Diversity & Community Partnerships

Bryan Davis

Hometown: Missoula, Montana

I wasn't all that interested in medicine until I began teaching middle school in Oakland, CA.  I grew up and went to college in relatively rural areas—Montana and New Hampshire, respectively—and so didn't realize how different my own access to health care was compared with that of my students until working and living in an underserved neighborhood.  It became quickly evident that both health care and education are complexly intertwined, and presently neither is up to the task of caring for or educating our underserved populations.  

Though I enjoyed teaching, I gradually became more interested in the health-care related aspects of my job.  I decided to pursue medicine with the goal of not only helping individuals from these underserved communities, but also changing the systems that cared (or, more often, didn't care) for them.  So after two years in the Teach For America program, I went back to school for post-baccalaureate studies in biology and chemistry (I graduated from Dartmouth with degrees in math and physics, which sadly did not include any bio/chem).  While taking classes I also worked in a memory care facility for older patients with dementia, which only furthered my resolve to study both medicine and public health policy.

The UCSD PRIME program was a perfect fit for me.  The PRIME-Health Equities program here offers tremendous customizability, allowing me to tailor it to my own interests and goals.  In addition, the administration at UCSD is highly receptive to student input, and the curriculum is in alignment with our present understanding of pedagogy—a big plus coming from a former teacher.  If you can’t tell already, I am very satisfied with my decision to come here for my medical education, and I wish you the best in your own journey in becoming a physician-leader.

Chris Evans

Hometown: Peoria, Arizona

Although I am only beginning to learn what it takes to provide quality patient care, one thing I am quite confident of is that providing care to underserved communities has yet another layer of complexity. Growing up I found myself in a variety of experiences with different cultures and healthcare systems ranging from Midwest farm communities, resource-limited hospitals in rural India, and Veterans Affairs facilities. These experiences, among others, have given me a glimpse into diverse patient populations and how health care providers encounter distinct challenges in each community. PRIME-HEq has already and will continue to be a way for me to explore such complexities in an organized manner; and ideally equip me with some tools to work with when I am practicing medicine in such communities in the future.

Rene Garcia

Hometown: Tijuana, Baja California

I’m a first generation college graduate and immigrant from Mexico. My desire to pursue a medical career stems from early childhood experiences living in socioeconomically disadvantaged and medically under-served communities of Tijuana and San Diego. While living in rural Mexico, lack of adequate access to clean running water, electricity, and health care were among the challenges we faced as a community. Consequently, many families succumbed to illnesses directly related to lack of basic resources. Upon immigrating to the United States, we faced similar struggles as a low income family. Looking back, I never understood how poor we really were until I realize how my parents had to work two or three jobs at a time to provide our family with a safe household, a warm meal and higher educational opportunities, or how we depended on government housing assistance and at times how my older siblings and I had to sleep on the floor given that my parents could only afford rent payment for a one bedroom apartment for a family of five. Despite the obstacles, my parents made it a priority to provide for our education, continuously reminding my brothers and I of the importance of giving to others and using education as a tool for change. As such, growing up I was exposed to two distinct worlds, one where families have no access to basic utilities, live in severe poverty and have inadequate opportunities for development; while in the other world the possibilities to grow into a professional are offered to all, although many barriers still exist for those who are at a disadvantaged. Through these lived experiences I became inspired to become a physician devoted to under-served medicine, social advocacy, and access to health care as a fundamental right for all communities.

As part of my medical education, I wanted a medical program that would prepare me with the knowledge, social support, and clinical and public health tools necessary to become a competent physician capable of assuming leadership roles to strengthen health capacities and services for all communities. Equally important, I wanted a medical program that would grant me the opportunity to stay connected to my community of San Diego and Tijuana through health services, health research, and community outreach.

