Diversity & Community Partnerships

Victoria Chia

Hometown: Knoxville, TN

I believe in the power of health and health access as a tool for social and economic empowerment. I have experienced cultural and socioeconomic barriers to my own health and that of my family, and as a Latin American studies major and daughter of Singapore Chinese immigrants, I was blessed with the opportunity to learn three languages that are spoken by some of the most under-served communities in the U.S. As I got to know the faculty, staff, and culture of UCSD PRIME-HEq, I knew it would be a community that would both nurture my passion and allow me to serve and lead among like-minded peers and professional mentors. The education, support, and experiences offered by PRIME-HEq perfectly complement the calling I feel towards medicine as a career, and the program has helped me to grow and develop my commitment to empowering the underserved through service and advocacy.

Elizabeth Elman

Hometown: Thousand Oaks, CA

My first experiences working with underserved communities solidified my desire to become a physician. During my two-and-a-half years at the Westminster Free Clinic, I saw the need for and witnessed the benefits of affordable primary care. Moreover, I saw how lack of access to care exacerbates the tragic health disparities already affecting low-income communities. For instance, I was able to assist at the clinic branch that served people without homes, where I saw both the drastic toll on health caused by lack of shelter, food, and social support and the amazing benefit to health engendered by the trust and respect of the physician-patient relationship. Furthermore, seeing the largely Spanish-speaking patient population’s interactions with the Spanish-speaking doctors compared to those with the English-speaking doctors highlighted the importance of communication and cultural understanding between doctor and patient.
While the clinic thankfully provides much needed care in my community, access to quality care should be available to all, regardless of location or income. Wanting to learn how I could work towards affordable and accessible care for all, I studied public health in college. I learned that while physicians fulfill a key role in providing care, health neither begins nor ends at the doctor’s office. At the clinic, for instance, we provided blood glucose level tests and nutrition counseling to screen for and prevent type II diabetes, a common diagnosis for our patients. However, these services were not enough to prevent many of our patients from developing the disease. Economic, social, and environmental factors - such as having an inadequate income or living in a food desert - were largely the driving forces behind our patients’ inability to prevent the onset of diabetes. Because such factors play an integral role in determining health - so much so that the best predictor of poor health in the U.S. is poverty - attempts to ensure the human right to health must promote environmental and social justice.
Seeing that the same social forces which perpetuate health disparities adversely impact educational opportunities (and hence SAT scores) for underprivileged youth, effectively keeping promising students out of careers in the medical fields and perpetuating the disempowerment of marginalized communities and unjust health disparities, I find that medical education programs have the responsibility to help break this cycle of marginalization and disparity by actively incorporating students from low-income communities.
While I would learn how to diagnose and treat individual patients in any medical training program, PRIME-HEq is teaching me to diagnose and treat deficiencies in environments, health care systems, and institutions to ensure opportunities for health are available to all.

Ryan Huerto

Hometown: Carson, CA

I chose UCSD PRIME-HEq because I saw it as a unique opportunity to integrate my desire to help the underserved with my dream of practicing medicine. The program provides tremendous guidance and support to its students while giving them the flexibility to shape their medical educations. My dual degree in public health or business administration will further prepare me to go back to my community to fulfill my goals of improving healthcare and advocating for the underserved. As a former high school teacher and Teach for America Corps Member, UCSD PRIME-HEq represented a natural transition for me into medical school. The program has even allowed me to continue my work in education. All first year PRIME students take an elective in which they teach health to local high school students who do not have health as part of their regular curriculum. The elective was founded by another former Teach for America Corps Member and UCSD PRIME-HEq student with the support of the school and the PRIME-HEq program. It represents just one of many excellent opportunities for personal growth and community service at the school and exemplifies the responsiveness of the program. Lastly, UCSD PRIME-HEq has introduced me to extremely passionate, like-minded, and diverse faculty, staff, and students who I am happy to say push and inspire me on a daily basis.

Richard Kow

Hometown: San Jose, CA

I joined PRIME after working as a teacher in Teach for America. My experience has influenced me to work at eliminating health inequities in underserved populations.

Alexis Lopez

Hometown: San Francisco/Hayward, CA

I am originally from the San Francisco Bay Area and graduated from UC Berkeley in 2007.  Before medical school I was involved with student recruitment and retention, clinical ethics research and legal community outreach.  I chose PRIME because it would provide me with an interdisciplinary medical education and prepare me to care for the underserved.  We have had many opportunities to explore San Diego’s diverse underserved communities (Student-Run Free Clinic; Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies; Community Visits to City Heights, Barrio Logan and Hillcrest).  As a PRIME student I have gained skills in leadership, research and advocacy.  Last summer I did community-based participatory research on diabetes in the West Side of Chicago and currently I am a leader within our PRIME Statewide Council, Latino Medical Student Association, and LGBT Medical Students and Allies Interest Group.  I am interested in public health for my master's year.

