Medical student Joy Xu, pictured in front of the DGSOM sign, shares her story of becoming a doctor.

Meet Joy Xu  

Medical student Joy Xu learned the importance of medicine while growing up in Canada.  

“I grew up in a very poor neighborhood in Toronto—one of the poorest,” she says.  

Her family came from a small town from Sichuan, China. A family illness made adjusting to life in a new country—challenging enough in itself—even more difficult. As they transitioned to the suburbs in her childhood, her family’s early experiences demonstrated how much healthcare affects daily life, wellness, and happiness.  

“Even the smallest things, like simply talking to patients at the clinics, can make someone's entire day, if not life.” 

As Joy grew up, all she learned and experienced underscored medicine’s absolute significance. At school, she gravitated towards the sciences. When she began volunteering with elderly people affected by dementia, she realized she wanted to work in medicine for the rest of her life.  

“It's just such a unique and wonderful field.”  

She especially loves how medicine balances thinking critically and helping people. No other field makes her feel as fundamentally connected to other humans or as certain she’s found her true calling.  

Medical student Joy Xu, pictured here, shares her story of becoming a doctor.

Pursuing and promoting education  

All the different potential approaches to becoming a doctor revolve around education—something Joy learned to deeply value growing up.  

“My parents were able to transition us to a better life because of education,” she says. “Because of that, I was grateful for every opportunity I had,” she says. “It really propelled me to try my best to help others along the way if I could.”  

While completing her own education, Joy dedicated time to helping others build the knowledge they needed to pursue their own dreams. In the twelfth grade, she started an education accessibility nonprofit with a focus on interdisciplinary learning affecting over 150,000 students across Canada. It garnered notable support and recognition, particularly supporting the education enrichment of thousands of youths across North America during the pandemic.  

The progress inspired Joy to launch additional nonprofit initiatives.  

“I want to do as much as I can while I have the ability,” she says. “I want to maximize my own potential and honor the people who got me here while also trying my best to give back.” 

Medical student Joy Xu, pictured here with classmates at the beach, shares her story of becoming a doctor.

Year-round sunshine and scientific innovation  

When the time came to advance her own education with medical school as her next step, Joy had her heart set on finding a warm, sunny place to study. After traveling around Texas and Nevada, she found the environment and landscape she was looking for in California.  

“I was enamored by Los Angeles.”  

She was especially dazzled by the University of California, Los Angeles. She felt drawn to the beautiful sun-drenched campus where people dream up innovations in science and medicine every day.  

She knew getting into the David Geffen School of Medicine (DGSOM) would be challenging and competitive, especially as an international student. She also knew she had to try, that she should embrace the challenges of applying and getting into medical school instead of escaping them.  

“I think part of that tumultuous process actually shapes you and builds strength and resilience,” she explains.  

Joy recalls learning she’d been admitted and being so excited she couldn’t stop herself from screaming, much to her family’s shock and surprise.  

Knowing she would be moving so far away from family and friends to pursue her dreams felt bittersweet. The idea of being in a new place where she barely knew anyone gave her some understandable jitters. Luckily, her nerves didn’t last long. Joy found her people shortly after arriving at the DGSOM.  

“I found a very wonderful group of people who are open-minded, warm, enthusiastic, and excited to see where life goes,” she says.  

Medical student Joy Xu, pictured here with colleagues, shares her story of becoming a doctor.

Becoming a doctor one day at a time 

Joy likens her med-school experience so far to training for a marathon. The work is hard, but the rewards are significant. The incredible is simply part of daily life. From watching a classmate’s heart beating through an ultrasound to enjoying interactions with patients, small moments bring Joy fulfillment and satisfaction nearly every day.  

While she’d had clinical encounters as an undergrad and a volunteer, she says the extra layer of responsibility that comes from being a medical student makes doing similar work feel fresh and new.  

“It's different when you’re a medical student, when you’re backed up by an attending—when you have that responsibility, and the weight of your future depends on how you interact with patients.”  

She imagines herself wearing a physician’s white coat. It doesn’t yet fit perfectly, but it gets more comfortable as she continues her training. Putting it on brings stress, but more importantly, responsibility and authority.  

Joy hasn’t committed to a specific medical specialty yet. She is, however, deeply committed to getting the most from her training and education. She wants to savor every day and remember how grateful and excited she is just to be here. She likes to hustle, focus, and get stuff done, but also constantly reminds herself to keep what truly matters top of mind.  

“I want to remember that life is very beautiful in itself, not just the grind. I think it's easy to get lost in that.”