TAG: "Students"

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.”

Read more

For more health news, visit UC Health, subscribe by email or follow us on Flipboard.

CATEGORY: NewsComments (0)

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.”

View original article

CATEGORY: NewsComments (1)

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.”

View original article

Related link:
Bill proposes new pathway for more physicians

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off

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.

View original article

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off

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.

View original article

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off

UC Riverside senior accepted at nine medical schools


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

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

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

Festus Ohan was elated. Nine letters in all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View original article

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off

UCLA dentistry student honored as advocate for oral health


Adrien Hamedi-Sangsari has pushed for more government funding for the profession.

Adrien Hamedi-Sangsari, UCLA

Adrien Hamedi-Sangsari always knew he wanted to become a dentist. The third-year UCLA School of Dentistry student grew up listening to and admiring several of his cousins who are dentists as they explained what dentistry was like and how it could be a fulfilling career path.

These family influences combined with an internship in 2013 at the American Dental Association’s offices in Washington, D.C., guided him to want to become more than a dentist but also an advocate who fights for issues that affect the profession.

“I want to make dentists and dental students understand that this is our profession and only we can change it and protect it,” said Hamedi-Sangsari, who graduated from UC Irvine in 2011 with a degree in biology. “We can’t just sit around and hope for the best. We need to have a voice to make an impact.”

This past March, Hamedi-Sangsari’s passion for the dental field was recognized by the American Association for Dental Research when he was selected as the first recipient of the association’s Student Advocate of the Year Award. This award was created to recognize a dental student for his or her outstanding contributions in advocacy for oral health research.

Hamedia-Sangsari’s interest in dental advocacy began while he was a student intern at the American Dental Association (ADA). His primary duties were to assist the ADA’s grassroots efforts: this entailed reaching out to dentists as potential new members and accompanying lobbyists to Capitol Hill to support candidates who were proponents for the profession.

During his internship, Hamedi-Sangsari learned more about the political issues that dentists and dental students face, which include staggering student debt after dental school, pro bono dental care, professional licensure and water fluoridation.

“Student debt reduction is especially important to dental students right now,” Hamedi-Sangsari said, “since the cost of training a dental student raises the bar higher than for the average graduate student.”

Addressing the growing problem of student loan debt is a major issue for the American Student Dental Association, which Adrien is also a member of. Many recent dental school graduates are shying away from pursuing postgraduate training or a career in dental education due to the debt burden, which could adversely impact the number of specialists, teachers and researchers.

“Student loans are at the top of the agenda for ASDA,” said Hamedi-Sangsari. Two out of the three bills being discussed by ASDA are about the burden of student loans. “There isn’t a perfect formula yet for how to reduce our debt burden, but at least it’s being talked about.”

In addition, Hamedi-Sangsari believes that government funding should be increased for pro bono dental care. He also feels that dental licensure needs to be a standardized nationwide exam, versus state-by-state and that the exam should eliminate live patients due to the number of variables involved. Hamedi-Sangsari also supports changing how dental students are evaluated from one day of assessment to reviewing a student’s entire case portfolio, because it’s a better gauge of ability.

Water fluoridation is another hot topic on Hamedi-Sangsari’s radar. He believes that water fluoridation should be mandatory in every major city, and that education is a major reason why dental cavities are still a problem for pediatric patients.

“I volunteer at a pediatric dentistry clinic in the Los Angeles area and I hear from young mothers, all the time, how they won’t let their child drink tap water,” said Hamedi-Sangsari. “People don’t realize that city’s tap water is beneficial to our oral health.”

Hamedi-Sangsari said that if dentists and dental students don’t advocate for these issues that affect their future and the patients they treat, who else would?

Hamedia-Sangsari heard about the award from a faculty mentor and thought he had a good chance to be selected for the honor. He has been president of the UCLA Student Research Group and last year, before even officially becoming president of the group, Hamedi-Sangsari encouraged UCLA students to write and email letters to and call politicians about the issues dentists and dental students face. He also participated in the 2013 American Association of Dental Research/American Dental Education Association Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill. He spent the majority of his time advocating for Congress to maintain funding for the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research and funding for primary care training in general dentistry, pediatric and public health dentistry.

In August, Hamedi-Sangsari took the initiative and met with members of the California congressional delegation, including Henry Waxman, Karen Bass and Brad Sherman. During these meetings he discussed the groundbreaking research at UCLA and the importance of increasing funding for biomedical research.

