TAG: "Students"

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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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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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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More partners support UC food initiative fellowships


California walnut producer, vintner, restaurateur among first to provide matching funds.

University of California President Janet Napolitano today (Sept. 4) announced the first partners to provide matching funds for the UC Global Food Initiative Student Fellowship Program.

Craig McNamara, president and owner of walnut-producing Sierra Orchards, and his wife, Julie, will donate $7,500 to the fellowship program. They also have reached out to others, seeking to match funds committed in July by the UC Office of the President to support student-generated research, related student projects or internships focused on food issues.

Joy Sterling, CEO of Iron Horse Vineyards, and Chez Panisse owner Alice Waters and the Edible Schoolyard Project also have each committed $2,500 to the fellowship program.

“We are pleased and honored that these industry leaders have stepped up to support UC’s fellowship program, which will address critical food issues facing California, the nation and the world,” Napolitano said. “We hope to see others in the agricultural and food industry come forward to partner with the University of California.”

The fellowship program was first announced in July as part of UC’s new food initiative, which seeks to harness the university’s resources to sustainably and nutritiously feed a world population expected to reach 8 billion people by 2025.

The UC Office of the President provided $7,500 to each UC campus, the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Fellowships will be awarded to both undergraduate and graduate students, with funds allotted at each campus’s discretion in three $2,500 portions.

“I’m thrilled to work with the University of California and be part of their Global Food Initiative,” McNamara said. “UC graduates will help lead our state and nation in developing food policy that is critical to California’s economy.”

During Napolitano’s presentation to the California State Board of Food and Agriculture in July, McNamara, the board’s president, encouraged agriculture and food industry leaders to provide financial support for the fellowship program.

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Farmworkers’ son wins prestigious NIH undergraduate scholarship


UC Davis student committed to career in health-related research.

A biochemistry and molecular biology major, Abraham Corrales has been awarded the NIH Undergraduate Scholarship for students from disadvantaged backgrounds and committed to careers in health-related research. (Photo by Karin Higgins, UC Davis)

The stinging sweat and all-over aches from picking blackberries one summer tutored young Abraham Corrales of Watsonville in the harsh realities he’d already experienced as the youngest of 10 children of migrant farmworkers.

“When you’re in the fields, you understand how everyone who’s working there really suffers just to put food on the table,” he said. “That’s what made me change my perspective on education.”

Today, the UC Davis junior has distinguished himself as one of only 16 recipients nationwide of a prestigious National Institutes of Health scholarship on his way to developing therapies to promote the health of agricultural communities like his own.

A biochemistry and molecular biology major, Corrales has been awarded the NIH Undergraduate Scholarship for students from disadvantaged backgrounds and committed to careers in health-related research.

It’s in the lab of associate professor of pharmacology Elva Díaz that Corrales is working this summer. “I’m extremely excited for him,” she said. “It’s an honor for him. It’s an honor for me to have him in the lab.”

Corrales will receive a renewable annual award for up to $20,000 in tuition and educational expenses. For each year of the scholsrship, he will receive paid summer research training at the NIH and, upon graduation, a year’s employment at an NIH research lab.

It all helps, said the 20-year-old. He is paying for his education through Cal Grants, the University of California’s Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan, other scholarships and the fruits of a savings habit instilled by his father.

Corrales’ parents encouraged him to work hard in school and consider college. “Even though they didn’t know anything about school, they knew I had to go,” he said.

The door to Corrales’ career cracked open when, during a high school lesson on different jobs, he volunteered to find out what a biomedical researcher does. “It kind of interested me,” he said.

Corrales knew he wanted to help his community, and what he learned influenced him to turn his future educational aspirations from medical school to graduate school. “Doing research in medicine is still helping people, but it’s behind the scenes.”

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Dental school’s diversity pipeline a success


UCLA School of Dentistry outreach program helps underrepresented students.

Raquel Ulma went from growing up in a poor neighborhood in Puerto Rico to graduating from UCLA School of Dentistry to getting accepted into the UCLA Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery program. (Photo by Brianna Aldrich, UCLA)

When Raquel Ulma moved to Los Angeles with her husband, Greg, in 2002, he knew that it was time for her to start making her lifelong dream of becoming a dentist a reality, even though she had no idea how.

So Greg encouraged her to attend the annual California Dental Association session with a friend. “I actually crashed the dentistry event,” confessed Ulma, who goes by “Rocky.” “I approached the Hispanic Dental Association booth and struck up a conversation with a female dentist who was approachable and welcoming.”

Soon Ulma was telling Dr. Lilia Larin about her goal of becoming a dentist. The two exchanged contact information and Larin told her to expect a call from a faculty member from UCLA School of Dentistry who was starting a program designed to help people apply to dental school.

