’re interested in viewing Erena’s work and learning more about her, visit her websites here: and

At this time, I would really like to invite all of you reading this to join me and my martial arts family in Los Angeles for a 2-hour fundraiser in helping our teammate Mateo Bravo recover from cancer! If you’re interested in coming with me to this Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muy Thai seminar, or know someone who might be interested, please contact me! It’s on Saturday, January 24th, from 6 to 8:30PM. You are all welcome, and I’m certain you will take away some valuable tools. Not to mention, it’ll be really fun! Some food/snacks will be provided after.


I also urge you to support the non-profit organization Tap Cancer Out. Their mission is to support cancer fighting organizations on behalf of the grappling community. See what they are all about here: They will be hosting the West Coast Charity BJJ Open fundraising tournament on January 17, 2015 at UCSD in support of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, helping to end pediatric cancer.

-Diane Padre

A Fire that Burns

A recent conversation got me thinking about a quality that I really admire in people: passion. Have you ever talked to somebody who is ridiculously passionate about something?  You could be talking about french fries, the rain, work, anything…. but when you bring up a person’s passion, do you see it? Do you notice it? Something changes.  Like magic, his or her face transforms. Their eyes grow so big that they light up the room – maybe even your day. They talk faster and with confidence, excitement, and a sense of timelessness. It’s like nothing else even matters except that one thing they’re passionate about. You hear it in their voice. You see it in their face. And for that moment, you become so engulfed in their aura that you experience what I think love is supposed to feel like:  a fire that burns so deeply you can’t help but be drawn to its warmth. I am addicted to seeing people in their element…their fire.

I was reminded of the power of passionate people while watching Carla Esparza fight last night in the TUF finale title fight. You could really see it in her gaze. Everything came together: her experiences wrestling in high school, the long hours she logged in at Team Oyama and Lotus Club, her discipline in training, her commitment to eating healthy, the mental fortitude to push beyond her weakest moments, and her will to win.  Every thought, moment, and action….all fueled by passion….led to a big, fat W, and now she’s the first UFC women’s strawweight division champion. Amazing.

Hopefully, I will get to interview Carla soon. Meeting passionate people really changes you, and I can’t really pinpoint why. I just know that I constantly want to be around good, kind-hearted, passionate people. I was thinking that I would like to do a small series called “Roll Models” on my blog where I interview really inspiring people in Jiu-Jitsu and in Medicine.  My goal is simply to share the stories of role models as a source of inspiration and motivation for others – especially other women in martial arts and medicine.

Medicine and Brazilian-Jiu-Jitsu –> These are my passions. This is how I roll.

Until next time,

Diane = )


P.S. Check back soon for some cool interviews I have lined up with some very very special people.   I’m suuuuuuuuper excited for you all to hear their stories.

Word of the Month: Teamwork

The word of the month at 5 Star Martial Arts / Renzo Gracie Los Angeles is teamwork.


I’m convinced that I’ve got secret angels looking out for me – in medical school, at my jiu-jitsu academy, and amongst my family and friends. These people are my team. They’re perceptive of my well-being, without me verbalizing a thing. It’s the most heart warming feeling….. to have people who care for me unconditionally – how blessed I am! I don’t take these things lightly as I know that in a split second, anything can be taken away from me. So, with Thanksgiving approaching, I can’t help but feel extremely grateful for all the people that have been such integral players in my life’s story. Inspired by your love and care, your wings have certainly carried me through the toughest and roughest of times. Without you, I wouldn’t be in the position I am today. I wouldn’t have this wonderful opportunity to pay your deeds forward to others through my profession in medicine.

So, to my team, all of whom I consider nothing short of family, thank you for everything you’ve done and continue to do for me. ❤

I often like to reflect on my past to remind myself of where I’ve been, where I’m at, and where I’m going. I don’t know that I’ve shared this with many people, but 3 years ago, for one of my medical school application essays, I wrote about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It’s amazing how much I still feel all of the things I wrote about. This was the 25-year-old me talking. = )


The Faces of Battle.

After more than 3 years of training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under the guidance of Professor Shawn Williams, I’ve grown to appreciate each drop of sweat shed on the blue mats and soaked into my faded blue kimono and belt. They originate from  my teammates and myself and represent our collective efforts to improve ourselves in an art that demands dedication, intellect, and persistence. With such a high learning curve and hundreds if not thousands of ground techniques to master, I’ve learned to apply the principles of physics (potential energy, leverage, pressure, force, momentum) and biochemistry (cell metabolism) to a sport that requires maximized body mechanics, the so called “arte suave” I have so much fun with. Every moment of “battle”, whether internal or in competition with another, is an opportunity for growth. As a teammate, I teach newer members techniques, which engrains in me the virtue of patience. From my more senior teammates, I learn the value of experience and gain a humble attitude.