Dylan Mann

Hometown: Canoga Park, CA

When I decided to pursue a career in medicine, I knew I wanted to earn a master's degree in public health, to help me heal communities, as well as individuals. I felt that PRIME-HEq was a remarkable program which would not only help me incorporate public health into my medical education, but also offer specialized training, service opportunities, and a professional network which were second-to-none.

My first ""real job"" out of college was as a fundraiser for Scripps Mercy Hospital Chula Vista (6 miles from Tijuana). During my time there, I saw first hand how unequal access to resources tangible affects health outcomes, but I also witnessed the work of extraordinary people whose effort and talent went a long way toward bridging those divides. After that experience, but before working up the nerve to commit to medicine, I intended to establish a career working for international NGOs. I earned a master's degree in International Relations, did development work in a rural Mexican fishing village, and worked for Burmese political dissidents along the Thai-Burmese border.

I felt called to medicine though, so I returned to UCSD to take the science pre-requisites for medical school. While studying for the MCATs and applying to medical school, I was a Fellow at The San Diego Foundation, where I advised and monitored Health and Human Services grants, including one to the UCSD Student Run Free Clinic (which impressed me years before I became involved with it as a med student).

Francesca Salazar

Hometown: Lima, Peru

I chose PRIME because it provides the cultural training and mentorhip necessary to become a well-rounded physician. My experiences growing up in Peru, attending school in San Diego and working in healthcare have not only influenced me to become a physician but also an advocate for health care.

Damilola Soyode

Hometown: Lagos, Nigeria

I chose PRIME-Health Equities because it was the only program that I felt would give me the flexibility to purse all my various passions. I am from Nigeria and have spent most of my life living in various countries. In addition, most of my medical and life experiences that drew me to medicine took place internationally (e.g. volunteering in rural Kenya and at local a hospital in England). As such I not only have a strong interest in working with underserved populations locally but also at an international level. After spending several hours reading about different programs, I realized that PRIME-HEq, with its broad focus, was exactly what I was looking for. I can honestly say that choosing PRIME-HEq was one of the best decisions I made during the application process. My cohort is full of amazing individuals with very diverse passions yet we have still been able to come together working as a team to improve health equity at UCSD, in San Diego and even California. Moreover I am happy to say I have been given many opportunities to pursue my passions, from teaching health at wellness at a local high school to learning about refugee communities in San Diego.

Tu-Phuong Tran

Hometown: San Diego, CA

There are many reasons why I chose UCSD PRIME-HEq – the most important of which was because I felt connected to the program’s emphasis on community, advocacy, and health justice. I grew up in an urban neighborhood of refugees and immigrants, where I had the opportunity to interact with people from diverse backgrounds and become exposed to various issues of disparity. As an immigrant myself, I have experienced the challenges of navigating a complex healthcare system and observed the need for culturally competent care. During college, I became interested in underserved medicine through volunteering with a youth program, where I worked with refugee teens in Dorchester, Boston’s largest and most ethnically diverse community. My background and language skills helped me to form meaningful relationships with students and families. Through partnerships with local schools and businesses, I also learned about working with community resources and realized that heath can be affected by many factors beyond biology. These experiences shaped my desire to pursue medicine and so I immediately felt drawn to PRIME-HEq when I applied to UCSD. I believe that PRIME-HEq will help me gain the tools that I need to effectively care for diverse patient populations and address issues of health disparity at the clinical level and beyond.

Hoa (Holly) Vo

Hometown: Colton, CA

Working with underserved populations through Teach For America, community-based outreach programs and medical missions abroad provided me with valuable experiences that have driven me to pursue a career in medicine to improve healthcare disparities. I chose to join the PRIME-HEq program at UCSD because I knew it would give me a structured environment and the guidance to develop essential tools to address the health needs of the underserved. This program provided me with a myriad of opportunities for leadership, research, personal and professional development, service and outreach. It has also allowed me to continue my work in education through a teaching program created by a former Teach For America corps member at a local high school lacking the funds for a health education program. The PRIME community at UCSD is filled with driven and inspiring people that have interests aligned with my own. The support, tools and knowledge that I have received from this community have strengthened my passion and my commitment to working with the underserved and to eliminating health inequities.


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