The next day, Drs. Marvin Marcus and Bruce Sanders contacted Ulma. Marcus told Ulma that she was the perfect candidate for his new program aimed at recruiting disadvantaged and underrepresented students into dentistry. She was from a poor neighborhood in Puerto Rico and had the basic science foundation, having majored in chemistry at the University of Puerto Rico and had completed master’s level coursework in organic chemistry.

“To be honest,” Ulma said, “I was a little star-struck that a school such as UCLA would have an interest in me.”

Shortly after her first contact with Marcus, Ulma became one of the first students to participate in UCLA School of Dentistry’s then-fledgling recruitment initiatives and helped paved the way for the current Post-Baccalaureate program, which guides students step-by-step, through the daunting dental school application process. Since 2003, the program has mentored 40 post-baccalaureate students, 30 of whom have gone on to attend dental school. The program, which is funded in part by UCLA School of Dentistry Dean No-Hee Park’s office, is the first of its kind in Southern California.

“Our educational pipeline initiatives are something I am very proud of and are an important element of our outreach and diversity goals,” said Dr. Park. “Our Post-Baccalaureate Program has helped young people reach their full potential and has enriched the dental field with professionals from all backgrounds.”

For Ulma, the coaching began with a meeting at the School of Dentistry’s Office of Student Affairs where Marcus and Sanders reviewed her undergraduate transcripts, looked at her dental admission test (DAT) scores and went over a draft of her application essay. Ulma had strong grades from her undergraduate work, but needed to work on her DAT scores and wasn’t as strong in the interview portion. Knowing this, Marcus and Sanders helped set-up a mock-interview panel that resemble an actual interview she would eventually face.

“The mock interview panel was a lot harder than I expected,” she said. “They asked a lot of questions, such as why I would be a good fit for that particular school and what makes me a good candidate for dental school.”

They also advised her to do some volunteer work in dentistry, so Ulma immediately began volunteering at the Wilson-Jennings-Bloomfield UCLA Venice Dental Center – a community clinic in West Los Angeles that provides dental care to low-income adults and children.

The entire process took about a year and a half, from reviewing her prerequisites and retaking the DAT to applying to numerous schools and interviewing. After that though, Ulma was accepted to her top choice, UCLA, and began dental school in 2004.

“Looking back at how far I’ve come is sometimes unbelievable,” Ulma said.

Originally from Levittown, Puerto Rico, a rough, urban neighborhood outside of the country’s capital, Ulma recalls the area where she grew up as, “a very bad neighborhood with high pregnancy rates, drug dealers and teenagers getting shot.”

Ulma’s police officer father also owned a woodworking shop where he made furniture to supplement his salary, and he would regularly bring her to the shop to keep her out of trouble.

“It was the experience of working with my father in his shop where I fell in love with using my hands to make something beautiful, yet functional,” she said.

Rather than follow her father exactly, though Ulma chose to pursue dentistry to combine her love of working with her hands along with helping people.

With the support of her husband and faculty at UCLA, Ulma achieved her long-held dream of becoming a dentist when she graduated with the D.D.S. class of 2008.

“During dental school, I would often meet with Dr. Marcus for breakfast and he would remind me to take it day-by-day,” she recalled. The support she received from Marcus and Sanders has inspired Ulma to volunteer her time to assist other students with their dental school applications.

Dental school was just the beginning for Ulma. In 2008, she successfully applied to and was accepted to the UCLA Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (OMS) residency program, a highly competitive program that only offers two slots per year out of approximately 100 applications. Ulma graduated from the OMS residency program with an M.D. degree and a certificate of specialization in oral and maxillofacial surgery this June.

“She is truly a remarkable individual and I believe she will be a model for many women and minorities in the future,” Marcus said.

While in the OMS residency program Ulma met Dr. Earl Freymiller, professor of clinical dentistry and chairman of the section of oral and maxillofacial surgery. Freymiller, an oral surgeon, introduced Ulma to the Thousand Smiles Foundation. Ulma and Freymiller, along with other oral surgeons travel to Ensenada, Mexico several times a year where they perform surgery on children with cleft lip and palate.

“Dr. Freymiller has been such an invaluable mentor to me,” Ulma said. “I’ve witnessed patients he’s worked on come back years later to introduce them to their families and thank him for what he’s done for them. He is an example of who I want to become.”

In summer 2015, Ulma will start a three-year residency in the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery program, and learn to perform complex facial and body reconstruction to help replace congenitally or traumatically missing body parts.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the Post-Baccalaureate program,” she said. “People do what they know. For example, if there isn’t a role model for how to get into dental school or the health sciences, then younger minorities won’t even see it as an option. I look at where I’m at in my career and feel incredibly lucky for the people who have been role models to me.”

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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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First class of UC Davis doctoral nurses graduates


Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing celebrates 62 graduates.

The Class of 2014 Doctor of Philosophy Class shows their appreciation for the school's namesake, Betty Irene Moore.

