Scholarships Support Future Doctors for the San Joaquin Valley

Alyssa Fuentes, SJV PRIME 

The UCSF School of Medicine’s San Joaquin Valley Program in Medical Education (SJV PRIME) seeks to recruit and train future physicians to address the unique health needs of the region’s diverse and underserved populations. Currently, students admitted to the program spend their first 18 months of medical school in San Francisco, then transition to the Fresno regional campus for the remainder of their education. SJV PRIME incorporates the unique expertise of UCSF, UC Merced, and UCSF faculty at UCSF Fresno, as researchers, educators and leaders in the field of health care in the Valley. 

All SJV PRIME medical students come from or possess close ties to the Valley, so they are particularly motivated to ensure that high-quality, comprehensive, and well-distributed medical care is available to every patient, regardless of geographic location, socioeconomic level, or life circumstance. SJV PRIME helps us “grow our own” by training students from the Valley, in the Valley, and for the Valley. 

We want our graduates to have the financial freedom to pursue their passions, yet most students who aspire to become physicians through SJV PRIME lack the financial means to do so. Student scholarships are crucial to ensuring that the brightest, most diverse, and most public service-minded students can attend UCSF and graduate from SJV PRIME with minimal debt. Establishing a new scholarship or giving to one that already exists makes a difference in the life of a talented, purpose-driven student who shares UCSF Fresno’s mission and culture of innovation, service, compassion and collaboration.  

One of our exceptional SJV PRIME students is Alyssa Fuentes from Lodi, California. She is completing her first year in SJV PRIME and is grateful for scholarship support from generous donors. In the following Q&A, she shares more about herself and the impact of scholarship support.   

Please tell us a little about your background and how you first became interested in medicine. 

I was born and raised in Lodi, a small agricultural town in the northernmost part of the San Joaquin Valley surrounded by my family, including many tios, tias, cousins, and grandparents. During high school, I developed a deep interest in science and writing. I earned my undergraduate degree at Stanford University in Human Biology with a concentration in Cancer Biology and Healthcare Disparities. Throughout my studies, I became increasingly aware of and interested in solving the unique health care crises faced by medically underserved populations. In my gap year after college, I worked as a Community Health Fellow in Pomona, California, where I was part social worker, part health advocate, and part translator and became very interested in Community Health. 

What attracted you to UCSF? 

I was attracted to UCSF because of all the great things I heard about their faculty and students. The entire culture of campus seemed like it would fit very well with who I am and how I want to approach medicine. I was also attracted to the San Joaquin Valley Program in Medical Education (SJV PRIME). Being from the Valley, there are few opportunities after high school to learn about our communities from within those communities. SJV PRIME turned that on its head. I could spend my time in medical school learning and investing in the very communities I call home. That is very valuable to me. 

What are your career goals and interests in medicine? 

Right now, I see a future for myself in internal medicine, maybe oncology. I also have a vested interest in palliative care. I want to be able to increase access to these specialties in my communities at home. I also want to be able to create programs for kids like me to brush up against medicine early in their lives with the hope that this helps them develop their interests in health careers. 

If you could thank your donors personally for their support of your financial aid, what would you say? 

The cost of medical school is one of the most daunting and prohibitive parts of this career. Staring down hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt was something that, while I accepted it, added another layer of insecurity to my journey on top of being first-gen (first in my family to study medicine). Because of your support, I won't be starting off my career already behind. I am free to pursue my interests and education with the financial freedom that I didn't think possible on this journey. Thank you! 

To learn more about how your gift to UCSF Fresno can help us continue the important work of educating the next generation of physicians for the Valley, contact Kathleen Smith, associate director of development, UCSF Fresno, at (559) 499-6426 or [email protected]

Part of Newsletter: Focus on UCSF Fresno Spring 2024