Dr. Joana Pantoja – Metro Technology Centers and HOSA
First-generation American adds “Doctor” to her name.
Then: A soft-spoken, first-generation American whose parents didn’t speak English. Joana Pantoja’s father was a roofer, her mother was a housekeeper, and they both worked hard to try to save enough money to send their children to college.
In middle school she wanted to be a lawyer, but by high school, Pantoja realized she preferred science over social studies. When a Metro Technology Centers recruiter visited ASTEC Charter High School, Pantoja decided to enroll in Metro Tech’s Biomedical Sciences Academy, a three-year Project Lead the Way program. After attending a classroom lecture about the eye, including a dissection, she discovered a passion for vision sciences. She also joined HOSA, the CareerTech organization for students pursuing health careers, and excelled at state and national contests three years in a row.
After high school, she graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma with a bachelor’s degree in biology and biomedical sciences.
Pantoja credits Metro Tech and HOSA for:
- Teaching her how to use lab equipment she would need to use in college.
- Helping her improve her networking and communication skills, including how to write research manuscripts and lab reports.
- Introducing her to notetaking and study methods that aligned with her learning style.
- Writing letters of recommendation and offering resume guidance that led to several scholarships, including the first ever James D. Branscum Scholarship.
“I felt connected to my teachers at Metro Tech,” she said. “I felt like I could talk to them, ask them anything, and they were there to give me advice and support me in anything I wanted to do.”
Traveling to the national HOSA conference was her first airplane trip. Through HOSA activities she traveled to Disneyland, Disney World and Nashville, Tennessee. There were even more travel opportunities as an undergrad at UCO, where she presented her research at national conferences.
Now: This spring, a confident, well-spoken first-generation college graduate graduated from optometry school at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. Dr. Pantoja joined the eyecare team at Advanced Family Eyecare Vision Source in Oklahoma City. She specializes in dry eye management, myopia control and vision therapy.
“I never liked blood, growing up, and I had the false view that anything related to healthcare would not be a good choice.”Joana Pantoja