For the first time, eight Doctor of Philosophy students collected degrees through the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis this graduation season, along with 24 Master of Science students and six nurse practitioner and 24 physician assistant certificate graduates.

“In a month, or year, or perhaps in a decade, the facts that you learned will have changed. Many will be, frankly, wrong. But your ability to approach questions systematically, to thoughtfully define your objectives, to gather accurate information, to work with colleagues, to apply what you know, will remain with you forever,” said Jill Joseph, associate dean for research who provided the keynote speech at the school’s annul graduation celebration on June 12. “And already, those of us who have walked with you during your time here can see the impact.”

Following the School of Nursing event, the graduates received their degrees at the formal Office of Graduate Studies commencement later that day, which included presentation of more than 1,100 graduate degrees.

According to both Joseph and Dean Heather M. Young, the continued growth and impact of the 5-year-old Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing can be measured by the accomplishments of its students and graduates.

“There are many measures of what we are accomplishing and certainly we should each take great pride in the students who graduate today,” Joseph said. “Equally remarkable, we are also forging, however imperfectly, a culture characterized by respect and collaboration and mutual support, as well as a lot of very hard work.”

Young emphasized this impact is the direct result of the vision of the school’s namesake, Betty Irene Moore.

“Together, we will make certain the next generation of nurses, physician assistants and other health-care professionals are equipped to make a difference in ways that are important to the individuals, families, and communities we serve,” Young said.  “As you will see today, our students are assuring Mrs. Moore’s dream takes shape in very important ways.”

Five students were recognized by nursing faculty with awards of excellence highlighting the school’s five core attributes:

  • Excellence in Leadership Development: Lauren Burke
  • Excellence in Interprofessional Education: Robin MacPherson-Dias
  • Excellence in Transformative Research: Katherine Kim
  • Excellence in Cultural Inclusiveness: Bertha Odhiambo
  • Excellence in Innovative Technology: Deborah Greenwood

The graduation marks the school’s third graduation since the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing was established in 2009 and opened its doors in 2010. The school now boasts 48 alumni.

The Nursing Science and Health-Care Leadership Graduate Degree Programs, which includes master’s degrees in leadership, nurse practitioner and physician assistant studies as well as a doctoral program, are led by an interprofessional team of faculty from across UC Davis. Learn more at http://nursing.ucdavis.edu.

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UC Irvine medical students receive AMA leadership award


Recipients include Asghar Haider and Raja Narayan.

Two students at the UC Irvine School of Medicine are among 15 recipients of the American Medical Association Foundation’s 2014 Leadership Award.

Asghar Haider, an M.D./M.B.A. student, and Raja Narayan, an M.D./M.P.H. student, were honored by the AMA Foundation at its annual Excellence in Medicine Awards celebration on June 6 in Chicago. The national award recognizes medical students, residents/fellows and early career physicians for achievements in community service, medical education and public health.

Award recipients will receive special training to develop their skills as future leaders in community affairs and organized medicine.

“Mr. Haider and Mr. Narayan exemplify UC Irvine’s commitment to its mission of Discover.Teach.Heal,” said Ralph V. Clayman, M.D., dean of the UC Irvine School of Medicine and professor, department of urology. “Their respective exemplary work in community outreach and educational innovation provide benefits that go well beyond the borders of our university.  I am proud of their endeavors to date and look forward to their future accomplishments.”

Asghar “Abbas” Haider is a fourth-year student in the combined M.D./M.B.A. curriculum. Haider is passionate about community outreach. As an immigrant and first-generation college student, he recognizes the need for mentors for teens in his community. In 2007, Haider co-founded the Peer Advancement Community for Teens, an organization that mentors and tutors underserved students in the Los Angeles area. He is working towards a dual M.D./M.B.A. degree in order to better understand the changing healthcare landscape and to advocate for his future patients.

His aspiration is to become a leader in academic ophthalmology.

Raja Narayan will complete his final year of medical school at UC Irvine and is pursuing a master of public health degree in applied biostatistics and epidemiology.

He has been involved in deploying technology to advance medical education and patient care, which has led him to be named a Patron Fund Diplomat at TEDMED, a New England Journal of Medicine Gold Scholar and co-president of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society. As an undergraduate at Yale, Narayan was a member of the Institutional Review Board, a senior clinical team member of the student-run HAVEN free clinic, lead editor for the Yale Journal of Health Policy Law and Ethics, winner of the Yale Global Health Case Competition, and captain of the Movember initiative that raised money to support research on men’s health. Narayan plans applies to residency in general surgery.

The Excellence in Medicine Award program is presented in association with Eli Lilly & Co., Novo Nordisk Pharmaceuticals Inc., PhRMA, and Pfizer Inc. The Leadership Award was first bestowed in 2003.

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