We train hard, we learn from our mistakes, we push ourselves to uncomfortable yet sky high limits, and we demand of ourselves only the best moral standards. We treat our teammates and opponents with respect, and we keep our heads up when we win and when we lose. I’ve competed and won a bronze medal in my weight division at the 2009 American National Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Competition and a bronze medal at the 2009 California Classic. And while the metals reflect the level of my BJJ craft, my quickly growing team at the academy reflects the kind of safe and warm learning environment that keeps me and others coming back for more. What I cherish most about training BJJ is not the ratio of W’s to L’s under my name, it’s looking over my shoulder after each of life’s battles and knowing that the familiar faces that support my endeavors on and off the mat will always be there. At the end of the day, I simply love to learn and I love being with my teammates, my family.

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Cheers to the Journey

A splash of honesty for you…because I’m not always rainbows and butterflies, though I’d like to be. =) Days like today make it easy for me to lose sight of the bigger picture. I find myself fighting (for lack of a better term) my own internal battles, and it’s easy to feel alone in it all, even when I truly am not.  Sometimes I feel like I am being constantly judged, not by anyone else, but by my own standards that don’t always get met. It has been happening more often lately, instances in which my own expectations of myself are greeted with self-disappointment. Exam days can sometimes be rude reminders.

In medical school and in jiu-jitsu, it’s hard not to get down on yourself. It’s hard not to beat yourself up over things like exam scores, jiujitsu injuries, slow progress, losing, etc.

So, I just wanted to take this time to step back and see, notice, and appreciate the bigger picture. On my roughest of days, I like to draw from my well of memories and experiences. They’re what keep me going. I remember this one thing Professor Williams said to our jiujitsu competition team years ago. I’m totally going to butcher his words, but his message was very clear:

If every day we strive to be better people than we were the day before, than no matter the outcome both on and off the mats, it was a good day.

Cheers to the journey, the big picture, and to making every day a good day. ❤



White Belt (2009)


Blue Belt (2011)


Purple Belt (2013)


Pre-Med w/ my Post-Baccalaureate Crew at CSUF (2010)


1st Year of Med School



2nd Year of Med School




“Wins and Losses are Determined in Transition.” – Professor Shawn Williams

During my 1st week of medical school, I received my purple belt. On the exact day that I was promoted, I promised myself  I would do 2 things:

1. Finish Medical School and become a doctor.

2. Never quit training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Tonight, a year and a half later, I received the first stripe on my purple belt. I actually feel kind of emotional about it because it’s been a really long journey since medical school started. Being in medical school has really decreased the amount of hours I get to spend on the mats, but I always find my way back somehow to sneak in some training. The academy feels so much like my home. My instructors and teammates are my family. I feel really honored and blessed to be able to train with them and learn from them.


Jiu-jitsu has really changed my life and has taught me a lot about hard work and pushing myself to achieve things even beyond what I think are my own limitations. This work ethic and mentality of persistence has trickled into every ounce of my will to conquer medical school, which I honestly feel is one of the most challenging and taxing things I’ve ever experienced. Going back to school to study medicine has placed me in a transitional stage of my life, and there are many times when I simply feel like giving up.  It is, however, the martial arts attitude that I’ve gained from training BJJ that pushes me to move forward. To keep going. To push. To strive. To reach. To enjoy learning. To thrive in the midst of hardship. To trust the process.  Of pain. Of success. Of growth.

Tonight, while teaching a particular sweep, my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructor Professor Shawn Williams said something that really stuck with me:

 “Wins and losses are determined in transition.”

I started thinking about what that really means. From my own experience on the mats, I realized that his statement was absolutely true. Most of my submissions have come from “catching” people while going from one move to the next because his/her (name that body part) just happened to be there for the taking!  Most of my losses have also come from my opponents capitalizing on an opportunity that unintentionally surfaced while in transition. Transitions, or the state of being “in between” are a vulnerable place, but it is here where people fall, and it is here where champions of life are made.

 I want to be a champion. 


Student Dr. DrizzyDre

P.S. A huge shoutout goes out to my girl Jenny Lee, future OT! She’s moving on up in the world of BJJ and just received her white belt with 2 blue stripes!