TAG: "Students"

UC San Diego launches new major in global health


Bachelor of arts in global health is a first in the UC system.

Junior Michelle Bulterys recently upped her global health minor to a major and is now double-majoring along with anthropology. She spent part of her summer in a small South African village doing research.

Undergraduates at UC San Diego will now be able to pursue a bachelor of arts in global health – an increasingly popular new field of study and urgent social concern.

Launched this fall, the program incorporates the global health minor started four years ago. Both the major and the minor are firsts in the UC system.

Tom Csordas, chair of the anthropology department, is the program’s director. The Global Health Program is truly interdisciplinary, he said, bringing together coursework and faculty from the UC San Diego divisions of Social Sciences, Biological Sciences, and Arts and Humanities, the School of Medicine, the Rady School of Management, and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

The word “global,” he said, refers both to geography – encompassing health concerns around the planet, at home and abroad – and also to the program’s holistic approach.

“The program balances pragmatic real-world experience with theoretical, analytic and critical skills. We aim to offer students a comprehensive introduction to the ‘hard’ and ‘flexible’ sciences that together make up the emerging field of global health,” Csordas said. “Our curriculum spans the continuum of approaches to health: medical social sciences, biological sciences, health policy and planning, epidemiology, global social processes and medical humanities.”

An important component of the bachelor’s degree, as it is with the minor, is a global health field experience comprised of 100 hours of work at a research, service or clinical site. In the case of the B.A., that fieldwork also culminates in a capstone seminar and a senior thesis, which students will present to the university community at the program’s annual Horizons of Global Health conference.

Csordas pointed out that the program is highly student-centered and closely articulated with both the university’s Global Health Initiative and with three (of four) research themes outlined in UC San Diego’s Strategic Plan: Enriching Human Life and Society, Understanding and Protecting the Planet, and Understanding Cultures and Addressing Disparities in Society.

Campus partners of the program also include the International Center, the Academic Internship Program, the Center for Iberian and Latin American Studies, the Center on Global Justice and the Blum Cross-Border Initiative.

Students are excited about the program, Csordas believes, because it affords them so many different avenues following graduation. The Global Health Program is intended, he said, to pave the way for work in health sciences, research and teaching, service-providing organizations, government or non-governmental agencies, health policy, environmental health, or law. It is also excellent preparation, he said, for advanced study in medical or graduate school.

Junior Michelle Bulterys recently upped her global health minor to a major and is now double-majoring along with sociocultural anthropology.

“It’s an incredible program,” said Bulterys, who serves on the program’s Student Advisory Committee. She cited in particular the opportunity to take classes you might “not even know about” in a more traditionally single-discipline major.

This past summer, Bulterys spent two months in South Africa doing anthropological research with a global health focus. She home-stayed with a family in the village of Hamakuya, which still struggles with the consequences of Apartheid, she said, and studied “both traditional healing practices and care-seeking behavior in a bio-Western facility.” The data her group collected were turned over to local health authorities.

Before coming to San Diego for university, Bulterys went to schools in China and Zambia (where her parents’ medical work took the family). Bulterys plans to pursue a career in medical anthropology and epidemiology. She expects she’ll seek to return abroad soon after graduating but may stay in the U.S. for a while.

“Global health has no boundaries,” Bulterys said. “It’s about interacting with the whole world.”

To learn more, visit the program website or write to Program Advisor Brittany Wright at bloy@ucsd.edu. Phone: (858) 534-7967. You can also find and follow the Global Health Program on Facebook and on Twitter.

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UCLA hosting 24-hour invention competition to meet health care needs


Inventathon encourages teams of young inventors to develop innovative solutions.

A team of UCLA students working on their project during the 2013 Inventathon competition. (Photo by Samantha Le, UCLA)

Just a stone’s throw from Silicon Beach — the epicenter of technology in Los Angeles — the Business of Science Center at UCLA, with support from the Center for Advanced Surgical and Interventional Technology and Center for Digital Behavior, is spurring innovation as the organizer of the second-annual Inventathon.

This event is a unique 24-hour competition designed to develop solutions for pressing health care needs using the latest device technology and mobile applications.

