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PRIME-HEq Student Stories

group of student sitting at a table at a restaurant smiling towards the cameraUC San Diego PRIME-HEq is an innovative training program focused on meeting the needs of California's underserved populations. Students learn to combine specialized coursework, structured clinical experiences, advanced independent study, and mentoring to prepare to work within underserved communities. Students are focused on reducing health care inequities and are committed to becoming physician leaders, researchers, and innovative changemakers.


Each student has a personal story as to why they chose PRIME-HEq. Read about their why and hopes for the future. 


  • Ana Andrade

    Ana Andrade

    Hometown: Saugus, MA

    "I grew up in Massachusetts, where innovative healthcare and education were often celebrated, but it was quickly clear to me that access to care discriminated by race and socioeconomic status. Many of my family members and close friends were undocumented, so they experienced higher barriers. I witnessed how life-changing access to insurance and preventative care was for those immigrant communities. I attended Harvard University where I studied Cognitive Neuroscience and also spent my time as co-director of our immigration advocacy reform student group. After graduating, I worked in strategy consulting at Bain & Company for three years, and then worked for Boston Medical Center’s strategy team with their newly launched Health Equity Accelerator. The mission of the Accelerator was to use data-driven clinical insights and community-based research to eliminate the race-based health equity gaps. I was especially involved in launching workgroups to address inequities in diabetes prevention and disease progression in our patient population. In that work, I saw the importance of collaboration between physicians, hospital administration and political advocacy. I am excited to be a part of PRIME-Heq to continue to learn and serve communities, and to explore more ways to innovate with cross-disciplinary collaboration to dismantle health inequities."

  • Clarissa Camarena

    Clarissa Camarena

    "From the moment I learned about PRIME-HEq, I was immediately drawn to the program and felt that it perfectly aligned with my values and goals as a medical student and future physician. PRIME-HEq provides its students with the tools, mentors, and resources necessary to help shape students into physicians that are equipped to care for underserved communities. As a Mexican woman and first-generation college graduate that grew up in a low-income household raised by a single mother, I faced many different barriers throughout my life. However, because of my obstacles, it motivated me to advocate for communities that come from similar backgrounds as mine and I knew a way to do that was through education. I attended UC Santa Barbara for my undergraduate career and UC San Diego for my post baccalaureate education. During undergrad, I volunteered at a women’s free homeless clinic where I was able to learn the importance of sustainable free care for uninsured and unhoused populations. Upon graduating, I became a medical scribe and administrative aide at an immigration law firm, where I witnessed the vast array of health disparities that minority populations faced within my community. These experiences further motivated me to become a physician that is prepared to tackle these issues and help advocate for my community. Now being a part of PRIME-HEq, I feel extremely fortunate to be surrounded by like-minded individuals who share similar goals as mine and mentors that will help us achieve them. In the future, I hope to be a provider and advocate for disadvantaged and marginalized communities that shines light on the issues they face and creates connections that go deeper than medicine."

  • Spencer Chau

    Spencer Chau

    Hometown: San Jose, CA

    "Having worked with underserved populations and seeing first-hand how health inequities have affected loved ones, I knew that UC San Diego School of Medicine PRIME-HEq was the place for me. I cherish the opportunity to learn and grow as a physician-in-training to best address and combat the systemic barriers to quality healthcare faced by many. Growing up in a multi-generational/cultural/linguistic and neurodiverse household built upon the sacrifices of refugees has made me acutely aware of the importance of supporting marginalized communities through the many obstacles in healthcare. Working in a team in various medical settings, from the emergency department to street medicine, I have had the fortunate opportunity to meet patients from all walks of life and strive to provide empathetic, person-centered care. PRIME-HEq has provided me a space to be with like-minded, burgeoning community leaders who strive towards a common goal of creating a positive impact on inequities in and outside of medicine. Through the support of the program, my peers, and my mentors, I hope to be a champion for health justice in my community here in San Diego and beyond."

  • Arianna Chavez

    Arianna Chavez

    "I was born and raised in San Diego’s South Bay area. Being just minutes from the US-Mexico border, I saw how health inequities plagued the communities I called home. As a UC San Diego undergraduate, I founded the nonprofit organization, San Diego Free Resources, which is driven by a firm belief in the power of accessibility. Through this organization, my team and I worked hard to end health inequities by connecting communities in need to local resources. Today, I am drawn to medicine because of the endless opportunities to combat health inequities. I hope to one day be a public health officer for the County of San Diego to continue to fight for the communities that shaped me."

  • Bryanna Chavez

    Bryanna Chavez

    Hometown: Gilroy, CA

    "My path to medicine was shaped by interactions with patients while volunteering at hospitals in Oakland and near my hometown. Witnessing the disconnect that language or cultural barriers created between patients and health care teams, I saw reflections of my own family’s experiences. These moments underscored the critical need for diversity in medicine, where Latinos have been historically underrepresented, and motivated me to become a physician able to build a connection with my community. Post-graduation from UC Berkeley, I joined Teach For America to contribute to educational equity, where I taught 9th-grade biology for three years. This experience further revealed how deeply social factors influence access to both education and health care."

    The structural inequality in the United States and the systemic failures that inadequately provide proper social safety nets like health care prevent the upward mobility of marginalized communities. My commitment to addressing these disparities drew me to PRIME-HEq. The program’s focus on advocacy and community perfectly aligns with my vision for a more equitable health care system. As a future physician, I aim to champion diversity in medicine through mentorship, directly impact health equity by serving underserved communities, and collaborate with community organizations addressing social determinants of health disparities. PRIME-HEq provides the opportunities to embark on my journey to contribute to a transformative movement towards health equity."

