TAG: "Medical education"

Student conference opens doors to health care professions


UC Davis hosting national pre-medical, pre-health conference Oct. 11-12.

Leading voices in health care and some 8,000 pre-health and pre-medical students will meet to explore the future of health care and how the students can join and influence the professions at the University of California, Davis, Oct. 11-12.

Keynote speakers at the 12th annual UC Davis Pre-Medical and Pre-Health Professional National Conference — the largest conference of its kind in the country — include:

  • United States Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald at 8:30 a.m. Saturday in the Pavilion;
  • U.S. Navy Surgeon General Matthew Nathan at 10 a.m. Saturday in the Pavilion;
  • California Department of Public Health Director Ronald Chapman at 10 a.m. Saturday in Rock Hall;
  • American Medical Association CEO James L. Madara;
  • National Hispanic Medical Association President and CEO Elena V. Rios;
  • American Osteopathic Association  President Robert S. Juhasz;
  • Harvey Fineberg, former president of the Institute of Medicine; and
  • presidents and CEOs of leading national organizations in the health professions.

See the complete list.

Making welcoming remarks at 8 a.m. Saturday in the Pavilion on the Davis campus will be Adela de la Torre, vice chancellor of Student Affairs at UC Davis, and UC President Janet Napolitano.

“At the University of California, we want to empower students from across our state to discover and achieve their dreams in health care and contribute to the care and welfare of their communities and society as a whole,” Napolitano said. “This conference is an opportunity for young students to spark their passions in the medical fields.”

With the theme of “Empowering the Next Generation of Health Care Professionals,” the conference aims to introduce students to careers and educational opportunities in health care and help them achieve their goals.

The conference is organized by the UC Davis Pre-Health Student Alliance with the support of de la Torre’s office. The alliance is a partnership of pre-medical and pre-health student organizations, fraternities and sororities at UC Davis and other colleges in Sacramento. More than 400 students from throughout the region serve as leaders and volunteers for the conference.

Among those attending are high school, community college and university students; school counselors; and parents.

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Influx of faculty join UC Irvine


School of Medicine claims 14 of 77 new hires.

UC Irvine’s new faculty members were welcomed at a University Club event Sept. 23. (Photo by Steve Zylius, UC Irvine)

UC Irvine deans introduced new faculty members last week during a welcoming event at the University Club. The 2013-14 cohort of 77 recruits is one of the largest ever at UCI and includes 13 full professors and one dean.

Chancellor Howard Gillman, Ph.D., hailed the newcomers as “people who make us better by bringing fresh perspectives and ever higher aspirations for impact in our disciplines and on our world.”

“You are what our ongoing progress looks like,” he told those gathered.

Gillman encouraged them to do all they could to support diversity – among both the faculty and student populations.

“We have a diverse student body,” he said, adding that 43 percent qualify for federal assistance with fees and tuition. “There is no challenge President Obama can give with regard to social mobility that we haven’t already met, and those students are yearning for your commitment.”

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Community colleges could be key in increasing student diversity for medical schools


Medical students who attended community college more likely to serve in poor communities.

IMPACT
The community college system represents a potential source of student diversity for medical schools and physicians who will serve poor communities; however, there are significant challenges to enhancing the pipeline from community colleges to four-year universities to medical schools. The authors recommend that medical school and four-year university recruitment, outreach and admissions practices be more inclusive of community college students.

FINDINGS
Researchers from UCLA, UC San Francisco and San Jose City College found that, among students who apply to and attend medical school, those from underrepresented minority backgrounds are more likely than white and Asian students to have attended a community college at some point. Community college students who were accepted to medical school were also more likely than those students who never attended a community college to commit to working with underserved populations.

The study also found that students who began their college education at a community college were less likely to get admitted to medical school than those students who never attended a community college or only attended a four-year university.

Using data from the 2012 Association of American Medical Colleges matriculant and applicant files and the AAMC’s Matriculating Student Questionnaire, researchers examined the association between students’ participation in a community college pathway, medical school admission and intention to practice medicine in underserved communities or work with minority populations.

Of 40,491 medical school applicants evaluated, 17,518 enrolled in medical school. Of those, 4,920 (28 percent) had attended a community college concurrently with high school, after high school or following graduation from a four-year college or university in order to take courses in preparation for medical school.