Watches that track more than time and augmented reality glasses worn like conventional glasses, but that also house a tiny computer, are just the latest examples of wearable devices. Inventathon is designed to help young inventors harness similar technologies for use in the healthcare field.

Inventathon kicks off Oct. 15 with the announcement of the health care need to be addressed. Teams then have a couple of days to assemble before the actual competition starts on Oct. 17. Once the competition begins the teams will work around the clock to develop and eventually present their ideas to a panel of judges. The product could be a mobile app, conceptual drawing or embedded or wearable device. Mentors from UCLA and industry will be available during the entire process, which is designed to help participants hone their research and entrepreneurial skills.

The 24-hour inventing marathon serves as the concluding event of UCLA Innovation Week, organized by Bruincubate, a collection of 14 different groups at UCLA dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship. Bruincubate is hosted by the UCLA Office of Intellectual Property and Industry Sponsored Research. Innovation Week brings together UCLA’s entrepreneurial organizations to help students, faculty, and staff explore and grow their ideas into tangible products. In addition to the Inventathon, events include talks, a career fair and mixers.

The Inventathon competition will take place at the UCLA California NanoSystems Institute. “This event supports future inventors and entrepreneurs,” said Shyam Natarajan, a Business of Science program director and a Center for Advanced Surgical and Interventional Technology researcher, who helped launch the event last year. “We are excited to see raw science talent paired with business and design expertise to develop and jumpstart ideas.”

Medical technology inventors of all levels, from undergraduates and graduate students from UCLA and other universities are welcome. Organizers encourage the teams, consisting of three to five participants, to include a wide range of skills from the medical field, engineering, art, design and business.

During the 24-hour competition, the teams will have access to tools such as 3-D printers, augmented reality glasses that can be used to help design and test applications for wearable devices, and special boards to help make mini computer chips, which are the brains behind the applications.

“Competitions like Inventathon get students to think there are no walls that will inhibit them,” said Roy Doumani, a professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and executive director of the Business of Science Center. “The experience is invaluable in developing the skill set needed to succeed in developing and pitching a product. Participants are mentored throughout the competition and we want to thank our mentors for their extremely valuable support and time.”

Additional programs on UCLA’s campus help students even after the competition. The Business of Science Center offers a course called Advancing Bioengineering Innovations designed to teach medical device design and to develop practical solutions for unmet medical needs. The program is a collaboration among the Department of Bioengineering in the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

“There is huge potential for the latest remote monitoring applications and devices to support and track health care needs,” said Sean Young, assistant professor of family medicine and executive director of the Center for Digital Behavior at UCLA. The center brings together academic researchers and private sector companies to study how social media and mobile technologies can be used to predict and change behaviors that impact health. “Events like Inventathon are a great resource and learning opportunity for students.”

The second annual Inventathon will start on Wednesday, Oct. 15, with a kickoff event to announce the type of health need to be solved and to start assembling teams. Competition begins at 4 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 17 and the competition concludes Saturday, Oct. 18 at 6 p.m.

The public is invited to watch the final pitches to the judges and the announcement of the winners, which will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. on Saturday.

The UCLA Clinical Translational Science Institute is a collaborator on the event. This project received support from the following NIH/NCATS grant to the UCLA Clinical Translational Science Institute: UL1TR000124.

Inventathon sponsors include: Option3 LLC; Cardiovascular Systems; Epson America; SparkFun Electronics; UCLA Blum Center for Poverty and Health in Latin America; KARL STORZ Endoscopy-America; Hitachi Aloka Medical America; UCLA Center for World Health; Lob; California NanoSystems Institute, UCLA AIDS Institute and UCLA Health.

For more information about Inventathon and sponsorship opportunities, please visit www.UCLAideas.com.

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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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UCSF Discovery Fellows Program meet fundraising challenge


Strong show of support for basic science education and research.

Members of the inaugural class of Discovery Fellows are joined by philanthropist Harriet Heyman. (Photo by Elisabeth Fall)

A year ahead of schedule, UC San Francisco has met the unprecedented fundraising challenge set by Sir Michael Moritz and Harriet Heyman to raise $5 million from 500 donors for the Discovery Fellows Program, which supports basic science Ph.D. education.

