TAG: "Students"

Diabetes doesn’t slow down UCLA student


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Diaper detective


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

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

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

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

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

Strike against infant mortality

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

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

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

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

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UC president encourages aspiring doctors in Fresno


Janet Napolitano meets with Doctors Academy students at UCSF Fresno.

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

By Alec Rosenberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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More partners support UC food initiative fellowships


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Farmworkers’ son wins prestigious NIH undergraduate scholarship


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dental school’s diversity pipeline a success


UCLA School of Dentistry outreach program helps underrepresented students.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A speedier pathway to becoming primary care physicians


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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First class of UC Davis doctoral nurses graduates


Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing celebrates 62 graduates.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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UC Irvine medical students receive AMA leadership award


Recipients include Asghar Haider and Raja Narayan.

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

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

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

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

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

His aspiration is to become a leader in academic ophthalmology.

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

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

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

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UC Riverside senior accepted at nine medical schools


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

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

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

Festus Ohan was elated. Nine letters in all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.”

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Pre-med student makes an impact


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

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

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

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

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

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

Her impact across UC

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

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

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

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

Helping with students’ struggles

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

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

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

Three associate degrees

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

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

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

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

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