The researchers found that a higher proportion of underrepresented minority matriculants used the community college pathways compared with white students or other racial and ethnic groups. Thirty-four percent of Latinos had attended community colleges, (538 of 1,566 matriculants), compared with 28 percent of black students (311 of 1,109), 27 percent of white students (2,715 of 9,905), 27 percent of Asian students (963 of 3,628) and 30 percent of students identifying themselves as mixed-race or other race (393 of 1,310).

Applicants who attended community college after high school before transferring to a four-year college or university were 30 percent less likely to be admitted, compared to those students who never attended a community college or only attended a four-year university to medical school, after adjusting for age, gender, race and ethnicity, parental education, grade point average and MCAT score. The same group also was 26 percent more likely to intend to practice medicine in an underserved area than their non-community college educated peers.

AUTHORS
The research was conducted by Dr. Efrain Talamantes, Dr. Carol Mangione, Karla Gonzalez and Dr. Gerardo Moreno of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA; Dr. Alejandro Jimenez of UC San Francisco; and Fabio Gonzalez of San Jose City College.

FUNDING
The work was supported by Veterans Affairs Office of Academic Affiliations through the VA/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program at UCLA. Dr. Moreno received support from a National Institute on Aging (NIA) Paul B. Beeson Career Development Award and the American Federation for Aging. Dr. Mangione received support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program, the UCLA Resource Centers for Minority Aging Research/Center for Health Improvement of Minority Elderly under a National Institutes of Health/NIA grant, and the NIH/National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences UCLA Clinical and Translational Science Institute. Dr. Mangione holds the Barbara A. Levey and Gerald S. Levey Endowed Chair in Medicine, which partially supported this work.

JOURNAL
The study was published online by Academic Medicine.

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Medical school test drives curriculum redesign


UCSF redesign is ‘the most meaningful thing to happen in medical education in 100 years.’

UCSF School of Medicine faculty and staff brainstorm ways to redesign the curriculum at a medical education retreat in March.

With today’s dynamic health care environment and rapidly advancing biomedical sciences, medical education must change so that students will be ready for the world that awaits them eight or 10 years from now.

The way students are trained currently ensures that they are going to be good at solving individual diseases and addressing individual organs, said Anna Chang, M.D., an associate professor of medicine at UC San Francisco. But, she added, we haven’t been as successful in teaching students how to work within teams and systems and improve the health of entire populations, in addition to individual patients.

“For medicine to advance, we must find a way to give our students this expanded set of skills,” Chang said.

The UCSF Bridges Curriculum Redesign is aiming to address the ever-widening gap between what medical students are being taught and what they need to learn to function as modern physicians.

For more than two years, committees captured the vision of what the new Bridges curriculum should include and hammered out the framework that reflects that vision. It was then distilled into a blueprint that was approved by the Faculty Council in June.

“Over the past year, the vision of Bridges has moved from a big idea to an exciting reality,” said Catherine Lucey, M.D., vice dean for education at UCSF School of Medicine. “That reality is the direct result of the creative energy and collaborative efforts of literally hundreds of UCSF faculty, staff and students who have come together to create strategies to improve the curriculum.”

The new Bridges Curriculum will be rolled out in two stages, beginning with the academic year 2015-2016.

“This is a pioneering effort,” said Chang, director of the Bridges Curriculum. “I think that Bridges is the most meaningful thing to happen in medical education in 100 years.”

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UCSF appoints interim medical school dean


Bruce Wintroub, previously vice dean, has served UCSF for more than 32 years.

Bruce Wintroub, UC San Francisco

Bruce Wintroub, M.D., has been named interim dean of the UCSF School of Medicine while a search committee looks for a permanent replacement. Chancellor Sam Hawgood, M.B.B.S., made the announcement today (Sept. 11).

“I am deeply grateful to Bruce for his dedicated service and commitment to lead the School through this transition period,” said Hawgood, who served as dean of the School of Medicine until Wintroub’s appointment. “I am confident that he is well equipped to serve in this role and to ably steer the school through the months ahead.”

Wintroub has served UCSF for more than 32 years. Most recently he has served as vice dean of the School of Medicine, a position he held for 10 years. Wintroub is also a professor and has been chair of the Department of Dermatology since 1985.

“I am delighted, honored and privileged to serve in this capacity for the School of Medicine and UCSF,” he said. “I deeply appreciate the trust and confidence the chancellor has in me.”