Moritz and Heyman responded to the news that their challenge had been met by extending the fundraising effort through 2016 with up to $5 million more in matching funds, and by committing a $1 million bonus if the new campaign attracts another 500 donors.

“Strength and purpose depend on communities deciding to attack the future with gusto,” said Moritz, chairman of Sequoia Capital in Menlo Park. “This has happened in a spectacular manner at UCSF during the last year, and we hope that even more people now have a great, additional incentive to help our university attract medical science’s most talented graduate students.”

At $60 million, the Discovery Fellows Program is already the largest endowed Ph.D. education program in the history of the University of California system. The couple launched it last year with a $30 million gift, which was matched by UCSF and hundreds of individuals, most of whom gave to the university for the first time.

The fund recognizes the critical role doctoral students play in fueling biomedical research. As the endowment grows, it will increasingly take the financial pressure off faculty to fund education with research money and give students freedom to choose their mentors based on scientific rather than financial concerns.

“This endowment will support basic science at UCSF for generations to come,” said Elizabeth Watkins, Ph.D., dean of the Graduate Division and vice chancellor of student academic affairs. “It goes to the very heart of what UCSF is all about: creating the conditions for scientists to do great work.”

A spate of generous donations from UCSF friends and alumni helped propel the campaign to success. Among the donors who made leadership gifts to establish named fellowships are the philanthropist Hwalin Lee, Ph.D., class of ’66; former UCSF Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann, M.D., M.P.H., and her husband Nicholas Hellmann, M.D.; retired Impax Laboratories Inc. chief Larry Hsu, Ph.D.; and Pablo Valenzuela, Ph.D., co-founder of Chiron Corp., and his wife Bernadita Valenzuela, Ph.D.

Lee, who received his doctorate from UCSF, said he gave to express his appreciation for his alma mater. “I think this is a very good opportunity to do something for the school,” he said.

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Global health fellowship applications open


Applications due Dec. 1 for 11-month mentored research fellowship.

Applications for the 2015-16 UC Global Health Institute GloCal Health Fellowships are now open. Applications are due Dec. 1, 2014.

The GloCal Health Fellowship is a career development fellowship sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Fogarty International Center, as well as a consortium at the UCGHI. The consortium includes UC Davis, UCLA, UC San Diego and UC San Francisco, along with 27 affiliated international sites across 16 countries, and institutes and centers across the NIH.

The purpose of the program is to support an 11-month, mentored research fellowship for existing and aspiring investigators who are interested in studying diseases and conditions in developing countries (all trainees must spend 11 consecutive months in-country in order to be eligible for the program).

The fellowships are designed for doctoral students, professional students, postdoctoral fellows, foreign postdoctoral fellows from participating international sites in low- and middle-income countries, and junior faculty with a current NIH Career Development Award (K series or similar award) whose interests focus on interdisciplinary research in areas such as social and behavioral science, nutrition, environment, medicine, public health, nursing, veterinary and basic sciences.

For more information about the program and to download an application, visit the GloCal Health Fellowship website.

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UC Davis nursing school welcomes its newest grad students


School honors University of Washington nurse scientist with annual leadership award.

(From left) Heather Young, dean of the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis, presents nurse scientist Brenda K. Zierler with the 2014 Excellence in Leadership Award.

Nutrition, nursing and public health are just some of the fields represented by the 63 new students entering the four graduate programs at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis. The students make up is more than professionally diverse, though, said Dean Heather M. Young, as she formally welcomed the group at the annual Welcoming Ceremony on Tuesday evening (Sept. 23).

“You range in age from 23 to 53. Some of you work for local health systems, some of you work in care centers. Others of you work in public health or provide care in our state prisons.” Young said. “Each of you is here because of what you bring to this school. You came here to be transformed as health care leaders, but at the same time, you also transform each other and all of us at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing and UC Davis.”