  • Janae Hardy

    Janae Hardy

    "Growing up mixed, it was clear to me that the African American side of my family struggled more with chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and high blood pressure. I only began to understand this pattern once I got older. It was not until college that I first heard the term “health disparities” and fully understood the concept. Upon graduating from California State University San Bernardino, became determined to make a difference. I knew the maternal death rate was alarmingly higher in minority populations so I worked to help develop a noninvasive prenatal test that would significantly improve maternal health, fetal health, and access to health care. I also knew that African Americans had the highest cancer mortality rate so I joined a company working to develop a therapeutic drug to treat various cancers. Having this desire and passion for caring for these communities solidified my choice to join PRIME HEq at UC San Diego. Furthermore, I am excited to be on the side of medicine where I can serve as a role model and have the platform to address health disparities that disproportionately affect these communities through PRIME-HEq here at UC San Diego."

  • Roberto Mora

    Roberto Mora

    "My decision to pursue PRIME-HEq is informed by my experiences that shaped my values and identity as an advocate. Long before I had any conception of pursuing medicine as a child, there was a yearning to belong. A desire to not be afraid when entering a hospital and a belief that I could someday find a doctor who might begin to understand my language and culture. Larger than any socioeconomic divide, were the inherent inequities my family and I encountered in seeking healthcare. I knew I had to be a part of the change I wanted to see in my community. As the son of immigrants and as a first-generation college graduate, I have utilized the privileges afforded to me to champion for the health access and empowerment of unhoused and immigrant populations. From Oakland to San Diego, the years I spent challenging myself to become the advocate my community needed, helped me realize the constant need to learn and adapt in service to others. Surrounded by peers and faculty who view the struggle of one underserved population as inextricably bound to that of another, I know through PRIME Health Equity I am poised to develop into the best physician I can hope to be."

  • Austin Nguyen

    Austin Nguyen

    "The multiple identities that I carry inspire me to work with populations who are disadvantaged in many ways. Through my experience with free clinics, I learned how to not only provide culturally sensitive care, but also uphold the organization's mission of advocacy and community engagement. I hope to continue this passion and drive for dismantling bias and discrimination throughout my journey. PRIME-HEq will allow me to embody the values that my experiences have instilled in me. One of the clinics I worked with was centered on serving the Filipinx underserved community with a mission to heal the community, invest in the future, and honor the past. I now carry these words with me, as I embark on my journey to eliminate health disparities and address the health inequities that marginalized communities face daily. Joining the PRIME-HEq program is a pivotal step for me, empowering me with the training required to take actionable steps towards my goals of bridging the inequities that disproportionately affect Asian, LGBTQIA+, and other marginalized communities."

  • Hannah Pham

    Hannah Pham

    "Growing up as the designated interpreter for my family and accompanying my parents to medical visits as a child, I experienced the necessity of cultural humility and linguistic competency within our health care system. For my family and other Vietnamese refugee families, I witnessed how mistrust, miscommunication, and socioeconomic barriers hindered their access to care and perpetuated health disparities within the community. My goal as a future physician is to empower patients as active participants in their health by acknowledging their lived experiences, promoting their health literacy, and addressing their needs along a continuum of care. It is an honor for me to return to my hometown of San Diego, to be a part of the PRIME-HEq program at UC San Diego, and to receive a medical education that is centered around health equity, advocacy and community outreach. I hope to not only improve the health of individual patients throughout my future career, but to also be equipped with the research, policy-making, and outreach tools to mitigate cultural, financial, and linguistic barriers to care and to uplift the holistic health of medically underserved communities."

  • Foxy Robinson

    Foxy Robinson

  • Erik Salazar

    Erik Salazar

    Hometowns: Walnut, CA & Rancho Cucamonga, CA

    "My passion for the advancement of health equity has long been inextricable from my pursuit of a career in medicine. As the sole member of my nuclear family born in the United States, the condition of immigrant and under-resourced communities is a matter close to my heart. My path to becoming a physician began in earnest as an undergraduate at UCLA, where I dedicated much of my time to working with underserved communities both in Southern California and Mexico to provide medical care to individuals ineligible for either private or public insurance coverage. Upon graduation, I continued my work with the underserved of Greater Los Angeles by serving in the Community Clinic Association of Los Angeles County (CCALAC) AmeriCorps Health Fellows program, where I worked within a multi-site Federally qualified health center practice as a diabetes and hypertension health coach, care coordinator, and as a quality improvement intern. Following AmeriCorps, I stayed on with my host clinic as a referral coordinator and increased my involvement with inter-clinic CCALAC workforce development programs. As a result of my seven years of work within - and beyond the margins of - the health care safety net of Southern California, I have become acutely aware of the direct impact of social policy upon the health and quality of life of the most disadvantaged. I have witnessed the literal life-saving consequences of Medi-Cal expansion and coverage surrogate programs like My Health LA, and understand that despite these successes, health equity yet eludes our communities. It is because of these experiences spanning both my time as an undergraduate volunteer and health clinic staff that I became increasingly interested in the formal integration of policy work and advocacy with my future career as a clinician. It is difficult to conceive of a program more aligned with these goals than PRIME-HEq here at UC San Diego, and I look forward in earnest to the training it offers that will help make my aspirations a reality."