Wintroub will maintain his responsibilities in the Department of Dermatology, including his position as chair.

He also has led the Dermatology Foundation, a nonprofit organization that develops and retains tomorrow’s teachers and researchers in dermatology. Wintroub has helped raise more than $60 million for the organization.

He earned a bachelor’s degree at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts, and a medical degree at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Wintroub completed residencies and fellowships at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (internal medicine) and Harvard Medical School (immunology and dermatology) and was a member of the Harvard Medical School faculty for six years before joining UCSF in 1982.

A search committee, co-led by Catherine Lucey, M.D., vice dean for education in the School of Medicine, and Shaun Coughlin, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute, has been charged to make recommendations to find a permanent School of Medicine dean.

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UC president encourages aspiring doctors in Fresno


Janet Napolitano meets with Doctors Academy students at UCSF Fresno.

UC President Janet Napolitano talks with high school students from UCSF Fresno’s Doctors Academy at a discussion that included officials from UCSF (pictured from left are UCSF Fresno Associate Dean Joan Voris, Doctors Academy founder Katherine Flores and UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood), UC Merced and UC medical students and residents. (Photos by Francis Fung, UCSF Fresno)

By Alec Rosenberg

University of California President Janet Napolitano visited UCSF Fresno today (Sept. 5), where she encouraged high school students to pursue their dreams of becoming doctors and help address the severe physician shortage in the San Joaquin Valley.

Napolitano met with 20 students from UCSF Fresno’s Doctors Academy, a challenging academic preparation program at three high schools in Fresno County. The star students, who come from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds, had questions about whether they could afford college and how they could overcome their self-doubt.

The path to become a physician is long and intense, but it’s a worthy journey that’s within reach, said Napolitano and colleagues who included UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland and UC medical students and residents.

“Never doubt that you have what it takes to succeed as a doctor, nurse or whatever field you’re considering,” said Napolitano, who described how she overcame challenges in college, explained its affordability and encouraged students to consider applying to UC.  “You are exactly the kind of smart, motivated and compassionate students UC wants.”

High school students at UCSF Fresno’s Doctors Academy tell UC President Janet Napolitano why they are in the Doctors Academy and interested in becoming health professionals.

Napolitano’s message resonated with Doctors Academy students such as Sunnyside High School senior Carlos Villalobos, who wants to become a physician in the valley so he can serve his community. “I feel it’s my calling,” he said.

Villalobos had been interested in attending an Ivy League college, but after listening to Napolitano, he was inspired to change his mind.

“I want to go to UC,” Villalobos said. “I got to see how big a family we are with UC.”

Indeed, UC trains nearly half of the medical students and residents in California. In the San Joaquin Valley, UCSF, UC Merced and UC Davis all have efforts to address health issues and the shortage of physicians practicing in the region.

The UCSF Fresno Medical Education Program was established in 1975. UCSF Fresno annually now trains approximately 290 medical residents and fellows (an increase of 100 in the past 10 years) and about 250 medical students on a rotating basis. Since its inception, the program has graduated more than 2,000 resident physicians. About 40 percent of medical residents who graduate from UCSF Fresno stay in the area to provide care for community members.

“It shows the efficiency of training residents locally — they tend to stay here,” said Dr. Joan Voris, UCSF Fresno associate dean.

UCSF Fresno also has pipeline programs to prepare health care professionals. The Doctors Academy serves 336 high school students. The Junior Doctors Academy is an academic enrichment program for 186 motivated seventh- and eighth-grade students, while the Health Careers Opportunity Program at Fresno State provides academic support to prepare select students for entry into graduate programs and health professional schools

Dr. Katherine Flores, a Fresno native who was raised by her migrant farmworker grandparents and became the first in her family to attend college, founded the Doctors Academy in 1999 to open doors for students like her. All Doctors Academy graduates go on to college, with 98 percent matriculating into four-year colleges and universities. Three students from the inaugural class have received medical degrees and are in primary care residencies.

“In the Central Valley, we don’t have enough health care providers,” said Flores, who directs the UCSF Fresno Latino Center for Medical Education and Research. “We wanted to grow our own.”