The incoming fall 2014 classes include eight doctoral students, 20 physician assistant students, 25 master’s degree leadership students and 10 nurse practitioner students — moving the school’s total enrollment to 135.

The Nursing Science and Health-Care Leadership Graduate Group prepares nurse leaders, primary care providers, researchers and faculty in a unique interdisciplinary and interprofessional environment. As with other graduate groups at UC Davis, this program engages faculty from across the campus with expertise in nursing, medicine, health informatics, nutrition, biostatistics, public health and other fields. Currently, the graduate group includes more than 45 faculty.

Brenda K. Zierler, a University of Washington nurse scientist, was honored with the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis 2014 Excellence in Leadership Award. The award is annual highlight at the Welcoming Ceremony.

Nationally recognized for her work examining education systems for health professionals, Zierler’s research explores the relationships between the delivery of health care and outcomes — at both the patient and system levels.

Young said she was thrilled to name Zierler to the award, not only for her national work in interprofessional education, but for her partnership with UC Davis as well.

“Dr. Zierler has worked with both the School of Nursing and the School of Medicine to help us identify how we can improve our curriculum so that students are exposed to more interprofessional opportunities throughout their education,” Young said.

Her primary appointment is in the School of Nursing at the University of Washington, but Zierler also serves in three adjunct appointments at UW — two in the School of Medicine and one in the School of Public Health. Currently, she is a co-primary investigator on a Josiah-Macy-funded grant with physician Leslie Hall to develop a national train-the-trainer faculty development program for interprofessional education and collaborative practice. She also leads two HRSA training grants — one focusing on technology-enhanced interprofessional education for advanced-practice students and the second focused on interprofessional collaborative practice for advanced heart failure patients at UW’s Regional Heart Center.

“I am interested in improving the quality and safety of health care delivery for all,” Zierler said. “Interprofessional education and collaborative practice are a means to meet these goals. Improving communication, coordination and collaboration of care can improve the quality and safety of care.”

Zierler said the future is bright for students of the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing.

“This is a true learning organization with excellent faculty leadership that takes a student-centered approach to education and a patient-population-centered approach to providing care,” Zierler said. “This school is the model for the future in nursing.”

The school recently opened applications for fall 2015 master’s-degree leadership and doctoral programs. For more information, visit the school’s website at nursing.ucdavis.edu.

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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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UCLA volunteers help the underserved at free clinic


Health care workers give back at Care Harbor event.

An estimated 4,000 people showed up for this year's Care Harbor free clinic held at the L.A. Sports Arena, an increase from last year's 3,000 who attended. This year, about 50 health care workers from UCLA volunteered their services. (Photos by Ann Johansson, UCLA)

It was a typical misunderstanding that could have led to disastrous consequences. The man had run out of medication to control his hypertension. But he couldn’t afford to get it refilled, or so he thought.

So instead of picking up a simple, generic medication at Wal-Mart or Target for $4, the man decided to go without it and unknowingly put himself at risk for a stroke. All because he didn’t realize he could obtain the medication cheaply.

UCLA Dr. Patrick Dowling checks a patient's arm.

Fortunately, he was one of hundreds who were treated by UCLA health care workers volunteering at the Care Harbor’s annual health clinic held Sept. 11-14 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. His story is typical of many who come to this free clinic for the poor and underserved, said Dr. Patrick Dowling, chief of the UCLA Department of Family Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine.

About 30 percent of those who saw a UCLA health care worker at the clinic had prescriptions that went unfilled.

“These are people with hypertension and diabetes who can’t afford to get these medications — or think they can’t — and wind up in the ER, costing thousands when they simply needed to maintain their medications,” said Dowling, who, along with Dr. Carol Mangione, headed a UCLA contingent of about 50 volunteer health care workers. Mangione is the Barbara A. Levey M.D. and Gerald S. Levey M.D. Endowed Chair and professor of medicine and health services.

The man’s predicament, which was remedied by a simple referral to a local pharmacy, also explains why UCLA’s participation in the annual free clinic is so important and gratifying for the volunteers, among them, nurses; cardiologists; ear, nose and throat specialists; family medicine physicians and ophthalmologists from the Stein Eye Institute. Their ranks also included family medicine sports medicine doctors, International Medical Graduate (IMG) program participants, and medical residents and students from UCLA.

