Meet the Team

Shirin Heydari, PA-S

Hometown: Brea, CA


  • UC Irvine, B.A. Psychology with a minor in Biology

  • USC, M.S. Global Medicine

Hobbies/Fun Fact: Soccer and kayaking!

Volunteering Experiences:

  • Phi Delta Epsilon Professional Medical Co-Ed Fraternity Board Member

  • UCI Global Medical Brigades: mission to Honduras

  • COPE Clinical Care Extender Internship at Hoag Hospital, Newport Beach

  • Volunteer at Coastal German Shepherd Rescue

  • Mending Kids International, Missions Intern with missions to Guatemala and Nicaragua

Clinical Experiences:

  • Operating Room Assistant, Hoag Hospital Newport Beach

  • Emergency Medical Technician, Fire EMS and First Response EMS

  • Clinical Research Coordinator, UC Irvine Medical Center

  • Regulator Analyst and Project Coordinator, Center for Artificial Intelligence in Diagnostic Medicine (CAIDM)

  • Research Assistant, UC Irvine Institute for Clinical and Translational Science

How Many Years Post-Grad?  

  • Graduated with my B.A. in 2010 and my M.S. in 2013. I started PA school in August 2017.

Why Did You Want To Become a PA:

  • I have always been in love with science and had a curiosity for living things as a young child. When I was in high school, aside from volunteering at the local hospital, I was in an operating room for the first time in my parent’s home country of Iran and learned from the physicians of an Infertility Institute. At this point, I knew I wanted a career in medicine, but knew of only two career choices: physician and nurse. As an undergrad, I was pre-med, but there was a piece of me that felt disconnected to my career choice, but I couldn’t figure out why. It wasn’t until I came across PAs in my later clinical experiences that I found my true calling - a career that allows laterality in practice, an ability to have work-life balance, and be able to take my degree to academia to teach, as well. As a third year PA student, I couldn’t be happier about my choice and I hope to empower you to follow your heart! 

What You Wish Undergrad Students Knew Before Applying:

  • Enjoy the process. I know it’s long and hard and takes patience, but continue to live your life and do things that you enjoy. With hard work, diligence, and determination, you’ll achieve your goals!

Melissa Real, PA-S

Hometown: Pasadena, CA

Undergraduate/Major: UC San Diego Major in Human Biology with a Minor in History

Hobbies/Fun Fact: Reading, dancing, painting and watching anything Disney!

Volunteering Experiences:

  • COPE Health Scholars Volunteering and Executive Team at Riverside Community Hospital. 


  • Pediatrics department at Huntington Hospital 

  • Clinical Experiences:

  • CNA

  • Unit Coordinator

  • UCSD Cognitive Development Lab, Lab assistant 

How Many Years Post-Grad?:  

  • 4 years. Graduated in 2013 and started PA school in August 2017.  

What You Wish Undergrad Students Knew Before Applying:

  • It is okay to take time off after undergrad before applying to PA school. Although this time can be stressful and hard work, every experience has lessons to learn and grow from. Work hard, put yourself out there and enjoy life!

Bernadette Gonzales, PA-S

Hometown: Inglewood, California 

Undergraduate/Major: California State University, Los Angeles, Biology Major, Graduated Magna Cum Laude

Hobbies/Fun Fact: Working out and spending time with my two kids. 

Volunteering Experiences: LAC +USC Emergency Department Volunteer, Venice Family Clinic, Project Angel Food

Clinical Experiences: EMT for CARE Ambulance for 3 years 

How Many Years Post-Grad? 3 years  

What You Wish Undergrad Students Knew Before Applying:

  • That PA programs are really just looking for a well rounded individual. Your application should really depict who you are as a person. 

Myrna Rivers, PA-S

Hometown: San Diego, California

Undergraduate/Major: Biochemistry

Hobbies/Fun Fact: Served as a Student House of Delegate for AAPA

Volunteering Experiences:

  • SDSU Flying Samaritans

  • Tzu Chi Medical Foundation

  • Christian Medical Brigades (Honduras)

Clinical Experiences:

  • Scribe Internship in Neurosurgery, CNA

How Many Years Post-Grad?: 2 years, one to finish up prerequisites and another to work full time as a CNA for my healthcare hours.  

What You Wish Undergrad Students Knew Before Applying:

  • I wish I knew about the importance of patient care experience hours.

Valerie Brito, PA-S

Hometown: Seal Beach, CA

Undergraduate/Major: Duke University, BS Biology, Minor Chemistry

Hobbies/Fun Fact: I enjoy rock climbing. I have rock climbed in North America, Greece, Sweden, Australia.

Volunteering Experiences:

  • Duke Southern California Alumni Association 

  • Mauli Ola Foundation

  • Alpha Phi International Women’s Fraternity

  • Global Medical Brigades

Clinical Experiences:

  • Publication: Irizarry K, Brito V, Freemark M. Screening for metabolic and reproductive complications in obese children and teenagers. Pediatr Ann 2014, 43 (9): e210-e217

  • Center for Physical Therapy

  • Duke Research Management Team 

  • Duke Department of Biology Magwene Laboratory

  • Duke Department of Biology Roth Laboratory

  • Duke Department of Pediatric Endocrinology

How Many Years Post-Grad? 2 years

What You Wish Undergrad Students Knew Before Applying:

  • Get your clinical hours early! It takes a long time to build up enough hours to apply, applying early allows you to take prerequisite courses meanwhile simultaneously building your hours