The Doctors Academy students also met with San Joaquin Valley PRIME students. PRIME is an innovative training program focused on meeting the needs of California’s underserved populations, with 330 total students in six programs. UC Davis, UC Merced and UCSF Fresno collaborate on SJV PRIME, which launched in 2011 and now enrolls 27 students — all of whom have expressed interest in staying in the Valley to practice and/or work with underserved communities.

Maricela Rangel-Garcia, a third-year SJV PRIME student and Clovis native who was part of the inaugural class at UC Merced, encouraged Doctors Academy students to find mentors.

“The doubt will never go away,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to reach out to new people who will help you along the way.”

Agustin Morales, a fourth-year SJV PRIME student and Mexico native who received a bachelor’s degree from UC Santa Cruz, agreed.

“Look for people who are positive, inspirational, who will guide you in unfamiliar terrain,” said Morales, who is interested in internal medicine and plans to apply for residency at UCSF Fresno. “You end up empowering yourself to do what you want to do.”

Along with SJV PRIME, UC Merced continues to develop health sciences research programs. It has established a Health Sciences Research Institute, offers a minor in public health and collaborates with UCSF Fresno on research into valley fever.

As part of her visit to Fresno, Napolitano met with UC Merced and UCSF campus leaders to discuss health issues in the San Joaquin Valley and how UC is addressing needs and the funding challenges associated with efforts to help improve health in the region. For example, the Doctors Academy used to receive nearly $1 million a year in federal grant funding, but that has stopped. Also, state funding only covers about one-third of all PRIME slots.

In the meantime, the San Joaquin Valley has just 45 primary care physicians per 100,000 people, while the recommended level is 60 to 80.

UCSF Fresno medical resident Andres Anaya, a Fresno native, encourages high school students from UCSF Fresno Doctors Academy to become physicians. (From left: Sidra Suess, a fourth-year San Joaquin Valley PRIME student, and Erica Gastelum, a UCSF Fresno pediatric resident.)

UCSF Fresno medical resident Andres Anaya encouraged Doctors Academy students to join him in addressing that shortage. Anaya was born the eldest son of Mexican immigrants, both of whom are deaf. His first language was American Sign Language. At the age of 5, he began translating for his family. His college guidance counselor told him college wasn’t for everyone. Later in life, he suffered an industrial accident, which landed him in the emergency department and left him temporarily paralyzed.

“It changed my perception,” Anaya said. “Everything became possible.”

Anaya graduated from UCSF medical school and now is a physician in Fresno.

“Every day I get to do something I love,” Anaya said. “I’m literally living the dream. I’m home.”

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Medical schools urged to increase enrollment of undocumented immigrants


Accepting students eligible for federal DACA program could help address nation’s shortage of primary care physicians, UCLA center says.

Youhali Balderas-Medina Anaya, UCLA

A paper by researchers at the UCLA Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture urges medical schools to do more to increase their enrollment of undocumented immigrants seeking access to the medical professions.

The authors of “Undocumented Students Pursuing Medical Education: The Implications of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” published in the current issue of the journal Academic Medicine, suggest that these students, who are often highly motivated and qualified, can help alleviate the nationwide shortage of primary care physicians, particularly in underserved, low-income areas.

“This country is in great need of primary care physicians to fill the ongoing shortage, yet qualified undocumented pre-medical students are still being denied access to medical schools because of concerns regarding their status,” said Dr. Yohualli Balderas-Medina Anaya, a resident physician in the department of family medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the paper’s lead author.

The authors suggest that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an initiative signed by the Obama administration in 2012 that allows certain young undocumented immigrants to work legally in the U.S. without fear of deportation, could help shore up the numbers.

“With DACA,” Anaya said, “undocumented pre-med students can help address this growing shortage. We are calling upon the medical and academic community to support undocumented students applying to medical school. We can all benefit from helping these students enter and successfully complete medical school.”

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New law helps grads of accelerated medical programs


UC co-sponsored bill signed by governor will allow more physicians to practice in California.

A new law sponsored by the University of California will allow graduates of accelerated and fully accredited medical education programs to become licensed physicians in California by as early as January 2015.

AB 1838, co-sponsored by UC and the Medical Board of California and introduced by Assembly Member Susan Bonilla, will allow more physicians to practice in California and help doctors incur less student debt. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law last week.

The law previously required California physicians to complete a medical curriculum over at least four academic years with a minimum of 4,000 hours of coursework. Those provisions created a barrier for well-qualified graduates of accelerated programs who were interested in practicing in the state.

