Katherine A. Flores, MD, Recognized for Dedication to Inspiring Future Health Care Professionals in the San Joaquin Valley

Katherine A. Flores, MD

In November, during the Fresno Madera Medical Society Installation and Awards Gala, Katherine A. Flores, MD, was accompanied by her cousin and surrounded by fellow physicians when she received a Lifetime Achievement Award for her commitment to her patients and dedication to educate young students about the medical field.

In a video produced by the Fresno Madera Medical Society, Ali Fayed, MD, who has known Dr. Flores for almost 25 years, shared why he nominated her

“She really feels the responsibility toward the community that she lives in,” Dr. Fayed said. “I think her dedication and commitment to medical education in trying to encourage young Hispanic and non-Hispanic students to pursue a medical career is one of her strongest and most admired commitments.”

Other colleagues remember her as a bright medical student with ambition to accomplish remarkable things. From the moment she became a physician, she made it her mission to serve the underserved community and to create pathways to medical school in hopes of narrowing the gap between the significant percentage of the Latino/a/x population in California's Central Valley and the small number of Latino/a/x medical personnel.

Dr. Flores was born into a family of migrant farm workers in Fresno County, California. Because of the inequities she observed as a child, she made an early decision to make a difference. She attended Roosevelt High School in Fresno, Stanford University, and then attended medical school at UC Davis. For over 40 years, Dr. Flores has worked as a family medicine physician.

Following her Family Medicine Residency at UCSF Fresno, she began her medical career in 1983 as a family physician in private practice. She was appointed to her faculty position at UCSF Fresno and she served as the program director for the statewide California Area Health Education Center and the California Health Education and Training Center. In 1996, Dr. Flores established the Latino Center for Medical Education and Research which operated a variety of programs focused on increasing diversity in health professions in the San Joaquin Valley. In 1999, Dr. Flores, in partnership with UCSF Fresno, Fresno Unified School District and the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools, launched the UCSF Fresno Doctors Academy Program which has now produced hundreds of college graduates and health care professionals.

Through the Doctors Academy, students take part in rigorous accelerated classes that emphasize math, science, and writing, and participate in personal and professional development workshops, academic counseling and support services, parent empowerment workshops, lectures from medical or health practitioners and summer school enrichment programs.

Dr. Flores described health pathway programs as a strategic effort to help young people choose a health career and then receive guidance along the journey with exposure and the tools to be successful. Resources and services include academic enrichment, learning how to study, test taking skills, looking outside academics, and exploring medical professions. Students also gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the San Joaquin Valley's rich cultural diversity, as well as the importance of culturally and linguistically competent health care and a strong understanding of the social determinants of health and health equity.

“It helps them see a broader picture of health, community and recognizing that as a health professional they will play a role in assuring that not just patients are healthy but also the community,” Dr. Flores said.

Over the years, she has helped create a robust mix of pathway programs to support students and families through middle school, high school, college and into health professional school while continuing to support them through the UCSF San Joaquin Valley Program in Medical Education (SJV PRIME) and residency training.

The recent lifetime achievement award was added to the multiple awards and recognitions she has received over nearly four decades.

The establishment of the Katherine A. Flores, MD, Health Pathway Champion Award was announced during a town hall with UCSF School of Medicine Dean Talmadge E. King, Jr., MD, in fall 2023. 

In October, Peter Chin-Hong, MD, UCSF Associate Dean for Regional Campuses, and Kenny Banh, MD, Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Medical Education at UCSF

Fresno, announced the establishment of the Katherine A. Flores, MD, Health Pathway Champion Award during a town hall with Dean Talmadge E. King, Jr., MD, UCSF School of Medicine.

Emy López Phillips, director of the UCSF Fresno Office of Health Career Pathways, said the award was established to acknowledge the efforts of faculty, learners and staff who have supported pathway programs at the UCSF Fresno Regional Campus and will recognize the outstanding efforts of individuals who work tirelessly toward the development of health pathway programming and educational outreach in the San Joaquin Valley.

Recognizing the people who do this work is important as they play a pivotal role in diversifying the physician pipeline within the San Joaquin Valley,” López Phillips said.

All UCSF Fresno employees and students are eligible to win the award. The first recipient will be awarded in the Fall of 2024.

Sitting among staff, Dr. Flores was surprised, honored and humbled to learn about the establishment of the Health Pathway Champion Award under her name – a fitting award and legacy for a doctor who has worked tirelessly to forge a path for students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds like her, who aspire to become physicians and give back to their communities.

Part of Newsletter: Focus on UCSF Fresno Winter 2024