TAG: "Students"

UC president bestows awards for student leadership


UC San Diego’s Kyle Haines, members of Riverside Free Clinic honored.

Kyle Haines, UC San Diego

By Carolyn McMillan

University of California President Janet Napolitano recognized two student-led efforts that foster community, collaboration and cross-cultural understanding today (May 21) by bestowing the President’s Award for Outstanding Student Leadership.

The winners were Kyle Haines, a Ph.D. candidate at UC San Diego, for his work convening the Interdisciplinary Forum on Environmental Research; and members of the student-led Riverside Free Clinic, which provides free medical, dental and social services to a largely poor, uninsured immigrant clientele.

Haines was recognized for his leadership over the past two years in convening a multidisciplinary and cross-border forum on environmental issues. Haines brought together scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, social scientists and humanists from UC San Diego and environmental scholars from the Colegio de la Frontera del Norte in Tijuana.

In announcing his award, Napolitano said that the forum “helps prepare graduate students for engaging in productive cross-disciplinary discussion. At the same time, Kyle has played an instrumental role in the success of UC San Diego’s community development programs in Tijuana — programs that focus on soil improvement, backyard gardens and watershed consciousness.”

Student staffers of the Riverside Free Clinic

Napolitano also lauded the Riverside Free Clinic.

“For the past 11 years, the Riverside Free Clinic has provided a phenomenal public service to the Riverside community,” Napolitano said. “Every other Wednesday night, the medical students and undergraduate student volunteers who staff the clinic serve dozens of patients, many of whom are low-income, Spanish-speaking immigrants.”

Napolitano noted that the clinic has actively sought partnerships with other educational institutions to help it better serve its patients. The Western University College of Dental Medicine became a partner in the last year, allowing the clinic to offer dental services whenever it is open.

“Not only does the clinic serve the public, but it also gives the UCR students who volunteer their time an academic experience that will enhance their work as health care providers in the future.”

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UC Grad Slam winners make research accessible one pitch at a time


Graduate students captivate audience by keeping it simple.

UC Irvine's Ashley Fong delivers the top-prize-winning presentation at the UC Grad Slam on using stem cells to mend damaged hearts. (Photos by Robert Durell)

By Nicole Freeling

>>Watch UC Grad Slam and individual students’ presentations

It took UC Irvine graduate student Ashley Fong years to make significant advances in her research using stem cells to repair damaged heart muscle, but just minutes — three to be exact — to wow a panel of judges with a succinct explanation of her work and capture the championship at the first UC-wide Grad Slam tournament.

Graduate students are rarely rewarded for being brief or simple, but those were the exact requirements to win Monday, as 10 UC scientists and scholars competed to deliver the most illuminating three-minute explanation of their work.

An elated Fong took home $6,000 in prize money and the glory of out-talking her peers — all of whom had won similar contests at their home campuses and provided some tough competition.

Coming in second and third place were Daniel Hieber of UC Santa Barbara and Alex Phan of UC San Diego, with talks on efforts to save a language from extinction and a device to help glaucoma patients.

“I have experience speaking at conferences,” Fong said. “But those are long talks, with dozens of slides, to a roomful of experts.”

She participated in Grad Slam, she said, to learn to communicate her work and why it matters to people outside the field. That skill is a growing necessity for researchers everywhere, as public funding for research and higher education grows ever more competitive. In such a climate, academics who can articulate the value of their research have an important edge. Grad Slam was aimed at giving master’s and Ph.D. students important career-building skills, while offering the public a window into the breadth of work being done across UC campuses.

Contestants spent weeks preparing, taking workshops and working one-on-one with coaches to hone their ideas, craft the structure of their talk and present extremely complex ideas in a way that would be relatable to a general audience.

By the time they took to the stage Monday, the students had honed their presentations to a fine point. Most were also well-versed in speaking in front of an audience, having competed in several qualifying rounds before taking the top prize on each of their campuses.

Public speaking did not come naturally at first, said Phan, a graduate student in mechanical and aerospace engineering. “But once you take this on, it stops being quite so uncomfortable. You begin to build up your confidence.”

The effort paid off: Phan won third place for his talk Fight for Sight, about an implantable pressure sensor that provides continuous monitoring for glaucoma patients. Phan ultimately hopes to patent the technology and bring it to market. When the award was announced, Phan’s parents, who had traveled from Los Angeles to watch the competition, leapt from their seats. “We are so proud of him,” said his mother.

UC Grad Slam winners Alex Phan, left, third place; Ashley Fong, first place; and Daniel Hieber, second place.

Learning to demystify their research

“Making the mysteries of basic research more understandable and accessible to the public is one of my priorities, and part of our responsibility as the nation’s premier public research university,” said UC President Janet Napolitano, who served as the event emcee. “Grad Slam plays a key role in highlighting the broad, societal significance of research at UC.”

Non-academics, including NBC Bay Area News anchor Jessica Aguirre, Silicon Valley venture capitalist Josh Green and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, joined UC Regent Eddie Island and UC Provost Aimée Dorr as the contest judges. They evaluated contestants based on their ability to clearly and concisely explain their research and its impact.

The judges had a difficult task in determining the winner from a field of students, all of whom came across as polished, engaging and passionate about their pursuits.

“It’s been so great to be able to explain my research to people in my church, to my friends,” said UCLA master’s student Jean Paul Santos, who told the audience about a small, more powerful antennae he is engineering to help NASA scientists communicate directly with the Mars rover. “I had to figure out, how can I share the novelties of my research without going overboard or over your head?”

UC Riverside plant pathologist Jeannette Rapicavoli, who is a first-generation college student, said the experience had helped her better explain her research to her family. “It was like: ‘So this is why you want to be in college for nine years. We can understand it now.’”

Students described new insights into how species behave, how to help crops withstand drought, and how food waste can be harnessed as a source of fuel.