There is already a shortage of medical doctors in California and it is estimated that the state will need an additional 8,000 primary care physicians by 2030. Debt is another problem facing students pursuing medical degrees; the median debt for graduate students is $175,000. AB 1838 addressed both problems by allowing students to finish their training sooner. It also allows California medical facilities to recruit physicians who have attended accelerated programs in other states.

The UC Davis School of Medicine is the first UC campus to offer an accelerated program. The Accelerated Competency-based Education in Primary Care (ACE-PC) program provides approximately three years of medical school training after which students move directly into a primary care residency program operated by UC Davis or Kaiser Permanente of Northern California.

“We want to thank Assembly Member Susan A. Bonilla and the Medical Board of California for their leadership on this important and timely legislation,” said Dr. Cathryn Nation, UC associate vice president for health sciences. “UC is proud that its School of Medicine at Davis, in partnership with Kaiser Permanente, developed the first accelerated medical education program in California, enrolling its first class of six students in June 2014. Now future graduates from this primary-care focused program and other accelerated programs will have a clear path to medical practice in California.”

The accelerated programs enable students to complete a more concentrated, modified year-round education schedule that often eliminates summer breaks and involves reduced time for electives.

The University of California operates six of California’s nine M.D.-granting medical schools and provides specialty training for nearly half of the state’s medical residents.

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A speedier pathway to becoming primary care physicians


First group of six UC Davis students starts accelerated competency-based education program.

(From left) Mark Henderson (associate dean of admissions), Kristina Rodriguez, Alyssa Dixon-Word, Nolan Giehl, Tonya Fancher (principal investigator), Jennifer Nguyen, Ngabo Nzigira and Ian Kim

Medical school started early and quickly for six brand new first-year students.  The UC Davis School of Medicine, in partnership with Kaiser Permanente Northern California, recently welcomed its first group of students into the Accelerated Competency-based Education in Primary Care (ACE-PC) program.

ACE-PC is UC Davis’ rigorous three-year pathway for medical students who are committed to becoming primary care physicians. Rather than the classic seven-year plan to a primary care practice (four years of medical school followed by three years of residency training), ACE-PC students continue their training and education during summers and can enter primary care practice a year earlier than traditional students.

Stethoscopes and white coats in hand, the students hit the ground running last week after an orientation with UC Davis’ Associate Dean of Admissions Mark Henderson and Roderick Vitangcol, Kaiser’s assistant physician-in-chief for North Sacramento Hospital Operations.

Following the welcome and introductions, the students had their first written exam. Within days, they began visiting Kaiser facilities and getting immersed in a curriculum and learning environment designed to seamlessly integrate medical education and clinical practice.

“ACE-PC is definitely an intensive approach to medical education and physician training,” said program director Tonya Fancher, a UC Davis associate professor of internal medicine and principal investigator for the American Medical Association grant that helped launch the new program. “But the need for more primary care physicians is so crucial that being able to provide a speedier pathway for highly motivated students makes a lot of sense.”

ACE-PC incorporates a curriculum that includes population management, chronic disease management, quality improvement, patient safety, team-based care and preventive health skills, all with a special emphasis on diverse and underserved populations. The inaugural cohort of students comes from variety of backgrounds. One was a medical assistant, while another worked as a grassroots activist and health policy advocate.  The group also includes a community health educator with the Peace Corps, and a student who worked with medically underserved Asian and Pacific Islander communities.

To be considered for admissions into the ACE-PC program, students must first be accepted into the School of Medicine’s four-year M.D. program. Following their accelerated three years of medical school, students will transition to medical residencies at UC Davis or Kaiser Permanente Northern California.

“With health care reform and more people having coverage, the need for additional physicians is greater than ever before,” added Fancher.  “Medical schools simply have to produce more generalists, and our ACE-PC program is a great way to increase that vital part of the health care workforce.”

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UC Irvine names interim medical school dean


Eye surgeon Roger Steinert will begin his term July 1.

Roger Steinert, UC Irvine

Renowned eye surgeon Dr. Roger Steinert has been named interim dean of the UC Irvine School of Medicine. The current Irving H. Leopold Chair in Ophthalmology and founding director of the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute, he will oversee the academic and research missions of the medical school.