UCSD PRIME-HEq has been a perfect match. Faculty, staff, and students have created a supportive learning environment that has allowed me to pursue my interests within medicine. Similarly, the program has directed me towards various resources that continue to build my knowledge and clinical skills necessary to address health inequities. It has been a continued privilege to learn medicine with in my communities of San Diego. I am happy to be a part of the UCSD PRIME-Heq family and the UC PRIME community

Stephanie "Diana" Garcia

Hometown: San Fernando Valley, CA

I am half Colombian and half Mexican and could not be more blessed to be a bi-cultural citizen who is passionate about improving health care for the underserved. Through my unique experience and history, I have gained tremendous insight on issues of cultural competency, language barriers, immigration, socio-economic status, implicit bias, stigma, stereotype threat, and injustice facing under-served populations.   In college, I identified mental health as one of my passions, by volunteering at the Connecticut Valley Hospital (a primary psychiatric care facility) where I helped produce a newsletter that included patients' artistic expressions. Through that art and through conversations with those patients, I learned to understand their illness and their paths to recovery. Through my coursework at Wesleyan University as a science in society major, I correlated domestic violence and drug abuse  to the bio-psychological manifestations of stress and poverty. We dedicated our student activist efforts to eliminating crack-cocaine sentencing disparity laws and seeking justice for incarcerated youth and adults. I came to understand that the conditions people live in and are born into can restrict their lifestyle choices, and that this can lead to chronic diseases such as hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and uncontrolled diabetes. By making the connections, I discovered my enthusiasm for the field of medicine, and realized that I could best serve my community by battling these diseases through primary care medicine enhanced by a degree in public health.

I chose to bring my work and passion to San Diego for my medical school training because of its own unique demographic make-up. In addition to its dedication to improving border health issues, UCSD is also tackling refugee health issues, since it is home to one of the nation’s largest population of refugees.  Given my interest in mental health and primary care, I chose PRIME HeQ because of all of the opportunities for service, research, professional development, and outreach among dynamic populations. We have the opportunity to work with diverse populations as medical students given our extensive Student-Run Free Clinic network which reaches as far south as Tijuana. PRIME collaborations with UCSD’s Center for Mindfulness, Global Public Health Department, and Latino Medical Student Association have created a pillar in the medical school which is 100% dedicated to training advocates for marginalized and under-served patients. As a research assistant in the Department of Surgery at UCSD, we collaborated with the Division of Trauma and San Ysidro High School to improve going to college rates and conflict resolution by understanding education and cultural identity as social determinants of health.  PRIME HeQ is a program that is training me to become well-versed in social determinants of health.  We are also experiencing how to become agents of change using health education as first year students.  One example is through Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies, a program where we serve as health education instructors at an under-resourced high school on a bi-weekly basis. The sense of community that I wanted as a medical student, as well as opportunity for student activism, were two criteria I had for my dream school and  UCSD PRIME HeQ could not be a more perfect fit.

Laura Muehl

Hometown: Santa Ana, CA

It was not until after graduating from college with a degree in chemistry that I decided to pursue a career in medicine. There were many factors that influenced this decision, including a love of science and a desire to work with people rather than in a lab. However a crucial part of this decision was my belief that health care is an important human right and that disparities in access to health care have wide-ranging negative impacts on both the individuals affected and society as a whole.

Before applying to medical school, I worked in two very different medically-related jobs. First I worked for the health education department of Planned Parenthood in Southern California. A majority of the population I worked with in this job consisted of very low-income young people in California. It was clear to me that a lack of health access negatively impacted many of those I worked with, often having effects that would stay with them for years. Later, I moved to Montana where I worked at a home for older patients with dementia. Here, I saw a completely different population: older, rural patients, many of whom had been or still were affected by inadequate access to health care.

When it came time to apply to medical school I knew that I wanted to work with underserved populations and to address disparities in health, although I was still not sure what population I wanted to work with or how I wanted to address these disparities. UCSD’s PRIME program immediately seemed like the perfect fit- it offers a supportive community of students and faculty to help provide guidance in working with underserved communities and tools to help do this effectively. It also provides a great amount of flexibility in selecting projects to work on and which studies to pursue during the masters year. I believe that participating in PRIME will help me to be a more effective, compassionate physician and provide the level of care that my future patients deserve.

Sabrina Owens

Hometown: San Diego, CA

UCSD PRIME has a great goal of promoting health equity by nurturing and facilitating the academic and professional growth of students committed to serving underserved and low income populations. I chose the UCSD PRIME Health Equity program because I could visualize the longitudinal impact that these students had on their community and was able to identify with their passion for advancing medical needs through multiple avenues (research, mentoring, community projects etc.).

