By Staff Writer - December 19, 2019

Open University Helps Future Doctor

Danny Meller didn’t initially think he would go to medical school; however, through UCSB Professional and Continuing Education’s Open University he was able to reach his goal. With an undergraduate degree in design from UC Davis, Danny wanted to work abroad and relocated to China where he worked in manufacturing. 

It was while Danny was in China that he discovered his passion in life was really medicine. He became a volunteer at a summer camp for disabled children. This life-changing experience gave him intense exposure to physical problems and the role that medical professionals can play in helping patients. 

In order to pursue a medical career, Danny had to figure out how to radically change his professional focus and life in a way that made sense for his budget and lifestyle. 

“I needed to take more science classes, but needed to keep working—to pay the bills, eat, and put a roof over my head—and [still have] enough flexibility so I could see what the field of medicine was like. I worked as a volunteer in medical clinics and research labs to make sure medicine was what I wanted to do,” Danny recalls. 

All in the Family

Luckily, Danny had someone in his life who had also pursued medicine in a nontraditional way: his father, Dr. Bill Meller. Bill advised Danny to take medical school prerequisite courses through Open University at UCSB Professional and Continuing Education (PaCE) —just as Bill had done in the 1970s. 

Bill Meller attended Columbia University for a year, dropped out, and then came to Santa Barbara on a whim. While in Santa Barbara, he decided to take courses in various campus departments as a “nonmatriculated” PaCE student. It was at UCSB that Bill realized that he was most interested in science. After completing the required medical school prerequisites as a nontraditional student, Bill was accepted into several medical schools, including Georgetown from which he later graduated. 

Like his father, Danny discovered how well Open University worked for his own pursuit of medical school. Though he had to crash courses, Danny found that this actually worked in his favor. Asking the professors to allow him to enroll as an PaCE student showed the faculty that he was interested in their courses. As an Open University student, Danny forged relationships with many faculty who later wrote recommendation letters and helped him get lab assistant work.

Achieving Goals

In 2015 Danny completed his prerequisite courses through Open University and was accepted at his top choice medical school, UC Irvine and is expected to graduate in 2020.
“One of the neat things about medicine – there are so many different things one can do in the field. Right now, a few of my friends and I are setting up a trans health clinic in Santa Ana. I am very interested in working with underserved populations—documented and undocumented—in Santa Ana and in Tijuana,” Danny says. 

Open University at UCSB Professional and Continuing Education (PaCE) allows students to enroll in regular courses and pay on a per-unit basis—all without being formally admitted to the university. Students can take the classes that interest them, provided that they meet the course prerequisites and space is available. For more information about Open University, contact UCSB PaCE at or 805-893-4200.  Also visit our Open University website

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