Steinert came to UC Irvine in 2004 as professor of clinical ophthalmology and holds a joint appointment in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. He’s a pioneer in laser surgery, most notably in LASIK and excimer laser refractive surgery and in corneal transplantation, developing techniques that have improved the vision of millions.

Steinert has repeatedly been recognized for advancing eye care, including being named one of America’s top ophthalmologists by Becker’s ASC Review and receiving the 2008 Barraquer Award, refractive surgery’s highest honor. The UCI Academic Senate honored him with the Distinguished Faculty Award for Teaching in 2008-09.

Steinert also serves as chief of ophthalmology at UC Irvine Medical Center, where he’s the current president of the medical staff and has been a member of the Governing Body Advisory Council since 2009. He helped lead the effort to establish UCI’s Gavin Herbert Eye Institute, Orange County’s only academic vision care institute, and oversaw the opening of the state-of-the-art, 70,000-square-foot research and clinical facility on campus last September.

Steinert follows Dr. Ralph V. Clayman, the medical school’s dean for the past five years. One of the nation’s premiere urologists and founding chair of the Department of Urology, Clayman will return to the faculty and his clinical practice at UCI. During his tenure as dean, he welcomed 12 new department chairs and a new cancer center director; student applications increased by 25 percent; and he oversaw the creation of the iMedEd Initiative, the first medical education program in the country to incorporate tablet computing, Google Glass and portable ultrasound into academic and clinical training.

Steinert will begin his term as interim dean July 1.

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UC Riverside senior accepted at nine medical schools


Former foster child is headed to UCLA with all-expenses-paid fellowship.

Festus Ohan, a graduating UC Riverside senior who grew up in foster care, has been accepted at nine medical schools. He will attend UCLA on a fellowship that will cover all of his expenses.

The acceptance letters kept coming. UC Riverside School of Medicine. UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine. UC Davis. UC San Francisco. Cornell. Columbia. USC. Northwestern. University of Pittsburgh.

Festus Ohan was elated. Nine letters in all.

Not bad for a young man who spent his teen years in foster care with providers who labeled his dream of becoming a physician “unrealistic.” Not bad by any measure, said Dr. Neal Schiller, senior associate dean of student affairs at the UCR School of Medicine.

“It is quite impressive to have received nine acceptances. Only exceptional students would receive this many offers,” he said. “Festus Ohan is a unique, gifted student who has overcome incredible obstacles to achieve his dream. We are very proud of him.”

Ohan, 22, will enroll at UCLA in August, the recipient of a David Geffen Medical Scholarship that will provide full financial support including a living stipend, tuition, room and board, books and supplies. It was the only medical school to offer that level of financial support, a factor that influenced his decision to enroll there.

“I’m looking forward to medical school and learning how to heal patients,” said the 22-year-old who will graduate from UC Riverside in June with a degree in neuroscience. “I will miss UCR. People here were excited about my dreams and believed I could do it. I had mentors who supported me and inspired me to believe in myself. ”

Only 2 percent of children who age out of foster care graduate from a four-year college, said Tuppett Yates, a UCR associate professor of psychology and director of the Guardian Scholars Program, which provides support for students who have aged out of foster care. Only a small percentage of those who earn a bachelor’s degree make it to graduate school in any discipline.

“Festus has everything it takes to be an outstanding physician,” Yates said. “He is smart, hardworking and an expansive thinker, but most importantly he is also kind, generous and unassuming. He embodies the highest standards of both scholarship and citizenship in our community.”

Ohan was removed from the care of his mother at age 5 and was 13 when his father abandoned him and one of his two sisters, resulting in their placement in foster care. The second sister lived in Nigeria with their father’s family for several years before returning to the United States, and foster care.

Like most children raised in the foster-care system, Ohan lived in multiple homes, attended multiple high schools, and felt unwanted and inadequate. But he was determined to attend college and earned the grades necessary for admission to the University of California.

At UCR, Ohan was introduced to the Guardian Scholars Program. Friendships developed with other students and mentors. After a difficult first year, he found success as a scholar, switched to a neuroscience major, and earned a 4.0 grade point average in several quarters.

“I knew college was going to be really hard and I was hesitant about pursuing my aspirations,” Ohan recalled. “I came in as a political science major because I was too afraid of majoring in the sciences. Guardian Scholars felt like a family. There was comfort in knowing that if something came up or I fell down, there were people who would help me.”

