PAUL MICHAEL ACOSTA Hometown: Ocilla, GA
As a member of multiple communities that are underrepresented in and underserved by the medical community, I have a firm drive to increase access and affordability to health care for communities that have typically gone without. As a Native American student from a rural background in southwest Georgia, I have personally witnessed and experienced the effects from lack of access to healthcare. When any underrepresented individual enters medicine, we all experience the extra work that is forced upon us to increase our representation in the community and help the communities that we have left to pursue our education. The PRIME-HEq program understands this reality and empowers underrepresented students who are trying to precipitate beneficial change in the medical community. I hope that this program will provide me additional tools to advocate and make changes for my communities and aid my colleagues in their journeys to make improvements for their own communities.
KIMBERLY GONZALEZ DAVALOS Hometown: Chula Vista, CA
Growing up in Chula Vista, California as a daughter of Mexican immigrants and a low-income first-generation college student, I experienced the cultural and language barriers that underserved Latino and immigrant communities face when accessing healthcare. My background and lived experiences motivated me to study public health throughout my undergraduate career. As I learned more about the social determinants of health, I knew that I wanted to serve as a physician advocate but was unsure of how to do so. I chose the UCSD PRIME-HEq because I am confident that through this training, I will be best prepared to strive for health equity in my roles as a clinician and community leader. Ultimately, I chose PRIME-HEq because its mission aligned with my desire to serve as a patient advocate to improve health and empower communities while serving with compassion.
BRIANNA IRONS Hometown: Wallingford, PA
I chose UCSD PRIME Health Equity program because of the unique opportunity it provides in advocacy work and community. Prior to medical school, I studied public health and worked with nonprofit organizations focused on early health interventions for children. These experiences inspired my pursuit of medicine and so I wanted advocacy work to be an integral part of my medical school experience. I am also excited to augment my medical education with a masters degree, which will better prepare me to make change and to incorporate health equity into my future career as a physician. Not only are the values and structure of the program fantastic, but also the community it provides. It's incredible to have a small cohort of peers and faculty mentors that support your ideas and stick with you through 5 years of education.
MELINA LOPEZ Hometown: Encinitas, CA
Before medical school, I spent many years working in different sectors of healthcare. My role as a patient care navigator at a Gender-Affirming Care Clinic highlighted a clear gap in access to LGBTQ+ knowledgeable care. Patients faced unbelievably long referral turn-around-times, hours of commuting to clinics, and constant insurance denials. As a queer-identified individual, I'm motivated to ensure everyone has the right to healthcare and the necessary resources to be their healthiest selves. My clinical experience also raised some questions - why is it that healthcare is so unnecessarily complex and overwhelming for patients? How can we address all of the anonymous patients sitting in a stack of referrals? To answer these questions, I was fortunate to train in Lean process improvement while working at Stanford Children's Health. I learned the value of empowering frontline staff at all levels of the hospital with improvement science tools and humble leadership to improve patient care. As a future provider, I hope to leverage these principles to support clinics dedicated to underserved communities and ensure no patients fall through the cracks. At PRIME-HEq, I also seek to challenge myself in being a better ally to other marginalized communities and supporting my classmates in their advocacy efforts. I'm honored to be a part of the community at PRIME, and I look forward to what we can accomplish together!
ALYSSA MARTIN Hometown: Danville, CA
The challenges I witnessed and became sensitive to from a young age reflected the socioeconomic disparities around me in the SF Bay Area: immigrants like my grandparents forced to accommodate to a new culture and language, escalating homeless populations as consequence of gentrification, and poverty-driven crime and gang activity that partially led my parents to move us into the suburbs. An early passion for social justice drove me to study political science and explore careers ranging from policy/law to social work, eventually finding my calling in medicine. Prior to starting medical school, I worked as a peer counselor, helping connect homeless and mentally ill individuals with healthcare and various social services. As the COVID-19 pandemic continued to progress, it further elucidated the disparities these individuals face. I aim to use the PRIME- Heq training, opportunities to serve the minority/immigrant and homeless populations in San Diego, and my platform as a physician to improve delivery of care and work toward a world where healthcare is seen as a human right rather than a privilege.
MONIQUE ORTIZ Hometown: Norwalk, CA
I chose UCSD PRIME-HEq because I knew this program would prepare me well for serving all communities in need in my career as a physician. I was most attracted by the inclusivity of the program's mission. As I was growing up, my parents always introduced family friends as my "tíos," aunts and uncles. It promoted a belief in me that everyone is family and, as such, we have a responsibility to care for each other. With this belief and my broad interests in border health, women's health, children's health, and preventative health, I felt that PRIME-Health Equity would provide me with the resources I needed to learn more about and develop skills to address disparities. Not to mention, the opportunity to pursue a dual degree and be part of a community of passionate and caring people.
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
I am in medical school because I care deeply about minority and underserved health. When evaluating where I would be given the support and resources to learn how to create change and to create that change, UCSD PRIME-Heq stood out. Even before committing to UCSD, I felt an overwhelming amount of support and a genuine interest in helping me achieve my goals. PRIME-Heq has already shown an unyielding commitment to health equity and ensuring that every student in the program will contribute to improving healthcare for our most vulnerable communities.