Health equity is a broad term that serves the many interests that students may have when focusing on how they want to alter health disparities and what legacy we want to bring to our communities whether it comes from educating, providing care for, and/or collaborating with them. I personally have an interest in education and mentoring students to become professional and healthy individuals. The many programs that UCSD PRIME puts in place, such as Healthy Minds Healthy Bodies, a teaching experience at Lincoln High School teaching students part of their health curriculum, not only informs them but also allows me to see the structure of the community and what health information the younger population is receiving. Other students have interests in global work, border/migrant populations, drug user populations, and so many more that the UCSD administration is in full support of and often times assists in funding student projects.

 A major part of my decision to chose UCSD PRIME was the administration. The deans and staff all make an effort to get to know each student and provide what we need to make it through our academic career while keeping a balanced and emotionally stable life! They have an open door policy and are very positive when it comes to individual growth and interests. UCSD PRIME-HEq is all about innovation and really takes into consideration the student's goals of how we want to achieve health equity and our development as competent physicians knowledgeable about health disparities.

Kristin Parrinella

Hometown: Colorado Springs, CO

I have always been interested in working in underserved communities and thought that UCSD PRIME would be a great way to continue to develop this interest while in medical school.  Medical school is certainly challenging and it is great to have a community of like-minded students as a constant reminder of and motivation for your underlying goals and interests outside of what you are doing in class.  UCSD PRIME is also great because health equity is such a broad topic that you can really explore whatever you are interested in.  I would say that in our cohort, everyone has different interests as far as specific communities they want to work with, areas within medicine they want to explore, etc., which is great because it increases the diversity of ideas within our cohort and is inspiring to hear about what other students are interested in within the umbrella of health equity.

Nadine Patton

Hometown: Lawton, Oklahoma

As a former corps member of Teach for America, I saw first hand how socioeconomic status, language, race, and even just the place where you live, can affect the quality of education and healthcare that you receive. After three years working with an all Spanish-speaking population in Houston, Texas, I knew that this was the population for my future practice. When I was looking for the right program that had the right philosophy, I stumbled upon PRIME-HEq and it was like someone had been listening in on my conversations and thoughts for what I wanted my Medical Education to be focused on.

Teresa Corinne "TC" Robbins

Hometown: San Diego, CA

PRIME-HEq embodies the commitment to health equity that I hope to be a central part of my training and career in medicine. As a medical Spanish interpreter at one of Stanford’s free clinics, I gained a deeper appreciation for the barriers that recent immigrants face to high-quality, culturally sensitive health care. As a participant in a community health program in Oaxaca, Mexico and at health fairs for migrant farm workers in California, I witnessed the tremendous health disparities faced by patients of different socioeconomic, linguistic and ethnic backgrounds. I decided to complete a Masters in Latin American Studies to learn more about the culture, history, and politics of Latin American immigrants in the U.S.  I was also an Americorps member at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, through which I coordinated a preventive pediatric oral health clinic in the Mission district.

These experiences made me realize the critical need for physicians who are able to not only provide high-quality health care, but can also effectively advocate on behalf of medically underserved populations. PRIME-HEq is expanding my knowledge of health disparities and community-based health care, in addition to providing me with a wonderful community of passionate, compassionate, optimistic, and hard-working individuals who are all dedicated to improving care for those with the least access.  I believe that health care should be considered a right and not a privilege, and I think that PRIME-HEq provides the support and guidance we need to work toward making this ideal a reality.

Daniel Woolridge

Hometown: Washington, DC

I chose the UCSD Prime-HEq program because I knew that it would challenge me and help me grow into a physician that is comfortable working with the underserved from any background. Growing up and working in Washington, DC I became used to working with African American youth who were a part of the Urban underserved community, and as an African American male, striving to continue to work with this community became my original impetus for wanting to become a physician. However, upon being admitted to UCSD, I knew that I would be forced completely outside my comfort zone in coming to La Jolla, California. Since coming here, I have been exposed to many different underserved and at risk populations (i.e. the refugee community, undocumented families, migrant workers, urban underserved, at risk youth, non-english speakers, etc.) and in getting acquainted with each community I have been repetitively challenged to broadened my views on who is need. Therefore in learning to reduce health disparities wherever they exist in this country, I feel that UCSD stands above all others for the breadth of service and need that they expose us to.


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