PRIME MS4s

Milli Desai

Milli Desai

Hometown: Agoura Hills, CA
Master of Advanced Studies, UC San Diego

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

Sonya Gleicher

Hometown: Chino Hills, CA
Master in Education, Harvard Univeristy

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

Rebecca Gold

Hometown: Del Mar, CA
Master of Advanced Studies, UC San Diego

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

Chelsea Jones

Hometown: Kailua, HI
Master of Advanced Studies, UC San Diego

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.


Kaley Marcis Waring
Hometown: San Diego, CA
Master of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University

As I explored the possibility of a career in medicine, I spent time volunteering in San Francisco and Oakland. Though the ACA had just been passed and patients were gaining access to healthcare, I quickly learned that access alone does not result in equity. Food insecurity, unsafe housing, and limited economic opportunities were major contributors to illness, and were problems that the health system was not prepared to address. Because of this, I looked for programs that would train me to care for the whole patient, far beyond their immediate medical needs, and PRIME was the perfect fit. 
I chose PRIME-HEq because of the community. I was changing careers from engineering to medicine, and I was looking for a group of diverse students who would support me through the transition into medical school. While UCSD was already a close-knit school, I appreciated the extra support and guidance from the PRIME faculty, staff, and students. Through electives, community programs, and socials, I had the opportunity to learn from this talented and inspiring community. Not only did this ease my transition to medical school, but it also helped me explore health disparities throughout San Diego and eventually Southeast Asia during my masters year.


Alexandro Marquez

Alexandro Marquez

Hometown: Bakersfield, CA
Master of Public Health, UC Berkeley 

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

Jayne Nguyen

Hometown: San Jose, CA
Master in Education, Harvard University

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




Cecilia Rangel-Garcia

Hometown: Clovis, CA
Master in Public Health, UC San Diego

I grew up in Fresno County, a large area in California with a beautifully diverse population. Though Fresno County provides significant agricultural products to the entire country, healthcare disparities are substantial. 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. This is my purpose. 
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 maintain their health despite significant structural and systemic barriers. Their motivation to take control of their health motivated me even more to become a dedicated physician for under-resourced communities. 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. Additional PRIME classes have enhanced my medical education and since obtaining a Masers in Public Health through the PRIME-HEq program, I feel ready and excited to serve communities as a culturally competent, advocate, leader and physician for California.

ROBBY TURK

Hometown: Aurora, Colorado
Master of Business Administration, University of Virginia Darden School of Business

I chose PRIME-HEq because it is one of the few programs available that go beyond the general science education necessary to be a doctor, and instead incorporates the education, training, and support needed to become an informed physician, an influential leader, and an advocate for those who need it most in medicine.  I have seen and experienced first-hand the disparities that exist for minorities and other underprivileged groups in medicine, education, housing, etc., and I decided long ago that it was not something to be accepted, but something that can and needs to change. PRIME-HEq has been the perfect outlet and vehicle to learn and work towards that change while in medical school and provided the support of like-minded peers and mentors who could help guide me to have the impact I aspire to have. The personal growth and in-depth understanding of my patients that I have gained in the PRIME-HEq program have been fundamental in my ongoing journey to become a competent physician, an effective advocate, and impactful leader in healthcare.

In addition to the training at UCSD, the dual-degree requirement ensures that we are well-rounded and have the ability to effect change that goes beyond the 1-on-1 interaction with the patient, which is essential in the quest to end health disparities, and was one of the most influential factors in my choosing of PRIME-HEq. My education at UVA Darden School of Business bolstered lessons learned in my medical experiences and provided new approaches to problem-solving to issues we will face consistently as medical providers.  There are so many ways in which we can help those that are underserved, and PRIME-HEq has been the best first-step I could have taken on this journey to do so.
Cierra Virtue

Cierra Virtue

Hometown: Palmdale, CA
Master in Public Health, John Hopkins University

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

Caresse Vuong

Hometown: San Diego, CA
Master in Public Health, UC Berkeley

Growing up in an immigrant family in City Heights, an overlooked low-income neighborhood of San Diego, I am proud to be pursuing my medical education back in my hometown. I believe helping others runs in my blood as both of my parents were healthcare providers back in Saigon. However, when they immigrated to America with no English, little savings, and oriental degrees stripped away, we all started from ground zero. Even though our family economically struggled, my parents never hesitated to help others as relatives frequently visited our apartment seeking medical advice in their native tongue. Committed to giving back to the community like my parents, I worked in education advocacy and peer mentorship for minority students at the Community Programs Office at UCLA. I also volunteered at the Office of Patient Experiences at UCLA Ronald Reagan, where I listened directly from patients their stories and struggles. From these experiences I have learned that a patient’s journey is influenced by many factors that transcend beyond their sole provider, including socioeconomic status, culture, and education. This sparked my desire to the kind of physician that recognizes these important aspects of healthcare.  

I have a passion for social justice and serving marginalized populations, which I aim to make center in my mission as a physician. Thus, I am grateful to be a a part of PRIME Health Equity, because I want my medical education to be based on recognizing social determinants of health and the human needs in medicine.  I am eager to continue learning and aspire to be a socially conscious physician and advocate for health equity.