Reviving a dead language

Daniel Hieber, a linguistics Ph.D. student and the lone competitor not in a science, technology or engineering field, took second place for his talk about how he has helped to revive a language in the Louisiana bayou whose last native speakers died in the 1930s. From wax audio recordings of their voices, along with written archives, Hieber has reconstructed the Chitimacha language, even creating a Rosetta Stone audio tape, which tribal members now listen to in their cars.

“For the first time in 70 years, you can hear Chitimacha being spoken again in the schools and communities of the bayou,” Hieber said.

Following each of the presentations, Napolitano bantered with researchers, asking them about how they got interested in their line of research. “The work you’re doing represents years of serious research. But there’s no reason we can’t have a little fun,” she said.

UC Davis food scientist Ryan Dowdy described how as a boy, he would mix together water, oil and food coloring as a kid and sell it on the street, instead of the usual lemonade.

“I charged 50 cents. I made a killing.”

Dowdy and his peers represent an emerging breed of researchers, who are breaking down the stereotype of the elite intellectual, said National Public Radio contributor Sandra Tsing Loh, who teaches a science communications class at UC Irvine and had come to cheer contestants on. The public is hungry, Lo said, for scholars and scientists who can unleash the excitement of their discoveries.

Far from fitting the image of the aloof scientist, Grad Slam contestants described their passion pursuing advances that directly touch the lives of Californians and people elsewhere.

Fong described the mantra she uses when the rigors and frustrations of research overwhelm her. It was the same one she used at Grad Slam to get herself primed for the competition. “When I need to ground myself, I just remember, I want to save lives. That’s the reason I got into research.”

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UC students visit peach farm, meet with President Napolitano


Fruitful discussion of Global Food Initiative.

UC President Janet Napolitano listens to UC Global Food Initiative student fellows discuss their projects at Masumoto Family Farm in Del Rey. (Photos by Roger J. Wyan)

By Alec Rosenberg

For 28 UC Global Food Initiative student fellows, their classroom Monday wasn’t a lecture hall or laboratory, but the sandy soils of Masumoto Family Farm near Fresno.

The fellows, representing each UC campus, gathered at the 80-acre organic farm to dig into the soil, thin the fruiting peach trees and sit under a sycamore tree to discuss the food initiative with UC President Janet Napolitano.

UC Merced undergraduate student Hoaithi Dang, who is working to develop food education as part of a freshman core course next year, called the visit invigorating.

“I feel so inspired to continue my work and do more,” Dang said.

Napolitano listened to the students talk about their projects, asked them questions and announced that she was extending the Global Food Initiative student fellowship program, which began last fall, for another two years.

“Where do we go from here and how do we make this more of a student-based initiative?” Napolitano asked the fellows. “I’m really interested in your ideas and your research.”

Napolitano, together with UC’s 10 chancellors, launched the Global Food Initiative in July in an effort to help put UC’s campuses, the state and world on a pathway to sustainably and nutritiously feed themselves. It’s an important subject to the fellows, who offered several suggestions for building the fellowship program and the broader initiative.

A fruitful visit

UC Riverside graduate student Dietlinde Heilmayr suggested that fellows should meet at the beginning of the year to set goals, share ideas and develop collaborations.

“We should think about having a workshop with food fellows and associated faculty in the fall to discuss projects and timelines and develop peer-to-peer relationships,” Napolitano replied, receiving thumbs up and nods of approval from the fellows.

Ian Davies, a UCLA undergraduate student who is working to add two community gardens at the campus, said it would be good to know more about other fellows’ projects earlier, which could encourage joint efforts.

“I think that would be really fruitful,” said Davies, who plans to visit gardens at each UC campus and compile that information for sharing.

Having a digital archive such as a wiki also would be useful for fellows to share best practices, said Ankita Raturi, a UC Irvine graduate student who is working to model the environmental impact of agricultural systems.

Global Food Initiative student fellows dig in the dirt with Mas Masumoto at his family farm near Fresno.

A history lesson

The farm visit helped connect the fellows with each other and the land.

The father-and-daughter team of Mas and Nikiko Masumoto, both UC Berkeley graduates, led fellows on a tour of their family farm, where they grow peaches, nectarines and grapes for raisins.

“The key is the soil,” said Mas Masumoto, a third-generation Japanese-American farmer and author of books including “Epitaph for a Peach,” where he tells the story of his efforts to rescue the sweet and juicy variety of Sun Crest peaches.

Standing in an orchard of those now 50-year-old Sun Crest peach trees, Masumoto asked the students to dig into the soil with a shovel, put their hands into dirt and feel how it crumbles into sand.

“I love this place because it has so much history and they’re respectful of it so it can be there for their next generation,” said Samantha Smith, a UC Davis graduate student who is working with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources to help scientists share stories about their research with the public. “This perspective will help bring about change.”

Nikiko Masumoto discusses thinning peach trees with Global Food Initiative student fellows.

Nikiko Masumoto taught the students how to thin peach trees — removing unneeded fruit from each limb, including small ones and “twins,” or double peaches, to make room for the strongest pieces of fruit, which will begin to be harvested in five weeks. Pinching off the immature fruit between their thumbs and index fingers, students called it therapeutic.

“I grew up in a suburb,” said Jacqueline Chang, a UC Berkeley undergraduate student assisting ANR on a survey to assess student hunger. “It’s really cool for me to see literally where my food is coming from. I’ve eaten Masumoto peaches from Berkeley Bowl. But to touch the fuzzy little peaches here (on the farm) is great.”

Sowing solutions

From farm to fork, fellow projects are trying to make the food system more nutritious and sustainable.

Kripa Akila Jagannathan, a UC Berkeley graduate student, is working with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to make climate models that are more useful for farmers.

UC San Diego undergraduate students Jancy Benavides and Jane Kang are doing research to advance urban agriculture at Ocean View Growing Grounds. The former vacant lot is now a thriving community garden thanks to a partnership between the local community and UC San Diego.

Jonathan Schor, an M.D./Ph.D. candidate at UC San Francisco, is developing a mobile app that takes nutritional facts such as a food’s calorie count and translates that into an equivalent physical activity such as running or lifting weights.

