Medical Students Reach Out to Create a Healthier Valley

FRESNO - Six medical students, all with ties to the San Joaquin Valley, are spending part of their summer reaching out and giving back to the community they call home. Four of the students are enrolled in the San Joaquin Valley Program in Medical Education (SJV PRIME), which         is a collaboration between UC Davis School of Medicine, UC Merced, UCSF and UCSF Fresno Medical Education Program, to train future physicians to work with underserved communities, particularly those in the San Joaquin Valley. The students are taking part in a four- week voluntary, summer program called Research, Education and Community Health in the San Joaquin Valley (REACH SJV).

Students participating in the program this year include:

  • Karenee Demery from Merced and a graduate of Harvest Christian School
  • Kenneth Job from Fresno and a graduate of Buchanan High School
  • Mandeep (Mandy) Sidhu from Bakersfield and a graduate of Centennial High School
  • Monique Atwal from Selma and a graduate of Sunnyside High School and the UCSF Fresno Doctors Academy
  • Neetu Malhi from Fresno and a graduate of Central High School East Campus
  • Stephanie Melchor from Visalia and a graduate of El Diamante High School

REACH SJV was designed by medical students at UC Davis a year ago and focuses on immersive community engagement that aims to address needs in the valley through research, mentorship, community engagement and clinical clerkships which involve working alongside physicians to provide patient care and learning opportunities for the students.

"REACH is a way to keep the students connected to the valley," said Kenny Banh, MD, assistant dean for Undergraduate Medical Education and Student Services at UCSF Fresno. "The fact that the program was created by medical students for medical students is what makes it especially unique and impactful."

Participating medical students are in between their first and second years of medical school. As part of the program, students work with local physicians to improve healthcare delivery through research while enhancing their clinical skills through preceptorships in Fresno, Fowler and starting this year, also at Golden Valley Health Centers in Merced. In addition, the students mentor other students such as those in the UCSF Fresno-Fresno State Health Careers Opportunity Program to help prepare them for medical school admission through workshops, panels and skill-building exercises. The medical students also meet with cultural leaders in the community to better understand the strengths and challenges that exist in the region.

“I chose to enroll in SJV PRIME to learn more about specific needs and appropriate interventions within the valley that I can implement in my own future practice to improve overall population health outcomes,” said Stephanie Melchor. “By participating in REACH SJV this summer, I have begun my medical education in my home, the Valley and have enhanced my clinical skills with doctors from Fowler to Merced while I learn more about community medicine and mentor HCOP students. I eventually plan on returning to the San Joaquin Valley to practice primary care for these deserving communities.”

Driven by students along with strong community support, REACH enables community members, future health professionals, and practicing physicians opportunities to work together to voice and develop ideals for a healthier lifestyle in the valley while obtaining a deeper understanding and sense of pride for the region.

The program started in mid-May and wraps up Friday, June 10 with a dinner and presentation from the students on what they’ve learned over the past month.