  • Shanaya Sidhu

    Shanaya Sidhu

    Hometown: Simi Valley, CA

    "Growing up in a multigenerational, Punjabi immigrant household, I saw how health lies at the intersections of social, cultural and physiological factors. Within my South Asian community, I saw how socioeconomic status, immigration status, culture and mistrust of systems coelesced to produce preventable health complications. This ignited my desire to be a physician who could partner and advocate with underserved communities for more equitable health outcomes. Throughout my undergraduate education at UCLA, I specifically focused on advocacy and service with South Asian communities, LGBTQ+ communities and unhoused communities in Los Angeles. My experiences working with these communities not only in clinical settings, but also in social work, legal and mental health settings showed me how unjust and flawed systems produce health disparities and barriers to care. I am grateful to be in the PRIME-HEq program in order to acquire the tools necessary to partner with communities to combat health disparities - and the systems that create them. Health is a human right, and I am excited to participate in a community of faculty and students who are passionate about delivering equitable health care and breaking down systemic barriers to care."

  • Michelle Tenggara

    Michelle Tenggara

    "Many of my life experiences can be encapsulated by one mission: to pursue an understanding of humanity through the lens of biology, culture and art. As immigrants from Indonesia, my family and I experienced firsthand the cultural, language and geographic barriers to health care. Lack of accessible providers often led us to drive hours to Los Angeles to see an Indonesian provider. As an undergrad at UCLA, I was drawn to work that focused on the intersections of culture and health, as well as scientific outreach. This led me to conduct research in biological anthropology, work with inner-city kids educating them on LA public health and scientific thinking skills, and join the Getty Museum as a conservation intern. Through my multidisciplinary education and experiences, I have learned that health and well-being encompass all aspects of a person—their background, environment, and lived experiences. Access to resources and medical education further affect any health disparities in a given community. With this in mind, I chose the PRIME-HEq program because I wanted to be surrounded by like-minded peers and mentors who could help me take a humanistic approach to medicine, focusing on increasing health literacy and educational equity in San Diego communities. The skills I learn will empower me to continually question and aim to better our medical system."

  • Diana Acosta Valle

    Diana Acosta Valle

    "Originally from Mexico City, my experiences as an immigrant and as the daughter of immigrants from Peru who struggled to get medical care have shaped my decision to pursue medicine. Attending the University of Southern California and working with the Spanish speaking communities in Los Angeles was pivotal in solidifying this decision. As an intern for the care coordination department at California Hospital Medical Center, I witnessed a health care system ill equipped to handle the social and medical complexities of patients affected by homelessness. An endless cycle of inadequate health care, broken trust in medicine, and generational poverty continues to leave many vulnerable patients as easy targets for preventable and chronic diseases and their long-term consequences. As a future physician I strive to represent immigrant low-income communities and be a loud voice for health equity and systemic change."


  • Paulina Cedillo

    Paulina Cedillo

    Hometown: Pacolma, CA

    "It was immediately evident that UC San Diego PRIME-HEq is a program that aims to transform health care by nurturing the next generation of providers who are representative and culturally sensitive of the communities they serve. I hope to be a provider that advocates for the underserved, connects with the underrepresented, and investigates the issues plaguing these communities. My desire to pursue medicine and promote equity stems largely from my identity as a Mexican-American woman. As an undergrad at UC Berkeley, my most impactful experiences were spent serving communities for which I identified with. Volunteering for communities struggling with homelessness in Oakland and promoting health literacy for immigrant populations accessing health care in San Francisco, it became evident to me that health is not only impacted by biology, but by social and structural factors, as well. I chose this program because I am confident that PRIME-HEq will provide me with the resources to be a physician that promotes equity and dismantles barriers for the people I serve. With the skills I learn here, I hope to help rebuild trust in medicine and better provide for underserved communities."

  • Isabel De La Torre

    Isabel De La Torre

    Hometown: San Francisco, CA

    "I chose PRIME-HEq because I am passionate about the program's mission to improve the quality of care for marginalized populations and address damaging health inequities by diversifying the physician pool and developing innovative models of research and clinical practice that better meet the needs of underserved communities. My combination of service, research, and clinical experiences with underserved populations drove my interest in PRIME-HEq. My work with trauma survivors, patients with schizophrenia, and Spanish speaking individuals led me to appreciate how both biomedical and psychosocial factors contribute to the health outcomes of individuals from underserved populations. It fostered my desire to provide compassionate holistic care for the most medically underserved to address damaging health inequities. On a personal level, my family's experiences with immigration inculcated in me the value of compassion and an understanding of the power and privilege of a graduate education. Through their example, I know that my interest in medicine is enhanced by my passion for service. These experiences have reinforced my desire to leverage my bilingual Latine heritage to address issues of health equity that impact medically underserved communities, with a particular interest in mental health. I am honored to be a part of the PRIME-HEq family and am committed to utilizing this training to positively impact the health of underserved communities and promote health equity as a future physician."

  • Karyssa Domingo

    Karyssa Domingo

    Hometown: Tucson, AZ

    "I was initially drawn to PRIME-HEq because my experience with underserved communities motivated me to work towards equity in health care, on individual and systemic levels. It was clear to me that the PRIME program would provide the support I need to become a physician who advocates for my patients and serves my community as best I can. Working as an after-school teacher for underprivileged children was a rewarding entrance into the field of health education, and I aim to continue getting involved in my community by making health care and health education more accessible. The support provided by my PRIME cohort peers, mentors and advisors gives me the confidence that we will all finish medical school with the knowledge and resources needed to improve health equity in San Diego and beyond."