“That will keep you away from a Big Mac,” Napolitano said. “I love the idea.”

UC Santa Barbara undergraduate students Kathryn Parkinson and Emilie Wood are working to reduce food waste in UCSB’s dining commons — testing two messages to see which is more effective with students. They hope to spread their efforts across UC.

Joanna Ory, a UC Santa Cruz graduate student whose project focuses on food equity but also is doing international research on water pollution from pesticides, asked Napolitano how she will make the global part more prominent in the Global Food Initiative.

“I’ve been thinking about the global part of the food initiative,” said Napolitano, who noted that UC has students and researchers in over 100 countries. “We’re just starting.”

Inspiring ideas

It’s important for students to build their understanding of agriculture by seeing firsthand how farming works, said UC Regent Fred Ruiz, who joined fellows on the farm visit.

“This kind of experience helps make our farm complete,” Mas Masumoto said. “It makes me wish I was young and a student again.”

Before the tour, fellows gathered Sunday evening to meet the Masumotos and discuss student engagement. UCOP Sustainability Director Matthew St. Clair spoke about how as a UC Berkeley graduate student, in 2003, he helped lead efforts to get the UC Regents to adopt a systemwide green building policy and clean energy standard. St. Clair was then hired by UCOP to implement the sustainability policy, which has expanded to nine sections, including foodservice, and become a model for other universities.

“You have the luxury of idealism and knowing what we should do,” St. Clair said to the fellows. “Work with UC while pushing UC to do all it can.”

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Biology students join undergrads across nation to co-author research paper


Students tackle investigation of ‘dot’ chromosome of Drosophila fruit flies.

Stephanie Mel, a teaching professor in the Division of Biological Sciences, designed and taught a new biology course called “Research Explorations in Genomics” to allow UC San Diego undergraduates to conduct original research in a classroom setting while becoming co-authors in a peer‐reviewed scientific journal.

By Kim McDonald, UC San Diego

An unusual genomics research paper published this month by 940 students at 63 universities around the nation provided 16 undergraduate biology students at UC San Diego with an opportunity to conduct original research in a classroom setting, while becoming co-authors in a peer‐reviewed scientific journal.

Published in the May issue of the journal G3: Genes|Genomes|Genetics, the study conducted by the undergraduate student researchers detailed the evolution of an unusual chromosome in fruit flies. It was made possible by the Genomics Education Partnership, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute-funded collaboration with the biology department and Genome Sequencing Center of Washington University in St. Louis, which coordinated the work.

“This collaboration provided a genuine research experience in our undergraduate biology classroom,” said Stephanie Mel, a teaching professor in the Division of Biological Sciences at UC San Diego who in 2010 designed and taught a new biology course called “Research Explorations in Genomics” to take part in this effort.

In that course, the 19 undergraduate biology students taught by Mel and helped by a master’s student teaching assistant, conducted the UC San Diego portion of the research study. It was an experiment for the instructors as well as the students. And both loved the new approach.

“I got extremely positive feedback from the students in the course,” Mel added. “Since so many of their other biology courses had several hundred people in them, it was an extraordinary opportunity for the students at UC San Diego to learn in a small, highly interactive environment, and to learn in the context of solving a real life research problem.”

Recent reports on undergraduate education have emphasized the crucial role of providing authentic research experiences, where students can learn more than from the traditional textbook lectures and canned experiments.

While faculty at the various universities that collaborated in the effort oversaw the project and drafted the paper, each of the 940 students listed as a co‐authors performed original research and read and approved the manuscript before submission. Many students also provided important comments that were incorporated into the final version.

The students tackled the investigation of the “dot” chromosome of Drosophila fruit flies. The dot chromosome gets its name from its tiny size; next to the other fruit fly chromosomes, it looks like a compact dot. Scientists are interested in the dot chromosome because its DNA is tightly packaged in a form called heterochromatin — a state normally linked with relatively inactive genome regions that contain only a few rarely expressed genes. But despite being packed into heterochromatin, a large region of the dot chromosome carries a similar density of actively expressed genes compared to other, non‐heterochromatic parts of the fruit fly genome. Non‐heterochromatic DNA is known as euchromatin.

How has this unusual state affected evolution of the dot chromosome genes? To investigate, the collaboration of students set out to compare the dot chromosome to a euchromatic region from a different chromosome. But this exploration required a high quality genome sequence from several different Drosophila species, not just Drosophila melanogaster, the species in which the dot chromosome has been most intensively studied. Draft genome sequences for other Drosophila species were already publicly available, but because the dot chromosome carries many repetitive sequences, the genome data was sometimes unreliable. That’s because repeat sequences cause trouble for the software that stitches together the fragments of raw sequence data — like a jigsaw puzzle with many pieces of the same color and shape, it’s hard to figure out which fragments belong where.

In this case, humans do a better job than computers. The collaboration was able to correct errors in the draft genome assembly by breaking the work up into chunks and distributing it among hundreds of students. The students carefully examined each region they were assigned and paid attention to small differences in repeated sequences that gave the students clues on how to put the puzzle together.

“From my perspective, it was a privilege to be able to involve undergraduates in a genuine research experience in a regular class setting,” said Mel. “And to have this result in student authorship on a scientific publication is tremendously exciting.”

Said one of the UC San Diego biology students, Jim Liu, “It was a unique educational and empowering experience that set itself FAR apart from and above the bulk of the ‘memorize-regurgitate-repeat’ undergraduate experience.”

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New program targets next generation of physicians to advance Latino health


UC Davis, Permanente Medical Group launch Prep Médico.

By Charles Casey, UC Davis

The University of California, Davis, and The Permanente Medical Group today (May 4) launched a new initiative at UC Davis School of Medicine dedicated to building the next generation of physicians committed to advancing Latino health.

