Up Close | UCSF Fresno One of Four Regional Hubs in California to Build Pathway from Community College to the Medical Field

UP CLOSE | UCSF Fresno Named One of Four Regional Hubs in California to Build Pathway for Community College Students to the Medical Field

The Department of Health Care Access and Information (HCAI) recently marked the launch of the California Medicine Scholars Program (CMSP) as part of a statewide strategy and investment by the HCAI to strengthen the California community college to medical school pathway. As its first established action, CMSP, housed at the Foundation for California Community Colleges, awarded funds to four recipients to establish Regional Hubs of Healthcare Opportunity (RHHOs), which will bridge gaps between community colleges, four-year universities, medical schools, and community-based health clinics and organizations to provide greater pre-medical opportunities for students and help diversify California’s primary care physician workforce. 

The four awards were made to:

  • UCSF Fresno, a regional campus of the UCSF School of Medicine
  • UC Davis School of Medicine
  • UC Riverside School of Medicine, and
  • UC San Diego School of Medicine

All reside in regions underserved in health care and are currently experiencing a physician shortage. Each grantee will receive $1.6 million for the first three years ($540,000 annually) with additional funding ($250,000) available in the fourth year for sustainability. Funding will support the creation of RHHOs and provide a strategy to increase the number of underrepresented minority physicians and ultimately reduce disparities in health and health outcomes across the state.

UCSF Fresno is the lead agency for the San Joaquin Valley Regional Hub of Healthcare Opportunity (SJV-RHHO). The SJV-RHHO, which launches July 1, 2022, creates the first pre-medical diversity pathway from community college to primary care physician program in the San Joaquin Valley known as the California Medicine Scholars Program (SJV-CMSP).

“The vision of the SJV-CMSP is to increase the numbers of underrepresented minority physicians through a collaborative partnership effort. This program fulfills a need in the pathway to practicing physician at the community college level,” said Kenny Banh, MD, assistant dean for Undergraduate Medical Education at UCSF Fresno. “The mission specifically is to increase the number of regional community college students who transfer to and are accepted into medical schools from California State University, Fresno.” 

In addition to UCSF Fresno, SJV-CMSP partners include: 

  • California Health Sciences University
  • Fresno State
  • State Center Community College District (Fresno City College, Clovis Community College, Madera/Oakhurst Community College, Reedley Community College)
  • College of the Sequoias (Hanford, Tulare and Visalia campuses)
  • Merced Community College District (Merced and Los Banos campuses)
  • West Hills Community College District (Coalinga, Firebaugh and Lemoore campuses)
  • Yosemite Community College District (Columbia College and Modesto Junior College)
  • California Area Health Education Center Program
  • Central Valley Health Network, and
  • Valley Health Team Family Residency Medicine Program.

Students applying to the SJV-CMSP must be on track to complete at least 24 credits at their community college, plan on applying to Fresno State the following academic year, come from an economically or educationally disadvantaged background; have an overall GPA of 3.5 or higher (transcripts must be submitted); provide a personal statement and letter of recommendation as well as take part in a personal interview and demonstrate a commitment to participate in SJV-CMSP activities to pursue a career as a physician.

The selection process into SJV-CMSP will be completed by a local committee.  Selected students will be provided with academic support through advising from the identified pre-health college advisors at all partner colleges, starting with the community college and then transitioning to advising by Fresno State faculty as well as other enrichment opportunities such as conferences, academic skills workshops, medical school application workshops, mentoring and clinical experiences with a special focus on facilitating student matriculation and preparedness for medical school.

UCSF Fresno already implements several programs aimed at inspiring, informing, and academically preparing students especially those from underrepresented backgrounds for careers in health and medicine. These include the highly successful Doctors Academy programs at Caruthers and Sunnyside high schools in Caruthers Unified School District and Fresno Unified School District respectively; the Summer Biomedical Internship Program; Mini-Medical School and Reaching Out to Aspiring Doctors for the San Joaquin Valley among other programs.

“Developing a high-quality undergraduate medical education program and the foundation for a future medical school requires that enough qualified students from the region are available to be recruited to the program,” said Michael W. Peterson, MD, associate dean for Undergraduate Medical Education and Research at UCSF Fresno. “Improving efficiencies and developing financial sustainability of pathway programs are essential to continue the tremendous momentum and success we have accomplished to date with programs like the Doctors Academy built by our very own Katherine A. Flores, MD, and to expand to serve community college students with the SJV-CMSP.” 

To better coordinate and increase the success of existing pathway programs, SJV-CMSP and future programs, Associate Dean Peterson and Assistant Dean Banh announced that UCSF Fresno is creating an Office of Health Career Pathways within the Department of Undergraduate Medical Education. Emy Lopez Phillips, EdD, has been appointed as the inaugural Director. Dr. Lopez Phillips will oversee the SJV-CMSP and provide administrative oversight to all UCSF Fresno pathway programs. Her responsibilities will include budget development, fiscal management, coordination of student volunteer experiences, representing UCSF Fresno to community-based organizations and educational institutions and districts to support health and medical educational career opportunities for students.

“I am honored to build upon the success of existing programs and launch new ones like the San Joaquin Valley California Medicine Scholars Program that will expand access to careers in health and medicine for community college students,” said Dr. Lopez Phillips. “The young people in our Valley are full of hope and resilience. Many have a strong desire to give back to their communities and break the cycle of poverty within their families. This is an exciting time as we at UCSF Fresno along with our partners have an opportunity to help lift and mentor the next generation.”

Dr. Lopez Phillips has devoted her professional career to educational leadership for over 20 years and understands the need for additional support while attending community college. She credits Fresno City College’s PUENTE program for preparing her to transfer to California State University, Stanislaus, where she graduated with a degree in English. She then went on to earn a teaching and administrative credential as well as a master’s in Curriculum and Instruction at Fresno State. In 2014, she completed a Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership & Management from Alliant International University. 

For more details about the California Medicine Scholars Program: https://california-medicine.org/scholars-program/