“With recent budget constraints, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research have cut funding to advance dental research,” Hamedi-Sangsari said. “Every day there are new projects being shot down, due to funding, that could revolutionize the dental profession. As long as there are things to discover in dentistry, research needs to be at the forefront of the discussion.”

As he moves into his fourth year of dental school, Hamedi-Sangsari is starting to plan for life after UCLA. He said that he is leaning toward pursuing advanced training in orthodontics, and would like to work with adolescents in Southern California. Also, as a native of the San Fernando Valley, he would like to remain close to home. And of course, he plans to continue to advocate for the dental profession.

“There is so much more to dentistry than the private office,” Hamedi-Sangsari said. “I have come to understand that during my dental school experience, the future of the profession is in our hands and I refuse to sit around and watch it get restructured without our support.”

View original article

CATEGORY: NewsComments (1)

Pre-med student makes an impact


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

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

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

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

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

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

Her impact across UC

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

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

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

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

Helping with students’ struggles

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

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

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

Three associate degrees

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

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

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

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

View original article

CATEGORY: SpotlightComments Off

UC students receive president’s leadership awards


Coordinator of pre-med conference among those honored.

Axana Rodriguez-Torres, UC Davis

A UC Davis undergraduate student and a UCLA student program were recognized today (May 14) with the University of California President’s Award for Outstanding Student Leadership at the Board of Regents meeting in Sacramento.

Honored were Axana Rodriguez-Torres, a Davis student and Colombian immigrant majoring in psychology, and neurobiology, physiology and behavior; and the Student Wellness Commission’s “7,000 in Solidarity” campaign, led by UCLA student Savannah Badalich, who serves as UCLA’s undergraduate student wellness commissioner.

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

Rodriguez-Torres is being recognized for coordinating the UC Davis Pre-Medical and Pre-Health Professional National Conference, the largest such conference in the nation. Her outreach efforts resulted in an annual conference attendance of 7,500 people, and more than 80 percent of participants were high school, community college and UC students who are underrepresented in the field of medicine.

Rodriguez-Torres also developed a prevention-focused Spanish-language diabetes education program now being offered at free clinics, churches and community centers across Sacramento, and secured a $10,000 foundation grant to make the program available online.

Rodriguez-Torres completed three years of medical school in Colombia before obtaining political asylum in the United States, where she cleaned houses, served fast food and provided childcare while she learned English. As her English proficiency grew, she worked as an immigration consultant and a tax preparer for those with limited English. Because her medical school credits from Colombia were not transferable, she enrolled at American River Community College before transferring to UC Davis. Her next goal is an M.D.-Ph.D. program.

Savannah Badalich, UCLA

The “7,000 in Solidarity Campaign,” a UCLA student effort launched last year by undergraduate Savannah Badalich, is being recognized for creating a campus culture where sexual assault is not tolerated. The campaign educates students and administrators about consensual sex, effective bystander intervention, institutional accountability and access to support for survivors of sexual assault.

The group has partnered with other students and organizations, and used art exhibits, training sessions and signed pledge cards to gather support from students and the community. In a testament to the power of their efforts, other colleges and universities across the country have adopted the campaign.

The University of California President’s Award for Outstanding Student Leadership was established in 2010 and recognizes undergraduate, graduate and professional students, as well as campus-based student organizations, for outstanding efforts in promoting and supporting multicampus initiatives. The award honors collaborative efforts that further the University of California’s mission of teaching, research and public service.

Nominations for this year’s awards were solicited from the chancellors at all 10 UC campuses and from the UC Student Association. A selection committee of staff from the UC Office of the President reviewed and scored each of the nominations, and President Napolitano selected the winners. Individual award recipients receive a $2,000 grant while the reward for an organization is $2,500.

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off

Public health prep


Freshman thrives in research program.

Working with HERMOSA (Health & Environmental Research on Makeup Of Salinas Adolescents) helped build UC Berkeley freshman Maritza Cardenas' passion for research. (Photo by Robert Durell)

For Maritza Cardenas, life as a Berkeley freshman is exciting, and more than a little daunting. She is majoring in molecular and cellular biology, and plans to go to medical school. But there’s a minor hurdle: Freshman chemistry is the first laboratory class she’s ever had.

Growing up in the central California agricultural town of Salinas, Maritza didn’t get as much science prep as most of her fellow Cal classmates.

“I wasn’t very exposed to the idea of science in high school, but as I was applying to college and seeing how competitive it was, there was always this word ‘research.’ I think one of my main drives was being part of research — even though I really didn’t have a clear sense of what it meant.”