Ohan enrolled in UCR’s FastStart program, a five-week summer program for incoming freshmen — primarily disadvantaged students — who aspire to medical and other science-based careers. The goal is to get them off to a strong start in critical science curriculum and to provide the academic and social support needed to be successful.

“Before FastStart I hadn’t realized I could do this,” he said of his desire for a career in medicine. “Even though I said I wanted to be a doctor, I didn’t think I could. People here believed that I could.”

He attended the Harvard Summer PreMedical Institute, volunteered at Loma Linda University Medical Center and helped found the UCR Unnatural Causes student organization, which raises awareness about disparities in health care. He served as the group’s president this year.

One of his role models for the kind of physician he wants to be is the surgeon who treated his sister for scoliosis while the two teens were in foster care.

“He was so compassionate and I saw how he improved the quality of her life,” he recalled. “I want to do the same. I will treat everyone with respect and dignity, despite their economic standing.”

Despite the hardships of his childhood, he said he knows that others in foster care experienced worse and lost their way.

“A lot of my foster brothers and sisters had goals of going to college and finding their dream job, but somewhere along the way they gave up,” he said. “I am grateful that I met people who were able to turn their own lives around and inspired me.”

His advice to others in similar circumstances? “Have confidence in your abilities. Try to meet several mentors along the way who are positive influences. Don’t give up.”

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Pre-med student makes an impact


Axana Rodriguez-Torres of UC Davis honored for her student leadership.

Axana Rodriguez-Torres, who volunteers through the UC Davis Health System, plans to pursue degrees in public health and medicine.

Axana Rodriguez-Torres felt frustration and pain when her medical studies in Colombia were not recognized in the United States, where she and her family had been granted political asylum.

But now, as the UC Davis senior is recognized with the University of California President’s Outstanding Student Leadership Award, she shares a new understanding:

“As I’m pursuing my dreams, I’m helping others to pursue theirs,” said the 31-year-old. “This is why I needed to be here and discover another purpose in my life.”

UC President Janet Napolitano presented awards to Rodriguez-Torres of Elk Grove and a UCLA student wellness campaign at a meeting of the UC Board of Regents in Sacramento May 14.

Her impact across UC

“The work of these bright students has a tremendous impact not only on their home campuses but across the UC system and out in their communities,” said Napolitano. “I’m pleased to have a chance to recognize their efforts and dedication to tackling tough issues that affect us all.”

Rodriguez-Torres, a double major in neurobiology, physiology and behavior as well as psychology, is being recognized for helping coordinate the annual UC Davis Pre-Medical and Pre-Health Professions National Conference, the largest such conference in the nation.

More than 7,500 attend the conference, and more than 80 percent of participants are high school, community college and UC students who are underrepresented in the field of medicine.

For the October 2013 conference, Rodriguez-Torres was responsible for the medical programming that brought to the conference about 50 of 700 speakers, including leaders of national organizations.

Helping with students’ struggles

Earlier, she met one of her own mentors through the conference and is committed to providing such opportunities for other students. “I’ve seen the struggles students go through. I can see I can do something about it,” said Rodriguez-Torres, who continues to serve on the conference’s organizing board as director of medical programming.

In nominating Rodriguez-Torres for the award, Adela de la Torre, vice chancellor of student affairs at UC Davis, wrote that her saga exemplifies a “tenacity of spirit that propels her social justice action.”

Rodriguez-Torres completed three years of medical school in Colombia before obtaining political asylum in the United States, where she cleaned houses, served fast food, and provided child care to help support her family and save for her education. As her English proficiency grew, she worked as an immigration consultant and a tax preparer for people with limited English.

Three associate degrees

Because her medical school credits from Colombia were not transferable, she studied at American River College — where she earned three associate degrees — before transferring to UC Davis.

Drawn to the university by the opportunity to work at the student-run Clinica Tepati in Sacramento, she has helped provide free care for the underserved, mostly Latino patients.

As a winner of a $10,000 Donald A. Strauss Public Service Scholarship, she established a prevention-focused diabetes education class that extended the clinic’s work. Her project provides monthly classes in nutrition and diabetes prevention as well as Zumba fitness classes at All Hallows Parish in Sacramento.

After graduating in June, Rodriguez-Torres plans to pursue a master’s degree in public health at UC Davis and then a medical degree on her way to becoming an internist focusing on diabetes prevention.

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