  • Kye Duren

    Kye Duren

    Hometown: San Pablo, CA

    "From Oakland to Vallejo, My desire to support my community of the East Bay Area has fueled my passion and pursuit of medicine. Growing up there I saw the impact of inequity on systems and how they served to limit the existence and potential of marginalized folks as well as robbing everyone else of their contributions. After spending time as a case worker with my local public health department and with patients in clinic, I saw the need to address health inequity as central to enfranchising those who are marginalized and correcting systems beyond healthcare. I choose PRIME HEq because I know it takes additional skills and competencies, in addition to clinical training, to sufficiently and sustainably heal patients and my community's needs. As a change agent in health care, I value the opportunity to get a master's degree in addition to my medical training. I also chose PRIME-HEq so that I can partner with a network of mentors, colleagues, community stakeholders and like-minded peers in the pursuit of supporting the health of my community and communities like mine everywhere."

  • Alejandra Felix-Campo

    Alejandra Felix-Campo

    Hometown: Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico

    "At the age of 15, I decided to moved to San Diego, CA. Since then, this city has impacted me and helped me greatly. The San Diego community welcomed me when I most needed it. Now, I want to give back to this community by serving and understanding the underserved communities of San Diego. I decided to apply to the UC San Diego PRIME-HEq program, because of it's mission and curriculum that align with my goals as a future physician. I knew that this program was going to be an opportunity to surround myself with mentors and classmates that share the same passion for ealth equity."

  • Jesse Garcia

    Jesse Garcia

    Hometown: Colusa, CA

    "As a hot off the press 19-year-old EMT, I quickly came to realize that I was very unaware of the injustice that exists within our health care system. It wasn't until responding to the Camp Fire catastrophe, in 2018, that I began to understand a physician's role in improving the human condition. The rest of my undergrad years focused on serving Butte County's marginalized communities. For years I helped run our county's only free clinic, assisting in the wellbeing and security of our unhoused, undocumented, and uninsured populations. As a caregiver for individuals with severe cerebral palsy, I had the unique opportunity to witness and listen firsthand to struggles that impact the disabled community. All of this fostered a curiosity to understand the underlying mechanisms that control our health care system. I wanted to attend a university that could offer me strong mentorship, but more importantly, a culture focused on making systemic change. The PRIME-HEq faculty and students are committed and set on tackling these systemic issues. It's an honor to have their support and insight, and I'm excited to see what our cohort will accomplish as we advance in our professional careers."

  • Carlos Garcia Cabrera

    Carlos Garcia Cabrera

    Hometown: Rancho Cucamonga, CA

    "PRIME-Heq at UC San Diego promotes an education that marries primary care excellence with advocacy, leadership, and service to the underserved. I hope to pursue a master's degree in Public Health (MPH) while in the PRIME-Heq program to learn epidemiology, health disparity research methodology, and public health approaches to better serve my community and address the Social Determinants of Health plaguing today's culturally diverse communities. The education at the international leader UC San Diego School of Medicine program will shape my future practice as it will prepare me to address socioeconomic factors for every patient encounter; this includes the patient's living situation, legal status, ability to afford their prescribed medications, and more. My MD/MPH education will position me for my future as a leader, advocate, and health-policy expert. The PRIME-HEq program will empower me with the necessary training in medicine and a master's in public health for my future work as a physician educator and advocate, bridging the health inequity gap in the Latinx, LGBTQIA, and underserved communities."

  • Lauren Ibarra

    Lauren Ibarra

    Hometown: Chino Hills, CA

    "As a member of UC San Diego PRIME-HEq I am eager to use my background in human-centered design and education to develop improved patient-provider communication systems for minority populations. My experience working at free clinics in Tijuana Progreso, Mexico, has taught me the importance of well-rounded health care. A patient's livelihood operates in a system that extends beyond physical ailments. To address physical health, it is also important to look at their holistic experiences. PRIME-HEq is a perfect program to learn this equitable approach to medicine. After working as an autism support coach at an elementary school, I began to realize how essential it is for providers to breakdown their perspectives and have an open collaboration with their patients. I wish to use design a method to redesign medical education and clinical spaces to make it more adaptive to the unique needs of the neurodiverse population. I believe equitable health care begins with collaboration and community-driven efforts."

  • Freddy Martinez

    Freddy Martinez

    Hometown: Irvine, CA

    "Being on the receiving end of the health care system as a minority has shown me the institutional shortcomings that exists towards those in my community. From a young age, I've always had a deep desire to help and care for others. Caring for those in my community comes with an enormous responsibility, but it is one which I gladly look forward to bear. Being a doctor is much more than just knowing the science behind the medicine; the interpersonal aspect between patient and physician is just as important. That is why I decided to take a non-traditional path and major in psychology and social behavior, so that I could learn how to best build rapport, communicate, and empathize with the patients I seek to serve. As a result, I sought to join a program that would equip me with the knowledge and confidence to provide equitable health care to those traditionally underserved by our current health care system. There is no better place for me to learn and prepare than within the PRIME-HEq family at the UC San Diego School of Medicine."