This year, an estimated 4,000 people attended the clinic, up from around 3,000 last year.  Mostly poor and uninsured, they came for dental work, eye care, general internal health care and other services.

The volunteers also gain something valuable, said Dr. Brenda Green, a third-year family medicine resident at UCLA. She is a graduate of the IMG program, which assists bilingual, bicultural immigrant medical school graduates from Latin America who reside in the U.S. legally, with earning a California medical license and obtaining a residency in family medicine.

Working at the Care Harbor clinic gave her the opportunity to work with the underserved populations that she will treat once she’s finished her residency.  To be in the IMG program, physicians must commit to practicing in one of the state’s more than 500 underserved communities for two to three years after completing their three-year family medicine residency.

“I love working with the Hispanic population since I speak Spanish and I can communicate with them,” said Green, who volunteered at the clinic last year as well.

Most of the people she saw suffered from chronic pain or women’s health problems; diabetes was particularly common, she said. The clinic offers referrals to patients who are diagnosed with other untreated health conditions, some of them serious.

“There’s a strong Hispanic population, and diabetes is prevalent among them,” said Green. “A lot of it is uncontrolled.”

A medical student in the IMG program, Daniel  Handayan found that volunteering at the clinic gave him the opportunity to use some of the skills he had learned at the Universidad Autonomo de Guadalajara, where medical students are exposed to clinical care earlier than in the U.S.

“I wanted to give back to Los Angeles,” said Handayan, who was born in Pasadena. “This is a great opportunity to use the skills I learned in Mexico.” He was one of nine IMG students who participated during the four-day clinic.

“They’re valuable because of the language and culture,” Dowling said.

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Creating a pathway to practice

 

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Diabetes doesn’t slow down UCLA student


She forms campus group to educate public on ways to prevent diabetes.

UCLA student Megan Cory, who is doing research on diabetes, was diagnosed with the disease when she was 14. She is not only working to educate people about diabetes prevention, but helped raise funds for the Larry L. Hillblom Islet Research Center at UCLA, headed by Dr. Peter Butler (right).

It seems that everything in Megan Cory’s life has pointed her toward a career in medicine. It’s what she has wanted to do all her life — even after she got some bad news about her own health that would have frightened and discouraged most people.

Instead of lamenting her diagnosis of type 1 diabetes, she has used that health condition to benefit UCLA and the community in several ways.

Ever since childhood, Cory has been fascinated by what doctors do. From her interactions with a neighbor and a family friend who were both doctors, she knew early on she wanted to be just like them.

“Ever since then, I knew that doctors make people feel better,” said Cory, now 20 years old and a UCLA biochemistry major with a minor in theater.  “The cool thing is that … everything that’s happened to me since then has strengthened my wanting to be a doctor. It’s my calling. I didn’t have an epiphany. I felt like this my whole life, and I know I’m headed in the right direction.”

Her decision to pursue medicine was also affirmed when she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

Cory had always been active — almost tirelessly so — in theater, science fairs and athletics. “Everything you can think of, I was involved in,” she said. But at age 13, she was also constantly thirsty, and even though she was eating more, she was losing weight. So her parents took her to see a doctor who, at first, thought she was simply too busy.  A visit to a cardiologist whose sister was an endocrinologist brought a diagnosis. “He smelled my breath, and he knew something was wrong,” Cory said.

She learned she had type 1diabetes two days after her 14th birthday. It’s a day she will never forget. “I can play it like a movie in my head,” she said.

Her mother and father were sitting in the exam room while Cory was lying on the bed when the doctor gave them the news. Her mother passed out, and her father was devastated. Cory cried — but only because she didn’t understand what it all meant.

“After a few minutes, I stopped crying, and I asked myself, ‘Why are you crying? You don’t even know what it is,’” she recalled. “I stood up and asked the doctor, ‘What’s next? What do I need to do? This diabetes thing is not going to stop me from doing the things that I love.’”