The program, called Preparando Estudiantes Para Ser Medicos, or Preparing Students to Be Physicians, (“Prep Médico” for short) is a multifaceted initiative that will provide scholarships, mentorship and internship opportunities, a residential program, intensive language training, volunteer service opportunities, and hands-on clinical experiences for pre-med and medical students. The goal is to expand diversity in medicine and ultimately increase the number of Latinos who choose to become physicians.

“With the growing demographic of the Latino community in California, it is imperative that we be proactive in educating a future workforce that is both skilled and culturally responsive to and respectful of the community we serve,” said UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi. “Launching innovative and scholarly initiatives such as Prep Médico helps UC Davis better serve our local and global community and represents a tangible way we are breaking new ground to meet society’s most pressing challenges and leading the way for higher education in the 21st century and beyond.”

UC Davis expects to serve approximately 100 students annually through the new program, which begins with scholarship support for medical school admissions testing this year and will be fully implemented by 2018.

“There is an urgent need for California and the nation’s health care providers to have a workforce of culturally competent physicians who can help address health inequities in underserved communities,” said David Acosta, associate vice chancellor of diversity and inclusion at UC Davis, who will serve as director of the new program.

“Our partnership with The Permanente Medical Group can be transformative, not just for UC Davis, but for California and the nation as well. Prep Médico will enable us to encourage and train more young people to become physicians and serve the rapidly growing Latino community.”

“The Prep Médico program will provide a holistic, comprehensive and longitudinal approach to supporting diverse students at key stages in their educational experience,” said Julie Freischlag, dean of the School of Medicine and vice chancellor for human health sciences at UC Davis. “It will encourage and support students from their first days in college all the way through medical school to help ensure that we can increase the number of Latino physicians practicing in California and around the nation.”

The growing importance of Latino health

According to the U.S. Census, Latinos are the largest single racial/ethnic group in California, making up 39 percent of the state’s population. However, only 4.7 percent of physicians in California are Latino. Having a diverse workforce is a key component in the delivery of quality, competent health care. Studies by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Institute of Medicine have indicated that race concordance between patients and physicians can result in improved patient satisfaction, trust with better adherence to medical treatment, health literacy, and patient safety. Expanding the Latino physician workforce could play a significant role in reducing health care disparities in those underserved communities.

“This program is part of The Permanente Medical Group’s commitment to meeting the needs of all patients throughout California, including the rapidly growing Latino community,” said Robert Pearl, executive director and chief executive officer of The Permanente Medical Group. “As the nation’s largest medical group with more than 8,000 physicians, we understand how important it is  to provide care that is culturally responsive and respectful. To do that, California and the nation will need high quality, well-trained physicians who are knowledgeable about Latino culture and fluent in Spanish. Prep Médico will help us meet that very important need.”

A new model for increasing the physicians pipeline

Prep Médico emphasizes both undergraduate and medical school elements in its program design.

Undergraduate/pre-medical school components:

  • Navigating Your Path Into Medicine: A six-week residential program for freshman and sophomore undergraduates consisting of science and math intensive sessions, clinical immersion experiences, technical skills development, community immersion opportunities and mentorship from both UC Davis Health System and The Permanente Medical Group physicians. The program will enroll its first class of 40 students in 2016 with plans to grow to 60 students participating annually.
  • Pre-Med Internship, Mentorship & Research: A four-month program, where junior and senior undergraduates receive in-depth clinical and research experiences in a range of medical and surgical specialties. It includes a six- to 12-month internship, where student scholars receive mentoring and assistance in preparing for the medical school application process. This program will enroll its first class of 10 scholars in fall 2016 and will expand to 30 students annually.
  • MCAT Scholarship: Starting this year, 10 scholarships will be awarded to cover the expense of preparation and registration fees for the Medical College Admission Test (including travel and lodging expenses if needed.)

Medical school components:

A certification program at UC Davis School of Medicine for students focusing on health care delivery for Latino communities.

  • Clinical Rotations: In addition to those rotations that currently exist, medical students enrolled at the UC Davis School of Medicine will have the opportunity to do two-to-four week clinical rotations with TPMG physicians from diverse specialties and in Kaiser Permanente medical centers and ambulatory care offices that provide health care services to large Latino communities. These rotation opportunities will target third- and fourth-year medical students.
  • Student-Run Clinics: Students will volunteer at a pair of community health clinics run by School of Medicine students and UC Davis undergraduates that are dedicated to serving predominately Latino communities: Clínica Tepati and Knights Landing Clinic.
  • Medical Spanish Intensive Program: In collaboration with TPMG’s existing Medical Spanish Intensive Program for physicians, UC Davis medical students and residents will have the ability to access workshops in the Bay Area designed to enhance medical Spanish language proficiency. An intensive program in Mexico is also being considered for inclusion in this component of the program.

In addition to launching the Prep Médico program, The Permanente Medical Group also announced today its renewed commitment to UC Davis’ Accelerated Competency-based Education in Primary Care (ACE-PC) program. The ACE-PC initiative is a unique medical education program that allows a select group of eligible students to complete medical school in three years, one year earlier than traditional programs, and then directly enter into their primary care residency. The UC Davis program eliminates summer vacations and electives, and is designed for students who know they want to become primary-care physicians.

Kristina Rodriguez, a Healdsburg native who is a first-year student at UC Davis School of Medicine, already has started her clinical rotations with TPMG physicians through the ACE-PC program. She said the experience has reinforced her childhood dream of becoming a physician and providing medical care to the Latino community.

“Having support and resources are everything to people who sometimes don’t have anything,” said Rodriguez, who is the first person in her family to go to college or medical school. “It is so important to have these programs to bridge those gaps for people who have a passion, but don’t have the resources, help and support to pursue a medical education. These programs are going to be essential.”

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States’ policies put health of undocumented immigrants at risk


Ohio rules create greatest health risk for undocumented residents; California the fewest.

By Gwendolyn Driscoll, UCLA

California scored the highest in a new ranking of U.S. states’ public policies and laws that support the health and well-being of undocumented immigrants.