  • Cheyenne Nicole Mercer

    Cheyenne Nicole Mercer

  • Eileen Ruiz

    Eileen Ruiz

    Hometown: Chula Vista, CA

    "What drew me to PRIME-HEq was its focus on community service and its mission toward eliminating health disparities. Growing up so close to the San Ysidro-Tijuana border was one factor that motivated me to want to work alongside underserved patients. My experiences volunteering for the UC San Diego Student-Run Free Clinic and working for San Ysidro Health further revealed to me the types of social and economic challenges that patients face when seeking medical care. I am excited to be part of a program that will enhance my understanding of health disparities and allow me to become a community-centered physician that provides culturally sensitive and empowering health care. I feel grateful to not only have the opportunity to study at UC San Diego SOM, but to do so in a supportive environment alongside PRIME-HEq faculty and students."

  • Chukwunonyelum (Noni) Unobagha

    Chukwunonyelum (Noni) Unobagha

    Hometown: Syracuse, NY

    "When my parents journeyed to the U.S. from Nigeria, it was their hope to give their children the best lives possible, and so they taught me to live life limitlessly. I took those lessons to heart, and I chose to become a physician as a young child. I was always fascinated by the biology of the human body and the age-old art of healing. However, as I grew older, my passion was renewed as I began to notice the ever-apparent disparities in our health care system and the injustices felt personally by my family members. As an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, one of my most profound volunteering experiences was working as a coordinator in the pipeline program; we maintained a strong partnership between West Philadelphia schools and the Perelman School of Medicine, and I thoroughly enjoyed teaching, guiding, and encouraging students of color to pursue their passions in medicine and go on to effect change. In choosing to enroll in UC San Diego's PRIME-Health Equity program, I was confident I would be given the opportunity to continue practicing purposeful community engagement and promoting equity. With a faculty so focused on the upward trajectory of all students and a diverse cohort full of dedicated and kind-hearted peers, I am certain I chose correctly. In the future, I hope to become a compassionate physician enmeshed within an underserved community, working with its own members to ameliorate health outcomes. I am extremely grateful to have been accepted into PRIME-Heq, and I wholeheartedly believe that the knowledge, skills, and resources afforded to me through this program will help my dreams become reality."

  • Luke Carmicheal Valmadrid

    Luke Carmicheal Valmadrid

    Hometown: Madison, WI

    "Through the arts and public health, I finally found my way to medicine. My experiences with the 8th Cohort of the First Wave Hip-Hop Scholars Program lovingly pushed me to listen, learn, and unlearn, directly leading to constant thought about the two disciplines I cared about, music and science, in the context of equity. My values sent me to my MPH in health equity at UNC-Chapel Hill, which solidified my desire to become someone who helps address both downstream health outcomes and upstream determinants of health. Today, I'm a first-year med student who is having a very first-year experience. But even just after two months, it's hard to imagine a better environment to hold onto and nurture my values in the field of medicine than with the PRIME-HEq students and staff at UC San Diego."

  • Jazmyn Yap

    Jazmyn Yap

    Hometown: Long Beach, CA

    "I chose UC San Diego PRIME-HEq because I am passionate about equitable access to health care in marginalized populations. Moreover, the health of my community and other underserved communities is constantly threatened by social injustices and health inequities. My lived experiences and my public health related work in disadvantaged areas around Los Angeles County have shone a light on certain inequities of the system that I simply cannot ignore. I am acutely aware of how barriers to health care access contribute to poor health outcomes because I have had personal experiences with loss of health insurance and under-resourced local providers. As a member of a diverse racial and socioeconomic community, I also have a responsibility to become a physician who provides care in the context of social determinants of health. More importantly, I am pursuing medicine to be an advocate that moves the system toward improved health equity. Therefore, my commitment to combat health disparities is anchored in the fundamental rights of every individual; especially those who are disproportionately affected by our flawed social systems. I will strive to use my opportunities in UC San Diego PRIME-HEq to heal disadvantaged populations of more potent causes of disease such as racial, economic, and environmental injustices."


  • Jacqueline Breunig

    Jacqueline Breunig

  • Teini Elisara

    Teini Elisara

    Hometown: San Fernando Valley, CA

    "I chose PRIME-HEq because it has a mission and values that are directly aligned with mine. My extracurriculars before entering medical school had been almost exclusively working with underserved communities, particularly the houseless, veterans, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders (NHPI). San Diego is home to a diverse community, and holds the second largest population of NHPI in the contiguous United States. My work with the NHPI community here included free health screenings, education, and public health research, all supported by the medical school. After being accepted into the medical school and PRIME program at UC San Diego,  I was grateful that I could continue my work under a program that would foster my values, provide me with additional skills, and open up new opportunities, like furthering my education in a master's program."

  • Alli (Allison) Foreman

    Alli (Allison) Foreman

  • Isabel Gandarilla

    Isabel Gandarilla

    Hometown: Chula Vista, CA

    "Volunteering as a free clinic interpreter and working as a COVID-19 case investigator along the U.S./Mexico border revealed to me the urgent need for consistent and holistic health care services for marginalized populations in Southern California. I chose UC San Diego PRIME-HEq because I wanted to prioritize service during medical school and learn medicine through an environmental health lens. This year, my cohort of PRIME students at UC San Diego taught me that we don't have to wait until after medical school to make an impact. Through the student-run free clinic and other incredible organizations PRIME students are involved in, we can both learn medicine and serve our community. Furthermore, students and faculty in the PRIME program are a daily inspiration to me. Their commitment to alleviating the consequences of health disparities remind me that despite the challenges minoritized communities face, we are not alone in working towards change. I feel honored and excited to continue growing as a UC San Diego PRIME-HEq student."