Impressed with her positive attitude, her doctors later asked her to talk to other teens with diabetes. So many of them think of diabetes as a form of punishment, making it difficult for them to deal with it, she said.

“I think of it another way: Diabetes is manageable; it’s just a little inconvenience, a little extra something you have to do,” she said.

That isn’t to say it’s not serious, she points out to teens with diabetes. But at least people with diabetes have the means to control their disease, which is something that people with other diseases can’t do. “Be thankful that we have something we can control,” she tells them.

Cory has also led by example. In high school, she became a Texas state tennis champion three times in a row from 2009 through 2011. She participated in various diabetes-related programs for young people, was a finalist in the 2010 International Science Fair and performed in plays, mostly in musicals.

Now a student at UCLA, her focus is on preparing for medical school and helping her peers with diabetes and others who are dedicated to educating people about both types of diabetes. She started DiaBeaters, a campus group that promotes a healthy lifestyle to help prevent the disease.

This summer, students in DiaBeaters talked about prevention to students and parents attending the UCLA Medicine Pediatrics Comprehensive Care Center Sports Fair in Santa Monica. Cory is hoping to reach out to more high school students as well as local and other businesses throughout Los Angeles.

Through DiaBeaters, she also helped raise $1,000 for the Larry L. Hillblom Islet Research Center at UCLA for diabetes research.

Cory, who’s now interested in becoming an endocrinologist, has been conducting research at the Hillblom center on alpha mass in non-diabetic people over their adult lifespans. Alpha cells produce glucagon, which helps maintain blood sugar levels between meals. She’s found that this mass remains constant with age even as the tissue around it withers away.

Dr. Peter Butler, director of the Hillblom center, said he’s been particularly impressed with Cory’s enthusiasm and diligence in her research, as well as her commitment of time and support to the cause.

“She has been a most welcome student volunteer in the UCLA islet research center,” Butler said. “She is passionate about the need to bring greater awareness to the student community about diabetes. We are fortunate to have her here at UCLA.”

This summer Cory applied to the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and other medical schools. She said she hopes she can stay on this campus to continue growing DiaBeaters, working on her research and staying involved with the biochemistry society BiochemASE, which she co-founded.

“I want to show people that when something bad comes into your life, there’s a different way to approach it,” Cory said.

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Diaper detective


Students develop inexpensive, versatile pad to detect medical problems in infants.

A team of UC Riverside Bourns College of Engineering students created an inexpensive pad that can be inserted into diapers to detect dehydration and bacterial infections in infants.

The product, which recently won an award that included a $10,000 prize at a national engineering design contest, operates much like a home pregnancy test or urine test strip. Chemical indicators change color when they come in contact with urine from an infant who is suffering from dehydration or a bacterial infection.

The pad, which is 2.5 inches by 5 inches and called “The Diaper Detective,” is attractive for numerous reasons. It costs 34 cents to make. It doesn’t require electricity, cold storage or an advanced education to interpret. It’s customizable so that other chemical indicators can be added to test for other medical conditions. And it could be adapted to be used in adult diapers.

“We created this to fulfill a need for a versatile, inexpensive, non-invasive method of urine collection in developing countries and elsewhere,” said Veronica Boulos, one of the team members. “The beauty of this is that it solves a huge problem with simplicity.”

Strike against infant mortality

The Diaper Detective addresses the worldwide problem of infant mortality in developing nations. Of the estimated 3.9 million annual neonatal deaths, 98 percent occur in developing countries and could be prevented with access to low cost, point-of-care diagnostics.

In developing countries, the students hope the Diaper Detective will be distributed via relief organizations. In the United States, the students believe the pad would qualify for reimbursement through medical insurance, making it an inexpensive option for low-income users.

The uniqueness of the diaper insert comes from the use of lateral flow channels that guide the user’s urine to the reactive regions where the color change takes place. The lateral flow channels were originally created using Crayola crayons and are now created by paraffin wax and a laser printer.

The students won a third place award at the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Engineering Design by Biomedical Undergraduate Teams Challenge. They have also submitted the product to the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance BMEStart competition.

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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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