Following His Passion: Ivan Dominguez's Journey to Columbia's Postbac Premed Program

Before even attending medical school, Postbac Premed Program student Ivan Dominguez had become a part of medical history by being a part of the team that filmed the first face transplant surgery ever performed at NYU Langone Health. However, the path he followed to get to this point began with a passion for music, which he credits with leading him to his current passion: medicine.

January 08, 2019

“Basically I fell into my current line of work through playing in rock bands,” Dominguez said.

With one semester remaining in the Postbac Premed Program, he has been reflecting on the dynamic journey he’s had thus far, which circumnavigated the diverse fields of surgical videography, bioengineering, and rock ‘n’ roll.

Dominguez was born in San Jose but raised nearby the strawberry fields of Oxnard, California—the fields reminded him of his grandmother, who immigrated to the United States from Mexico, and had once worked in fields around the Bay Area.

At the young age of 12, he made the decision to pursue bioengineering, which would prove to inform his personal and professional development later in life. Dominguez would eventually go on to enroll in UC San Diego’s prestigious bioengineering program.

While attending college, his musical ambitions defined much of his extracurricular activities. He played drums in a pep band, worked as an office assistant in the music department, and managed the on-campus radio station.

Post-graduation employment initially proved to be less melodic than hoped. However, after about a year of working odd jobs, he settled into a position relevant to his degree: research coordinator. He enjoyed this work immensely, but the pull of his other love—music—eventually proved too strong, and he quit his job to go on tour with his rock band.

After the tour, Dominguez landed in New York City working as a freelancer for NYU Langone Health. He got the gig through a music connection. Initially hired to print posters, he was soon enlisted to take on more involved projects, including the filming of surgeries.

“At some point, ‘can you use a camera?’ became ‘you squeamish about blood?’” Dominguez recalls.

This proved not to be an issue. Dominguez went on to film a variety of medical procedures and surgeries before his most high profile project. In 2015, Ivan was part of the team that filmed the first-ever face transplant surgery conducted at NYU, and the face transplant of Cameron Underwood earlier this year.

Throughout his experiences filming surgeries, it became clear to Dominguez that there weren’t enough physicians who were linguistically and culturally equipped to work with immigrant populations. As a bilingual Mexican-American with a science background, he realized that he had something unique to offer to the patients he encountered, and began to hear the call pushing him toward medical school.

After being encouraged to complete a post-baccalaureate program by a physician with whom he worked, Dominguez recalled hearing about Columbia’s Postbac Premed Program from his days on the West Coast. Being in New York at this point in his life, he did not have to travel far.

Ivan has one semester left of classes before taking the MCAT and applying to medical school. As for his medical specialty, he has been considering either pediatrics or psychiatry. He is no stranger to adventure and welcomes all new journeys.

“I'll be applying broadly, and who knows where I'll end up. It has been an adventure so far, and I am sure it will continue to be so.”