  • Emma Longmire

    Emma Longmire

  • Melina Lopez

    Melina Lopez

    Hometown: Encinitas, CA
    Master of Public Health, UC San Diego

    "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 health care and the necessary resources to be their healthiest selves. My clinical experience also raised some questions — why is it that health care 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!"

  • Lily Nguyen

    Lily Nguyen

    Hometown: Rosemead, CA

    "From weekend outreaches to free clinic trips across the southern border, my interactions with people in underserved communities have enriched my understanding of the detrimental consequences of health disparities. Each experience has motivated me further to pursue a career path that would better prepare me to serve these neglected communities. I feel that PRIME-HEq is the best-fit program for me to have the opportunities to gain impactful mentorship and deepen my understanding of the upstream factors affecting health outcomes. Through the support of the program, I hope to proactively find solutions to target disparities and remove obstacles for underserved communities. Through clinical immersion and community engagement, I hope to learn how to better provide improved quality care, connect with underserved individuals, and listen to their specific needs. With the strong culture of mentorship and encouragement here, I know I will be challenged to reach my fullest potential to give as a citizen, educator, and physician."

  • Brittney Obanor

    Brittney Obanor

    Hometown: Fresno, CA

    "Throughout undergrad, I worked as a preschool teacher in HeadStart schools. Working with the students and their families over the four years not only introduced me to the academic barriers that those from disadvantaged backgrounds face, but also the barriers to health. My time in the community exposed me to how established and systemic disparities often are, and how they intertwine with medical outcomes. Through this experience, as well as others, I knew that I wanted my work as a physician to be centered in addressing and eliminating underlying health inequities. I chose UC San Diego PRIME-HEq because I was fully confident that this program would prepare me to become this type of physician — well equipped to empower and advocate for the communities that need it most.

    "I could not talk about PRIME without mentioning my classmates! The community that PRIME-HEq cultivates — from my own cohort to the cohorts that came before me — is very inspiring. This community is comprised of the most motivated/dedicated people I know, and it is very refreshing to be surrounded by peers who see medicine and healthcare from a similar lens as myself."

  • Anna Ou

    Anna Ou

    Hometown: Gaithersburg, MD

    "I chose the PRIME-HEq program because I want to be a physician who is capable of doing more to uplift the community around me. Growing up, I was raised by an immigrant mother who instilled in me the value of serving others. In college, I volunteered at the Berkeley Free Clinic, worked on affordable housing initiatives, and took courses on the socioeconomic and political roots of inequality in society. These experiences solidified my desire to dedicate myself to a career in advancing health equity. I believe that PRIME-HEq would support me in this mission by providing me with a medical education that combines theoretical knowledge, clinical practice, and community partnership. Through this program, I am confident I will develop the skills I need to become a better ally to patients on both an individual and systemic level."

  • Ishan Saha

    Ishan Saha

  • Danielle Schurr

    Danielle Schurr

  • Gabrielle Shuman

    Gabrielle Shuman

    Hometown: Santa Clarita, CA

    "After learning the ways in which housing, food access, and stress are directly related to chronic disease in my public health classes, I knew that these issues would forever be close to my heart. I felt relieved that there was a sub-field of science dedicated to uncovering the 'why' behind health disparities, but pained to know that so many members of our communities suffer from preventable hardships. To me, PRIME-HEq represents a community of peers and mentors who are committed to fighting against those very barriers. Within the School of Medicine, PRIME-HEq has given me a home base from which to develop my passions and ensure that health justice remains a core component of my medical education. I feel fortunate to have such a community, and look forward to fighting for health equity together."

  • Adriana Solis

    Adriana Solis

  • Karen Villegas

    Karen Villegas

    Hometown: Santa Barbara, CA

    "The emphasis on health equity made joining PRIME-HEq the obvious choice for me. By integrating an advanced degree into medical education, PRIME empowers students to equip themselves with the tools to build careers as physician advocates, educators, and leaders. I believe that pursuing a career in primary care will balance my intellectual curiosity with my passion for providing person-centered, longitudinal care to individuals with intersecting vulnerabilities. I aspire to not only treat the patient in front of me, but also to fight for the betterment of the social and environmental conditions contributing to their state of poor health. While I have yet to decide between a master's in public health and a master's in public policy, I know that I will leave PRIME-HEq better able to serve my community."

  • Julia Macias Weiland

    Julia Macias Weiland

  • Yasmin A. Zuch

    Yasmin A. Zuch

    Hometown: Flagtaff, AZ

    "Living in Northern Arizona as an enrolled Navajo Nation member, I grew up witnessing a dichotomy in health status on and off tribal land. Even from a young age, I noticed that certain diseases and health conditions seemed to be more prevalent amongst my Native American friends and family. Additionally, I saw that there was a stark contrast in infrastructure between my hometown and the tribal lands only an hour and a half away. Subconsciously, I must have known that these conditions tied into the overall poorer health status of my Native American relations, and more than 15 years later, I find myself grateful for being a member of PRIME-HEq because the program equips its students to recognize and address health disparities in marginalized communities. Joining PRIME-HEq, I feel I have taken a necessary step in learning how I can better uplift Tribal healthcare by acknowledging these infrastructure needs in addition to becoming a physician."

