Diversity & Community Partnerships


Gabrielle Cahill

Hometown: Palo Alto, CA

I chose UCSD PRIME-HEq because working to combat health disparities is something I want to do throughout my medical career, and this program is an ideal way to discover how best to do so. In PRIME I have had the opportunity not only to learn about a wealth of disparities and social determinants of health, but also to begin to address them and engage in finding solutions. I love to travel, speak different languages, and learn about new cultures. I also believe in health policy as the primary effector of widespread change to limit health disparities. I know that PRIME will help me to combine these interests throughout my medical career -- through our courses, by being surrounded by like-minded individuals who also believe in the importance of meeting the needs of the underserved, and with the help of our amazing mentors who are living this type of career every day.


Milli Desai

Hometown: Agoura Hills, CA

As a child of immigrant parents from two different continents, I learned two languages before I spoke English. Spending childhood summers with family on the small African island of Mauritius sparked my interest in medicine as I realized that though people are separated by borders, we have the shared experience of life and death.

Yet despite the common biology and humanity that ties us together, health disparities cause communities to experience health and sickness in drastically different ways. As a UC San Diego undergraduate student, I worked abroad for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in a pediatric refugee health camp in Amman, Jordan. As I pursued a Master’s degree at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, I became certified in HIV and Hepatitis C testing and counseling and worked at primary care clinics and needle exchange vans. In Jordan, Baltimore, and beyond, I have admired how how healthcare workers and physicians can be agents of positive social change by working to address underlying health inequalities in the community. Medicine is interdisciplinary – and to me, being a doctor also means being a leader, teacher, mentor, and social justice advocate.

My experiences and schooling have taught me is that I still have much to learn about keeping communities healthy - locally, nationally, and globally. It is a privilege to be a part of PRIME-HEq, and work with this inspiring community to make health a human right for all. By understanding medicine through the lens of science, research, innovation, social determinants and public health, we can begin to understand the intricate layers that define the situations our patients and communities are in.


Sonya Gleicher

Hometown: Chino Hills, CA

My commitment to healthcare equity grew out of my experiences living in Asia, and training through UCSD’s PRIME-HEq prepares me to help realize those aims. Growing up half Chinese, I spent many of my childhood summers in Hong Kong, where the divides between the rich and poor and between different ethnicities were visibly evident. Later, while working in China, I became aware of how these disparities included access to healthcare. While volunteering in a medical orphanage in Beijing convinced me that narrowing these disparities should be my life’s work, working in HIV care in central Los Angeles highlighted the needs of our own diverse communities. PRIME offered the perfect opportunity to focus my medical education on those needs.

PRIME has taught me ways of thinking that will inform my entire career, but I learned my most valuable lessons from my classmates. I consider it an honor to count myself among my fellow PRIME members, for being surrounded by such passionate proponents of improved healthcare in underserved communities inspires me and pushes me to be a better doctor, advocate, and person.


Rebecca Gold

Hometown: Del Mar, CA

I chose the UCSD PRIME-HEq program because I believed it would help me become a physician better able to provide high-quality, compassionate care to every patient. As an undergrad, I volunteered as a Patient Navigator for one of Stanford’s free clinics. This experience showed me first-hand the countless barriers many individuals face to access care; and how socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, language, and even one’s area code can impact healthcare access and health outcomes. I believe that healthcare is a human right, and moreover, that every person deserves to have a voice. As a physician and through my education in the PRIME-HEq program, I hope to learn how I may advocate for and empower those patients whose voice is often not heard. The UCSD PRIME-HEq program offers an incredibly supportive administration, that will work with you to connect you with mentors, community outreach programs, or even help you create new opportunities that match your passions. In addition, through PRIME-HEq I found a community of passionate, dedicated, and inspiring peers, who have challenged me to think deeper and supported me through the start of my medical career.


Chelsea Jones

Hometown: Kailua, HI

Growing up in Hawaii has instilled within me an understanding that we must always give back more than we take and that the community comes before the individual. As my passion for medicine developed I aimed to bring these core values into my chosen career path by focusing on helping the medically underserved. Through different volunteer opportunities leading to medical school I witnessed repeatedly the disparities so many people face and the lack of physician understanding regarding how to intervene. This limited understanding was not from lack of care or compassion, but instead from not being educated about the barriers these patients may face on their journey to health. PRIME-HEq provides the space within medical school for me to establish the educational foundation needed to better serve communities facing health disparities. Additionally PRIME-HEq creates a network of like-minded individuals with diverse passions. This network has become an integral and essential part of my education about the communities I wish to serve.