The report, by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the UCLA Blum Center on Poverty and Health in Latin America, with support from the UC Global Health Institute, also found that Ohio had policies that were more exclusionary than those of any other state.

The report focuses on state policies as of 2014 in nine categories across five areas: public health and welfare, higher education, labor and employment, access to driver licensing and government ID card programs, and enforcement of the federal Secure Communities program — all of which influence the health of immigrants and their families.

The researchers rated each state’s policies as “inclusive” (supporting health and well-being) or “exclusive” (harming health and well-being). Scores, which ranged from +1 to -1 for each category, were then tallied for an overall rating for each state. The average total score was -2.5 points.

California scored a total of +9; liberal-leaning New York scored +1. Only six other states and Washington, D.C., had overall scores greater than 0. Other surprises: Texas, frequently in the news for its conservative policies, scored +2 overall, making it one of the five most inclusive states. And Florida, which has a large population of recent immigrants, earned a -3. In all, 41 states were in negative territory.

See the results in a sortable, state-by-state list.

States with the top five and bottom six overall scores:

Top 5
1. California +9
2. Illinois +7
3. Washington +4
4. (tie) Colorado +2
4. (tie) Texas  +2

Bottom 6
51. Ohio -7
50. (tie) Alabama -6
50. (tie) Arizona -6
50. (tie) Indiana -6
50. (tie) Mississippi -6
50. (tie) West Virginia -6

“It is frustrating that so many states have policies that ignore or exclude a group of people who work hard and contribute so much to our society,” said Steven P. Wallace, associate director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and co-author of the report. “The neglect or outright discrimination of the undocumented does not just hurt workers and their families; it hurts the communities that rely on them for the basic labor that makes our society function.”

Policies affect millions

The states’ public policies — and how each responds to flexibility in federal laws — affect the estimated 11.2 million undocumented immigrants living in the country, according to the report. The policies evaluated in the study also affect about 4 million U.S.-born children who live in “mixed-status” families, in which at least one parent is undocumented.

Laws in Arizona — including its immigration status check provision — and in other states have attracted federal court challenges and much media attention. Yet many state laws that can either promote or complicate the health of undocumented immigrants receive little attention.

Examples of beneficial or harmful policy outcomes, by program area:

Public health and welfare. Some states offer child health insurance or similar benefits regardless of immigration status, and some offer full Medicaid to pregnant undocumented women, but many do not. Most states determine eligibility for food stamps (now known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) by factoring in the family’s income and the number of all family members, regardless of their immigration status. But five states, including Arizona and Ohio, calculate eligibility for assistance using the income of all family members, but determine “family size” based only on those who are citizens or lawful permanent residents. This makes it more difficult for families with undocumented members to qualify.

Higher education. Twenty states, including California, Illinois, Florida, New York and Texas, allow undocumented students who attended secondary school in the state to pay in-state tuition for colleges and universities. Five of those, including California and Texas, also offer scholarship funding for those students. The rest require undocumented college students to pay out-of-state tuition, even if they attended K-12 in-state. Among the most exclusive is Georgia, which bars undocumented students from attending many of its public colleges and universities — even if they graduated from high schools in the state.

Labor and employment. Ten states’ workers’ compensation laws classify undocumented workers as “employees,” which qualifies them for workers’ compensation if they are injured on the job. But many states encourage public and private employers making hiring decisions to use the federal employment tool, E-verify, to check if an immigrant is authorized to work. Twenty states require state agencies, state contractors and/or private employers to use E-Verify; only two — California and Illinois — limit its use.

Access to driver’s licenses and government IDs. While some undocumented people can obtain identifications cards from their consular offices, cities such as Chicago, Oakland and San Francisco offer municipal IDs, which allow more access to public and private services. As of 2014, six states — California, Colorado, Illinois, Oregon, Utah and Washington — have laws that provide driver’s licenses to undocumented residents. But a federal law, REAL ID, puts restrictions on states that grant driver’s licenses or other IDs to the undocumented. Half of the states have passed resolutions or statute opposing the law.

Secure Communities. This enforcement program required that local police share information with federal immigration authorities, and it has contributed to the deportation of roughly 400,000 people per year, according to Pew Research. This has separated families and put stress on immigrants’ finances and health, the authors write. California, Connecticut and Colorado have adopted policies that prevent some undocumented immigrants charged with low-level, nonviolent offenses from being turned over to federal immigration authorities. Secure Communities was replaced by the Priority Enforcement Program, which does not require local law enforcement agencies to share information gathered in an arrest with the federal government.

Even high-scoring states can improve

Even the states that earned positive scores have room for improvement. The authors recommend actions all states can take to create a better environment for undocumented immigrants:

• Strengthen laws that secure undocumented immigrants’ rights in the five areas reviewed in the report.
• Buffer federal laws that restrict undocumented immigrants’ rights or access to resources.
• Focus on passing laws that are inclusive, rather than laws that explicitly exclude residents based on their legal status.
• More closely examine public policies for their ultimate impact on undocumented immigrants’ health.

“State and national lawmakers must recognize the value undocumented immigrants have in our country,” said Dr. Michael Rodriguez, co-author of the report, of the Blum Center and a faculty associate at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. “States must understand the critical role their policies play in promoting or hindering the well-being of undocumented immigrants who are an important part of the economic, political and social fabric of our nation.”

A report launch seminar with the authors, “The Healthiest (and Most Unhealthy) States to Be an Undocumented Immigrant: A Review of State Health Policies,” will be held from 12-1 p.m. today (April 16) at 10960 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 1550, Los Angeles.

A special plenary session, “No Federal Immigration Reform? What States Can Do to Improve the Health of Undocumented Workers,” will be held from 11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Saturday, April 18, during UC Global Health Day at UCLA, Covel Commons, 200 De Neve Drive, Los Angeles. Registration for UC Global Health Day is required for admission. Onsite: general $75, student $50.

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Medical school open house targets region’s future doctors


UC Riverside event is geared to high school, college students interested in medical career.