Master's Students

  • Paul Michael Acosta

    Paul Michael Acosta

    Hometown: Ocilla, GA
    In progress: Master's at Emory

    "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 health care. 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

    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 health care. 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 UC San Diego 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

    Brianna Irons

    Hometown: Wallingford, PA
    In progress: Master's at Harvard 

    "I chose UC San Diego 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 master's 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."

  • Alyssa Martin

    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 San Francisco 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 health care is seen as a human right rather than a privilege."

  • Monique Ortiz

    Monique Ortiz

    Hometown: Norwalk, CA

    "I chose UC San Diego 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."

  • Domonique Patterson

    Domonique Patterson

    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, UC San Diego PRIME-HEq stood out. Even before committing to UC San Diego, 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 health care for our most vulnerable communities."

  • Umu-Hawa Rogers

    Umu-Hawa Rogers


  • Vivian Anigbogu

    Vivian Anigbogu

    Hometown: Lake Elsinore, CA
    Master's in Education, Community Health Nutrition, Columbia University

    After residency, I plan to work with underserved communities as a physician and a leader in public health. Coming from an immigrant family, I have personally endured some of the challenges—such as limited access to preventative health care—that members of these communities also face. Thus, I plan to split my time between working in a hospital setting and organizing community programs to educate patients and inspire them to prioritize their physical and mental health. Additionally, I hope to work with policymakers in order to bring about macro-level changes which will make health care more accessible and target health disparities. Through UC San Diego PRIME-HEq, I receive training beyond the traditional medical school curriculum and participate in longitudinal community outreach experiences which will ultimately prepare me to serve a variety of underserved communities.

  • Erin Buckner

    Erin Buckner

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

    "For as long as I can remember I watched my mom, a counselor in some of the most under-resourced school districts in the Bay Area, help students to overcome unimaginable circumstances. At a young age I was exposed to the realities within communities outside of the suburban bubble my family called home; in which people who looked like me, in area codes differing by no more than one or two digits, would lead lives that could not look more different. Witnessing the firsthand consequences of systemic barriers to education and, later, barriers to health, made the decision to pursue a career in medicine an easy one. PRIME-HEq provides the opportunity to continue learning beyond the classroom, engaging directly with communities themselves. I chose UC San Diego PRIME-HEq because I knew it would train me to become not only a well-rounded physician, but also one well-equipped to advocate for the populations that need it most."

  • Ivan A. Copado

    Ivan A. Copado

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

    "I grew up in an immigrant household where education was the key to a better life and that better life was meant to give back to community and people who helped paved the way for you. It was due to this feeling of duty and the encouragement of family friends, students, and peers that I pursued a career in medicine. When choosing the "right" program for me, I looked for one that was situated in a location surrounded by a diverse population, with languages ranging from English and Spanish to Mandarin and Tagalog. An established free clinic system supported and operated by the medical school and an administration and faculty willing to support paradigm shifting ideas from their students. I found all of this at UC San Diego PRIME-HEq. At UC San Diego, I could impact change in a population that I hope to one day serve while supported by faculty and staff. I am surrounded by amazing people who each bring perspectives and experiences that enrich my own. And, I am granted the opportunity to obtain an education that will one day enable me to give back to my home and community."

  • Star Huynh

    Star Huynh

    Hometown: Milpitas, CA
    Master of Public Health, UC San Diego

    "I chose the UC San Diego PRIME-HEq program because its mission aligned with my own. I was confident that it would help me become a physician better able to recognize the needs of the community and provide superb and humane care for all patients. As a daughter of Vietnamese refugees, I have experienced and witnessed the struggles faced by many minorities. Being a low income first generation college student has allowed me to sympathize with the countless barriers faced by individuals due to socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity, and language. It has also helped me begin to identify barriers to the basic right of healthcare. As an undergraduate, I volunteered with Team HBV to provide medical education outreach to local communities. This work made me realize my need for a formal education to be of true service to the community. Through the PRIME-HEq program, I hope to learn the necessary skills to become an advocate for patients whose voices are not often represented."

  • Patrick Loehr

    Patrick Loehr

    Hometown: San Diego, CA
    Master of Health Professions Education (MHPE), University of Illinois

    "San Diego is a multicultural border city that is home to numerous ethnic and social medically underserved communities, including immigrants, refugees, English-language learners, and individuals who identify as LGBTQ+. My participation in PRIME-HEq is my individual commitment to fight disparities in health care that systematically disenfranchise vulnerable populations. Additionally, the program's inclusion of a master’s degree offers me the chance to better integrate my interests in education into my future practice of medicine. As a nontraditional medical student with over a decade of experience as an educator, and with strong interests in mentorship and advocacy, a program like PRIME-HEq is highly attractive to me."

  • Chelsea Maduike

    Chelsea Maduike

    Hometown: Santa Clarita, CA
    Master of Public Health, Yale University

    "I remember learning about social/structural determinants of health for the first time during my undergraduate career. This new knowledge was a paradigm shift in how I viewed health. I knew I wanted to go into medicine due to my family’s experience with health care, but there was a growing sense that I would be unable to effectively care for my patients without recognizing the various factors affecting their health. This led me to research joint degree programs such as PRIME-HEq. While in college, I participated in the Mobile Clinic Project at UCLA which served folks experiencing homelessness and other vulnerable populations. I learned so much from this experience such as barriers to adequate health care and the importance of actively listening to a community voice their needs. As a member of the PRIME-HEq family, the skills I acquire will help me provide equitable and quality health care to communities of concern."

  • Fernanda Pacheco

    Fernanda Pacheco

    Hometown: Aliso Visio, CA
    Master of Clinical Research, UC San Diego

    "I decided to join UC San Diego PRIME after doing HIV and STI research in the Dominican Republic. Learning about the barriers to health care faced by many members of the most vulnerable populations — such as MSM, pregnant women, and sex workers — inspired me to pursue an education focused on addressing and overcoming these barriers. I was also attracted to the idea of having a smaller close-knit cohort within the School of Medicine and extra mentorship and guidance."

  • Martina Penalosa

    Martina Penalosa

    Hometown: Roseville, CA
    Master of Public Health,  Johns Hopkins University

    "Through my experiences as a Special Olympics coach, a mobile clinic volunteer for homeless/low-income individuals in West Hollywood, and a tutor and teacher’s assistant at an alternative high school for students with disabilities, I formed many close relationships with people from the communities I served. I learned about the hardships many individuals faced such as ableism, racism, and other forms of stigma. While I came to realize that service and community outreach were essential values for me in whatever career I ultimately pursued, my eyes were also opened to the negative impact that social and structural barriers had on the health and well-being of those I cared for. ALL people deserve to be able to access quality health care and live healthy lives — ultimately, I found the most fulfillment in a medical career dedicated to caring for underserved populations, advocating for vulnerable communities, and working towards a more just health care system. I believe that the PRIME-HEq curriculum and a master's in public health will help me learn how we can effectively and humbly partner with a community to figure out their health needs and appropriately address them, and how can we promote policies and practices that advance healthy equity for all. I plan to use my knowledge and experiences from the PRIME-HEq program to complement my medical education and help me develop community-based solutions to present and future health care challenges and become a more informed advocate for health equity."

  • Nyah Rodman

    Nyah Rodman

    Hometown: Oakland, CA
    Master of Public Health - Behavioral Science and Health Education, Emory University

    "I chose the UC San Diego PRIME-HEq program because its mission aligned with my own. I was confident that it would help me become a physician better able to recognize the needs of the community and provide superb and humane care for all patients. As a daughter of Vietnamese refugees, I have experienced and witnessed the struggles faced by many minorities. Being a low income first generation college student has allowed me to sympathize with the countless barriers faced by individuals due to socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity, and language. It has also helped me begin to identify barriers to the basic right of health care. As an undergraduate, I volunteered with Team HBV to provide medical education outreach to local communities. This work made me realize my need for a formal education to be of true service to the community. Through the PRIME-HEq program, I hope to learn the necessary skills to become an advocate for patients whose voices are not often represented."

  •  Isaac Sada

    Isaac Sada

    Hometown: Modesto, CA
    Master of Business Administration, Baylor University

    "My life experiences and growth revolves around being Assyrian. My culture, ethnicity, and community gives me motivation in becoming a well trained physician which is why I chose UC San Diego PRIME. The program gives students opportunities to further their education in areas other than medicine to empower them to have skillsets that aid a community in need. That was the most appealing part of UC San Diego PRIME and so far it has given me ample opportunity to support and represent Assyrians in the state capital, health care and career development."

  • Issac Solomon

    Issac Solomon

    Master of Public Health,  Harvard University 

  • Shelby Warren

    Shelby Warren

    Hometown: Atascadero, CA
    Masters of Science in Health Care Management,  Hopkins Carey Business School

    "Let me start off by saying that I am so happy that I chose to become part of the PRIME-Health Equity family. My relationship with medicine- and how I view myself as someone who can help make it more equitable- is constantly changing. My initial interest in medicine came from my paternal grandpa who worked as a family doctor in my hometown for decades. He was a physician who would take care of anyone regardless of their ability to pay or social status. He told me that to be a good doctor you had to fundamentally value people regardless of how the system values people. Pursuing experiences that helped me to figure out if medicine was right for me was key to choosing this program. During undergrad, I found great joy and life lessons from volunteering as an interpreter in a free clinic, being a hospice volunteer, working in a community engagement/empowerment program, and doing several jobs including scribing in a rural ER. Now with some of medical school under my belt, I cannot be more amazed at how much I have grown. My understanding of why we see such devastating inequalities in our health care system is much clearer- and alarming. We live in a society that was built upon the interacting forces of racism, colonialism, and capitalism which created a social system where it has become "status quo" to let financial gain exploit people who have the least privilege. Our health care system is an especially sobering example of that, because no matter how good my intentions and goals are to work in under-resources areas, I realize that I am still working in a fundamentally oppressive system. Thus, whereas in past years I aspired to work in "underserved" and "vulnerable" communities such as the free clinics, I now realize that there is nothing "under-blank" or "vulnerable" about the communities in which I will work. Policies that discriminate to create major economic and social inequities are what form disparities, thus to understand disparities we must look critically at policies (without pathologizing people). Shifting my focus to policies has been key to understanding why the U.S has not adopted a universal health care system. I truly believe that non-profit, universal health care policy, while it won't fix all health inequities, is essential to advancing health justice and disrupting the racial capitalism that holds certain groups above or below others. Being in PRIME-Health Equity has been key to sharing my passions with others — and more importantly — learning from others. I still have a long way to go."