She got her chance to learn what it meant the summer after high school as one of 16 Salinas teens participating in a two-year program that trained them in public health and biomedical research while at the same time focusing on a potential health hazard to young women in the community.

The project, funded by UC’s California Breast Cancer Research Program, taught the students to design and carry out public health research and how to best reach out to their community to gather data and inform people about health risks. The teens also collected and prepared material for laboratory analysis.

The training focuses on potential dangers posed by chemicals known as endocrine disrupters, found in shampoos, face creams and other personal care products. Endocrine disrupters interfere with normal hormonal function, and are thought to pose a particular threat during the teen years when hormone-driven development accelerates.

The project, called HERMOSA (Health & Environmental Research on Makeup Of Salinas Adolescents), is a collaboration between Berkeley’s School of Public Health and Clinica de Salud del Valle de Salinas, a network of clinics providing primary health care to low-income and agricultural communities in Monterey County.

The team effort drew on a Salinas-based youth council developed by the public health school’s Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health, or CERCH, where teens gain leadership experience and focus on environmental health issues of particular concern to the community. Public health school professor Kim Harley is a co-director of HERMOSA.

Kimberly Parra, the project’s other co-director and herself a Berkeley grad, praises Maritza’s discipline and persistence, but singles out one trait that she thinks has mattered most:

“The No.1 quality — the reason Maritza has been able to flourish — is that she really cares about her community and she’s very confident that she can influence it. She’s very humble at the same time.”

Growing up in Salinas, Maritza says her family was on Medi-Cal.

“We were receiving a lot of assistance. Being in that position, and seeing that it’s a big part of Salinas, I’m hoping to return home after medical school and start a clinic there.

“I see myself as the kind of doctor who has relationships with patients. I feel like I could be the kind of health provider that can educate patients, focusing on prevention, helping them help themselves.”

Read more

For more health news, visit UC Health, subscribe by email or follow us on Flipboard.

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off

Pediatric patients welcome canine friends


UC Davis veterinary medicine students bring cheer at Josh Dog Day.

UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine students introduce Josh the Dog to delighted pediatric patients

Therapy dogs — even stuffed animal dogs — can do wonders for hospitalized children.

Pediatric patients in the playroom were instantly cheered this week when UC Davis veterinary medicine students visited, bringing stuffed dogs to patients and providing quick tips on how to care for them.

The visit is an annual playroom event, hosted by the Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy Department and UC Davis Veterinary Medicine. The visit is based on the Josh and Friends Project, which helps transform anxious hospital stays for children into friendship-filled adventures to wellness.

Vet med students fundraise during the year to raise money to purchase stuffed dogs for Children’s Hospital patients.

“Our students have a passion for bringing healing to the lives of individuals, not just the four-legged kind, in our community. With this in mind, the goal of Josh Day is simple. We strive to bring hope and encouragement to the children and families of our community experiencing a medical difficulty,” said Diana Donckels, UC Davis veterinary club president.

View original article

For more health news, visit UC Health, subscribe by email or follow us on Flipboard.

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off

Grad students to present research on STDs, parasites in Latin America


UCLA Blum Center conference to feature latest research on health, poverty in Latin America.

UCLA graduate student Claire Bristow conducted research at a Peruvian university.

In Peru, HIV and syphilis are more widespread among transgender women and men who have sex with men, and so ensuring that these groups get tested and treated is crucial.

A research project supported by UCLA’s Blum Center for Poverty and Health in Latin America is contributing to efforts in Peru to make this happen.

Claire Bristow, a UCLA Ph.D. student in public health who conducted research in Peru, and Rebecca Foelber, a master’s student in public health who worked in Brazil on another project, will present their research on behalf of the center at its Second Annual Spring Conference May 6-7 at UCLA’s De Neve Auditorium. Bristow and Foelber were selected for the Blum Center’s inaugural Summer Scholars Program.

Conference participants, who include UCLA students, faculty and staff as well as policy and health professionals from 10 Latin American countries, will discuss the latest research on health and poverty in Latin America. The conference will also highlight solutions and projects such as Bristow’s.

“The Summer Scholars Program was developed for students to examine how poverty, government practices and policies, and other factors impact poor health in Latin America,” said Dr. Michael Rodriguez, Blum Center director. “More importantly, the scholars’ research can lead to better health practices and solutions in a region that is so desperately in need of them.”

Bristow spent last summer in Lima, Peru, where she developed a study that asked people in these high-risk groups what type of HIV and syphilis testing they would prefer.

Read more

For more health news, visit UC Health, subscribe by email or follow us on Flipboard.

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off