UC Riverside medical students will participate in hands-on demonstrations during the School of Medicine open house.

By Jessica Kump, UC Riverside

The UC Riverside School of Medicine is hosting an open house on Saturday, May 16, for community members interested in exploring what it’s like to be a UCR medical student. Medical school leadership, faculty and students will lead sessions and demonstrations focused on what it takes to get into medical school, the admissions process and key aspects of the medical student experience.

The open house runs from 8 a.m to 12 p.m. at the UCR School of Medicine Education Building. It is free and open to individuals and groups, but RSVPs are requested. Complimentary parking will be available in Parking Lot 13.

Scheduled activities during the open house include a panel discussion with medical school students, basic life saving demonstrations, simulation lab demonstrations, and an admissions discussion with medical school leadership.

Senior Associate Dean for Student Affairs Neal Schiller said he looks forward to leading the admissions discussion.

“Every outreach event in our community shows me how much potential exists in our region’s future generations,” he said. “I look forward to seeing many faces light up when they realize they can become doctors, they can succeed here. I know many of those faces will come through our doors years later, donning a fresh white coat, ready to begin.”

The event will also showcase the Practice Improvement Projects completed by first-year medical students, which are part of their early work toward improving the health of their community. The projects study specific aspects of healthcare delivery identified by the students, who then develop proposals to improve the effectiveness of patient care and patient health outcomes. All first-year medical students will be present at the event to discuss their work, present their findings and receive evaluations from distinguished medical school faculty.

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UC Berkeley team takes top honors in Emory Global Health Case Competition


First-time entrants win prestigious international student competition.

The UC Berkeley team at the 2015 Emory Global Health Case Competition: Asha Choudhury, Chris Andersen, Jee Yun Kim, Richa Gujarati and Rosheen Birdie

By Linda Anderberg, UC Berkeley

When five UC Berkeley students assembled to enter the 2015 Emory Global Health Case Competition — the first time a Berkeley team had entered — they weren’t expecting to win. Nonetheless, they took the top prize at the prestigious international competition, which aims to promote awareness of and develop innovative solutions for 21st century global health issues. Twenty-four multidisciplinary teams from universities around the world competed in the challenge on Saturday, March 28, at the Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta.

“The fact that they placed first among over two dozen elite universities in the United States and abroad is a testament to the innovative culture at Berkeley,” says Phuoc Le, assistant professor in the Interdisciplinary M.P.H. Program at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, who served as a the team’s faculty adviser.

Rosheen Birdie, an undergraduate student majoring in public health and molecular and cell biology, was team captain and initially reached out to staff and faculty to find out how she would go about forming a team. She was put in touch with Hildy Fong, executive director of the UC Berkeley Center for Global Public Health, who connected her with Chris Andersen, a UC Berkeley School of Public Health student in the MS program in epidemiology who was also interested in the Emory competition. Birdie and Andersen then recruited more team members, using what Andersen describes as “a snowball approach.” Eventually, Asha Choudhury, a student in the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program; Jee Yun (Ashley) Kim, a molecular and cell biology undergrad; and Richa Gujarati, an M.B.A. student at the Haas School of Business, all joined the team.

“Our team represented more academic disciplines than some of our competitors, which I think gave us an advantage,” says Andersen. “This translated into ‘constructive friction’ between team members during our discussions on the case. Ultimately our differing perspectives produced a better product than any one of us could have come up with alone.”

The team prepared by reviewing cases from previous Emory competitions and going over proposed solutions. Le advised them on case format and presentation details. They also worked on fundraising for the five-person trip to Atlanta.

“Addressing global health challenges in the ‘real world’ requires collaboration, commitment, drive, and intelligence. This Berkeley team embodied all these traits from the moment they decided to participate, and they were tenacious and determined in preparing for the competition every step of the way — even when facing various logistical setbacks,” says Fong. “If this winning Berkeley team is a glimpse of the upcoming cadre of global health professionals, then our future is in good hands.”

The team received their global health case one week before the competition, finding out that they would be developing a strategy to reduce gun violence in Honduras. “I thought it seemed like a difficult problem to solve in a week,” Andersen recalls.

“The case subject was definitely surprising, but in a good way,” says Kim. “It challenged us to address gun violence as a multi-faceted public health issue and target its root causes. It was a great learning experience.”

Choudhury was impressed with the case because it was open to many different approaches. Birdie agrees. “It was a case with a lot of clues as to strategies you could take, but there wasn’t one obviously correct solution,” she says. “I’d recommend that future teams read it closely when they are preparing for the competition.”

After a week of preparation, the team traveled to Atlanta, where they had an intense day to finalize their strategy and presentation — working from noon on Friday to 2:30 a.m. on Saturday. The next morning, they made their last edits at 7:35 a.m., turned in their flash drive, and waited to make their 15-minute presentation followed by a 10-minute question-and-answer session with a distinguished panel of judges, including Rafael Flores-Ayala, team lead of the International Micronutrient Malnutrition Prevention and Control Program at the CDC and Asha Varghese, director of the Global Health Portfolio at the GE Foundation.

The Berkeley team’s strategy was titled “Breaking the Cycle of Violence” and involved a three-pronged approach that included the promotion of public safety, job production and economic development, and community building. The team segmented the drivers of violence into macro (lack of opportunity, poor education, U.S. demand for cocaine), meso (drug flow, corruption, culture of violence), and micro (access to firearms, conflict over territory) levels. They also categorized their strategies using these levels — for example, a cash transfer to incentivize education was at the macro level, while trading guns anonymously for cash was at the micro level.

“One of the most challenging aspects was getting all the relevant points into a 15-minute presentation,” says Birdie, “and ensuring that our solution was realistic, sustainable and scalable.”

After finishing in first place in their six-team round one, the UC Berkeley team continued on to the four-team finals, where they gave their presentation to all eight case competition judges and in front of many of the students from other universities. For winning the competition, they received a $6,000 award.

“One of the most rewarding aspects of the competition was learning how to work as a multidisciplinary team,” says Kim. “It was amazing to progress from each one of us having different ideas to forming one cohesive solution.”

Second place went to the team from the University of Kentucky, also first-time participants. The University of Miami team won third place, and Northwestern University earned Honorable Mention. Fourteen waitlisted teams competed in a video competition using the same case as the on-campus participants — with the University of Minnesota taking top honors.

Visit the Emory Global Health Institute website for more information about its global health case competitions.

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UC health deans join nationwide coalition for climate change training


White House hosts roundtable discussion about climate change and health.

Deans from UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UCLA and UC San Francisco are among a coalition of deans from 30 medical, nursing and public health schools nationwide committed to ensuring the next generation of health professionals are trained to effectively address all of the health risks their patients and communities face from climate change.

Several of these deans also participated in a roundtable discussion on April 9 about climate change and health with White House Senior Advisor Brian Deese and other senior administration officials.

Bruce Wintroub, M.D., interim dean of the UCSF School of Medicine, and David Vlahov, R.N., Ph.D., dean of the UCSF School of Nursing, joined the other deans in signing on to the training commitment statement, which builds on leadership of many educators around the country that already have begun incorporating climate change into their respective programs. Neither Wintroub nor Vlahov attended the roundtable discussion in Washington, D.C.

Over the past three decades, the percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled, and climate change is putting these individuals and many other vulnerable populations at greater risk of landing in the hospital. Certain people and communities are especially vulnerable, including children, the elderly, the sick, the poor and some communities of color. Rising temperatures can lead to more smog, longer allergy seasons and an increased incidence of extreme-weather-related injuries.

UCSF has been proactive in working to address concerns about our impact on the environment and in communicating ongoing efforts to improve the world in which we live. A June 2014 summit by the UCSF Office of Sustainability led to ideas on sustainability and environmental impact. In addition, Vlahov has advocated for nurses to think globally and act locally, as well as take an active role in bringing this issue to the public’s attention and advocate change.

“We have been early advocates for addressing the effects of climate change in our educational programs,” Vlahov said. “Having a community of academic institutions advocating together and acting to move on education will move us all forward.”

Julie Freischlag, dean of the UC Davis School of Medicine, was among those who participated in the April 9 roundtable discussion.

“It was a great honor and privilege for the UC Davis School of Medicine to have a seat at the White House roundtable,” said Freischlag. “Social responsibility and advocating for public policies that benefit the health of our patients, the community we serve and society at large are longstanding values at UC Davis. We look forward to examining our own curriculum for opportunities to address the effect of climate change on human health, and to working with our academic colleagues and the White House on making a difference on a national scale.”

Also making commitments are the public health schools of UC Berkeley and UCLA.

In addition to the four UC campuses, other schools signing the training commitment statement are Howard University, Des Moines University, University of Nebraska, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Vanderbilt University, Columbia University, Drexel University, George Washington University, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Maryland, University of North Carolina, University of Pittsburgh, Tulane University, University of Washington, Yale University, Emory University, University of Maryland-Baltimore, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, New York University, University of Pennsylvania and Washington State University.

The roundtable event was part of a series of National Public Health Week announcements by President Obama to reduce the health impacts of climate change on Americans.

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UC Davis to host town hall on proposed school of population, global health


Event will be April 16 in Sacramento.

By Carole Gan, UC Davis

A town hall meeting to discuss the proposed UC Davis School of Population and Global Health will be held on Thursday, April 16, from noon to 1 p.m., at the Education Building, 4610 X St., Room 1204, in Sacramento.

UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi recently assigned Kenneth Kizer the responsibility to lead an effort to create a new School of Population and Global Health at UC Davis. Kizer is the director of the Institute for Population Health Improvement at UC Davis Health System and a distinguished professor at the School of Medicine and the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing. Kizer also serves as a member of the Institute of Medicine’s Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice.

Katehi asked Kizer to explore the creation of the new school based on a recognition of the trans-disciplinary approaches needed to address growing health challenges resulting from changing demographics, greater global connectivity, climate and other environmental changes, new technologies and modern society itself.

The proposed school envisions aligning education and training in human and animal health sciences, agriculture, environmental and life sciences, and the social sciences to better prepare leaders, scholars and practitioners to address the many health challenges of an increasingly crowded and connected planet.

Those planning on attending should RSVP by April 9 to Kathleen MacColl at kcmaccoll@ucdavis.edu or (916) 734-7722.

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UCSF Fresno celebrates 40 years of training physicians


Fundraiser highlights impact on health in San Joaquin Valley.

UCSF Fresno Medical Education Program will celebrate 40 years of training physicians for the San Joaquin Valley at its biennial fundraiser “Valley Visions.”

The event will be held on Saturday, April 11, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Fresno Convention Center New Exhibit Hall, located at 848 M St. in downtown Fresno. Hundreds of physicians, other health care professionals and community leaders are expected to attend.

Since it was established as a regional campus of UCSF in 1975, UCSF Fresno has trained approximately 3,000 physicians. Up to 40 percent of them stay in the San Joaquin Valley to provide medical care for community members.

“UCSF Fresno has grown significantly over the past four decades,” said Michael W. Peterson, M.D., interim associate dean and chief of medicine at UCSF Fresno. “Today, we are the San Joaquin Valley’s largest physician training program. Currently, we train about 600 physicians and future physicians through all of our medical education programs every year, right here in Fresno.”Growth at UCSF Fresno since 1975:
  • The number of core faculty at UCSF Fresno increased from one to 230
  • The number of medical residents and fellows trained on an annual basis rose from 102 to 300
  • Seventeen fellowship programs were established
The number of medical students that conduct clinical rotations at UCSF Fresno increased from 186 in 2003 to more than 300 currently.Since 1998, UCSF Fresno has attracted more than $85 million in research, public service and training grants and contracts.