Alexandro Marquez

Hometown: Bakersfield, CA

I wanted to be the best doctor for patients used to being ostracized due to their financial, legal, social, sexual status. I felt that UCSD PRIME-HEq would provide me with the best education and tools in order to fulfill my goal of serving all patients in the most effective and competent manner.


Jayne Nguyen

Hometown: San Jose, CA

Although I have always had a strong inclination to work with under-resourced communities, medicine was not the first avenue I had taken. As a Vietnamese immigrant and first-generation college graduate, I grew up in various socioeconomically disadvantaged communities with little educational and healthcare resources, but was very fortunate to have had a family that strongly prioritized my education. I see education as a means out of perpetual cycles of poverty, as it was for me and for many young people I had worked with.
While in college, I worked extensively in the non-profit education sector in Oakland with various organizations that served inner-city youth from disadvantaged backgrounds. However, the efficacy of the students’ education is contingent upon the health of the students and their community. I often saw poor health as a deterrent to a child’s success. I began to recognize that there were deeply rooted disparities to address, and became interested in understanding and changing the education and healthcare systems that led to these disparities.
PRIME-HEq was exactly what I was looking for in a medical education. I needed not only the necessary understanding of disease and its dynamic interactions at the individual, family, and community levels, but also a sociocultural training that will enable me to be an effective and compassionate physician for under-resourced communities. We have the unique opportunity, being in San Diego, to interact with and learn from many diverse underserved communities (the refugee, immigrant, homeless, and LBGTQ communities, for example). PRIME-HEq has been pivotal in my medical school experience thus far, and I deeply appreciate the educational environment here that both supports and challenges me.


Cecilia Rangel-Garcia

Hometown: Clovis, CA

I grew up in Fresno County, a large area in California with a diverse population that is in great need. High poverty and unemployment rates and lack of education deepen the healthcare disparities that plague this area. My parents are advocates for this community and taught my sisters and me the importance of serving those in need and using education to give back to community.
At Loyola Marymount University, my alma mater, the mission is to create men and women with and for others. While volunteering at Venice Family Clinic in college, I enjoyed listening to patients’ backgrounds and empathized with their struggles and sacrifices to see their physicians. Their motivation to take control of their health motivated me even more to become a dedicated physician for underserved communities. While in college, I was also a member of a service organization where I learned to be an advocate and mentor for women and youth in communities of color. With the education provided by UCSD PRIME-HEq, I continue building upon this foundation of service as a woman with and for the community that surrounds me. The additional classes to enhance our medical education and the opportunity to obtain a Master’s degree prepares us to be culturally competent, advocating, physician leaders for California.


Cierra Virtue

Hometown: Palmdale, CA

My experiences living in Johannesburg, South Africa sparked my desire to work with underserved communities. I witnessed huge disparities in access to health care, proper living conditions, and education. Looking back, I was learning about the social determinants of health even though I could not label them as clearly at the time.

I learned a lot abroad, but I also learned lessons by coming back to the US for college. While I attended Point Loma Nazarene University, I volunteered at local hospitals, shadowed physicians working in diverse areas, and learned about the underserved populations in San Diego. Although I knew I wanted to go into medicine, I also wanted to learn how to address the disparities I observed. PRIME-HEq has been the perfect program to do this. This program equips future physicians with practical tools to understand health care inequalities, determine why certain disparities exist, and figure out how to alleviate them practically in different underserved areas. It has also provided me with an incredible, supportive cohort and administration. Through unique electives, physician mentors, and various community engagement programs, PRIME-HEq is preparing us to advocate for all of our patients.

Caresse Vuong

Hometown: San Diego, CA

I am a San Diego local who has returned back to my hometown for medical school. I spent my last few years in Los Angeles, where graduated with a B.S. in Physiological Sciences from UCLA. Here, I was involved with endeavors to improve quality of care at UCLA Health, managed a peer counseling retention center for minority students, and took a mission trip abroad to Tanzania where I taught CPR to villagers. Through the stories patients, peers, and locals shared with me about their lives, obstacles, and ambitions, I became inspired to be a physician that will work with underserved communities. Coming from a low-income immigrant family in City Heights and now pursing my medical education in the same city, has enabled me to see my hometown with a new lens. Through PRIME-HEq, I am experiencing my medical education with a rounded perspective by interacting with the community, whether on a ground level at Lincoln High School, clinical level at the UCSD Free Clinic, or a holistic level with research in the Emergency Medicine Department. And with these experiences, I feel further along my journey to becoming a community-conscious physician and advocate for health equity.



Page 'Breadcrumb' Navigation: