Emeriti Faculty Notes
More than 500 economically and socially disadvantaged young people in Fresno County have embarked on studies in health care during the past decade, thanks to a UC Davis School of Medicine alumna who was determined to help students avoid the academic difficulties she had encountered as an undergraduate student. Physician Katherine Flores – a 1979 graduate of the UC Davis School of Medicine who juggles a practice at Community Medical Providers in Fresno and appointments with UC San Francisco – established the Doctors Academy, an exemplary program that nurtures and supports students from economically or educationally disadvantaged backgrounds who are interested in careers in the health professions.
Flores, an assistant clinical professor of family and community medicine with UC San Francisco's Fresno Medical Education Program, is director of UCSF Fresno's Latino Center for Medical Education and Research. Since she launched the Doctors Academy in 1999 at Sunnyside High School in Fresno, it has expanded into a comprehensive school-within-a school program at two additional high schools in the rural towns of Caruthers and Selma.
Meeting the needs of youth
Numerous educational organiza-tions have become enthusiastic partners in the Doctors Academy. The preparatory program's four-year curriculum offers academic and social support through accelerated classes with an emphasis on math, science and writing; weekly tutorial support from current California State University, Fresno, pre-med students; Saturday academies and workshops; mentorship by health-care practitioners; guest speakers; summer school enrichment programs; SAT preparation, financial aid guidance, and other counseling and support services; and parent support workshops.
About 56 percent of enrollees are Latino/Latina, 18 percent Southeast Asian, 11 percent East Indian, 8 percent white, 7 percent African American and 1 percent Filipino. Participants qualify for special consideration for scholarship at CSU Fresno and for early admission to the UCSF School of Medicine and UCSF School of Pharmacy. The program also encompasses a Junior Doctors Academy at three middle schools and the Pre-Health Scholars program at CSU Fresno.
Doctors Academy students in search of inspiration find it in Flores, who was born and raised in Fresno by her migrant farmworker grandparents. She conceived the Doctors Academy program as a means to rectify inequities in health care that she witnessed – the most disturbing of which was inadequate response to her grandfather's diabetes when she was a young child. She blames a "culturally incompetent health-care process" for failure to arrest development of gangrene that prompted amputation of one of his legs.
Giving to others what she lacked
"The idea to help others occurred to me when I was a student at Stanford, where I struggled with my classes because my academic preparation in high school had been inadequate."
Flores, the first member of her family to attend college, received her acceptance notice from Stanford University the month following the death of her grandfather.
"The idea to help others occurred to me when I was a student at Stanford, where I struggled with my classes because my academic preparation in high school had been inadequate," Flores says. "I initially thought I'd like to develop some sort of support system for kids from disadvantaged backgrounds. What has transpired with the Doctors Academy is well beyond what I imagined back then."
The success rate of the Doctors Academy is exemplary – all 228 participants who have graduated from the program since 2003 have advanced to college; 43 percent of them are enrolled at UC campuses. Four members of the first two groups are now enrolled in medical school, and three have become registered nurses. The program operates in cooperation with UCSF Fresno, the Fresno Unified School District, the Fresno County Office of Education, Fresno State University, Fresno City College, local hospitals and community health centers.
An exemplary program
When UC President Mark G. Yudof looked for an appropriate place to unveil an ambitious fundraising drive last October intended to raise $1 billion for student support, he chose Sunnyside High School. He made his dramatic announcement accompanied by about 50 Doctors Academy participants seated behind him.
Flores says the recruitment process for the program is directed not only to students, but also to parents and teachers.
"First, we try to instill students with self-confidence to believe in themselves and their abilities to achieve whatever they want, if they're committed to work for it," Flores says. "But we also work with parents to make sure they support their children's aspirations. And we work with school officials and teachers to make certain they reinforce and bolster the students' self-concept."
How you can help
Flores, who has long championed the education of Latino and Latina health professionals, is director of UCSF Fresno Health Careers Opportunity Program and the California Health Professions Consortium.
Although the Doctors Academy has received financial support from UCSF Fresno, the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, California Endowment, California Wellness Foundation, Wells Fargo and Kaiser Foundation, the program needs additional philanthropic support. To learn more, visit the Doctors Academy website.
Spring / Summer 2010
UC Davis Health System is proud to be home to medical, nursing, family nurse practitioner / physician assistant, public health and health informatics students and to also be the internship site for pharmacy, nutrition and other programs. Improving the health of our communities requires that we bring together these perspectives, and UC Davis is well positioned to do so.