“Our progress and success is a result of the hard work and dedication of our partners, donors, faculty and staff,” added Peterson. “Valley Visions is a celebration of them as much as it is recognition of our 40th anniversary. We look forward to continue working collaboratively well into the future.Working together is the most effective way to move forward our missions of providing medical education, clinical care and medical research to improve health and health care in the region.”

The 5th Valley Visions will honor UCSF Fresno’s ruby anniversary with premium food and beverage tastings from local culinary artisans, wineries and breweries. A sit-down dinner also will be served,followed by live music and dancing. In addition, the event will include a silent auction featuring vacation packages, autographed sports and celebrity memorabilia, designer fashions and jewelry, dinners and much more.

Proceeds from the fundraiser will benefit UCSF Fresno’s many medical education programs.

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New reality of California ‘DREAMers’ takes shape at UCSF


Three undocumented immigrants chosen to join UCSF School of Dentistry’s class of 2019.

By Marc Fredson, UC San Francisco

José Carrasco Sandoval, Laura Aguilar and Angie Celis typify the caliber of talent UC San Francisco attracts. These California residents are standout students and want to give back to their communities after they graduate. All three have been chosen to join the School of Dentistry’s class of 2019.

Unlike most of their peers, all three are “DREAMers,” a term used to describe undocumented immigrants under the age of 31 who entered the United States before the age of 16 and have lived continuously in the country for at least five years while staying out of legal trouble. Those who meet these criteria outlined by the federal Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act are often referred to as “DREAMers.”

Carrasco Sandoval, Aguilar and Celis’ acceptance and enrollment at UCSF represent a particular milestone in the midst of shifting political winds. They will join Jirayut Latthivongskorn, a first-year DREAMer student in the School of Medicine.

“I was always hopeful that this day would come,” said Celis, who was born in Guatemala and immigrated to the San Fernando Valley with her family when she was two. “It took me longer to make it, but now I’m here.”

“Ever since I was in high school, I knew I wanted to be a doctor,” said Carrasco Sandoval, who graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in molecular and cell biology. “I also knew from an early age that our family had a special condition we called sin papeles, which means ‘without papers’ in Spanish, and that realizing my dream would be a challenge without having legal citizenship.” His parents left their native Jalisco, Mexico, and settled down in Napa when he was 2 years old.

Aguilar’s story is similar to Celis’ and Carrasco Sandoval’s. Her parents also made Napa their home after leaving Guadalajara, Mexico, when she was four. “I’ve wanted to be a dentist since I was young but remember thinking it didn’t seem possible because of my status,” she said. “I decided to just keep trying and to stay positive.”

The door to their dreams edged open with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a new American immigration policy implemented by the Obama administration in June 2012. The policy allows certain immigrants — otherwise known as “DREAMers,” to receive a renewable two-year work permit and exemption from deportation.

Because of DACA, “for the first time, I could apply for programs, internships, jobs, scholarships and financial aid to help pursue my professional goals,” Aguilar said. “Not to mention simpler things like getting a driver’s license, establishing credit and opening a bank account.”

UCSF has a long-standing commitment to building a broadly diverse student community. As such, its leadership, faculty and staff work hard to create programs that provide additional support for students from underrepresented groups.

“Students with diverse backgrounds, such as those with DACA status, bring an important component to the University,” said John D.B. Featherstone, Ph.D., dean of the UCSF School of Dentistry. “One of my highest priorities is that we do everything possible to open the doors to dental education for the best and the brightest, regardless of their social or economic backgrounds.”

All three dreamers are products of the UC system. Carrasco Sandoval and Aguilar pursued their undergraduate studies at UC Berkeley and UC Riverside, respectively, while Celis received a Master of Science degree in oral biology from UCLA.

As an initial introduction to UCSF, Aguilar attended the Office of Diversity and Outreach’s “Inside UCSF” program, an annual two-day event geared toward students at two- and four-year degree schools who are interested in pursuing careers in health and science. “The students and faculty I met at ‘Inside UCSF’ were very inspiring, welcoming and supportive,” she said. “They encouraged us to keep working and made us aware of available resources.”

Carrasco Sandoval enrolled in a first-of-its-kind post-baccalaureate program offered by the School of Dentistry. “The purpose of the program is to help those who have demonstrated the ability to overcome hardship and who we think will ultimately be successful here,” said James Betbeze, assistant dean for enrollment management and outreach at the School of Dentistry.

“These students are three of the brightest, most driven individuals I’ve encountered,” said Daniel Ramos, D.D.S., Ph.D., a professor at the UCSF School of Dentistry who supported them through the process. “They’ve overcome insurmountable odds to be in a position to be able to help the community from which they came.

“DACA students are often particularly committed to underserved populations, because they may grow up in communities without ready access to dental care. They personally understand those challenges and have an inherent motivation to try and address them.”

Celis plans to continue being an activist in the immigrant community. “I feel an obligation to help the underserved community and to use my experience to help those who have hopes and dreams of going into higher education,” she said.

Carrasco Sandoval envisions working in a community dental practice. “At some point, I’d like to be a director for a community clinic, where I can help low-income and immigrant populations,” he said.

When Aguilar volunteered at a health clinic in Riverside, “I saw the adversities that others face and realized how lucky I was to have parents that supported my education,” she said. “I saw huge disparities, not just in health, but in education and in the way that people’s lives played out.” Aguilar tentatively plans to be a general dentist, and is also considering specializing in periodontics.

“The incredible and proud accomplishments of these students demonstrate that their aspirations go beyond the pursuit on an undergraduate degree,” said Alejandra Rincón, Ph.D., chief of staff to the vice chancellor of diversity and outreach, and an author of a book focused on undocumented immigrants’ access to higher education. “We welcome these students and congratulate their families as they enter this new face of their professional lives.”

Like other young people with DACA status, Carrasco Sandoval, Aguilar and Celis see themselves as more than future dentists. Because of their backgrounds and the opportunities they’ve been given, each seeks to make life better for others.

“I’ve seen the good that comes from when someone believes in you and gives you a chance,” said Aguilar. “It has shaped the kind of role model I want to become.”

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