In recognition of Condessa Curley's efforts to improve community health in underserved populations, UC Davis School of Medicine is honoring her with the 2008 Humanitarian Award. While practicing family medicine and training medical students in Southern California, Curley has also developed and implemented successful health projects in Africa.
Curley's focus on community care got its start at UC Davis. "Our first year we were out in the community – that gave us an advantage over other medical schools," she recalls.
She gained valuable experience helping to serve African-American patients at UC Davis' student-run Imani Clinic in Sacramento (named for the Kwanzaa principle of faith).
After earning her medical degree at UC Davis in 1996, Curley went on to UCLA to get a master's degree in public health.
Curley's career has reflected her personal commitment to increase health literacy and reduce health disparities. In 2003, she joined the Eisner Pediatric and Family Health Center as a staff physician in downtown and south Los Angeles. There, she started a chronic disease selfmanagement program to help underserved populations with diabetes, hypertension and dyslipidemia.
At the same time, Curley's vision for community health expanded overseas. In 1999, Curley began volunteering in Africa, providing medical and humanitarian assistance to vulnerable populations in the western and southern regions. In 2005, she co-founded Project Africa Global, Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides medical and humanitarian services to African communities in need, including children living in orphanages and refugee camps. Curley has recruited dozens of top-notch physicians and health-care providers to volunteer time and expertise in Liberia, Ghana and Swaziland.
The project helped organize the first AfricAmerica HIV/AIDS Youth Summit for C.H.A.N.G.E. (Changing Habits and Attitudes while Negotiating Goals Effectively). This peer education program trains youth from the U.S. who are HIV-positive and HIV-negative as leaders for the summit in Swaziland, which is attended by hundreds of Swazi youth.
Curley's work also has benefited health professionals, according to Margaret Larkins-Pettigrew, assistant professor of medicine in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Pittsburgh.
"During these volunteer efforts, Dr. Curley acts as a mentor, as well as a primary-care provider, enhancing the education of all volunteers as they strive to be better global providers," she says.
Curley has helped prepare medical students for work in cross-cultural settings by developing courses on Global Health at Pittsburgh and at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, where she's assistant professor of clinical family medicine.
In 2007, the California Medical Association honored Curley with the 2007 Robert D. Sparks, M.D., Leadership Award. Last year, she also received a thank-you letter from the ambassador of the Kingdom of Swaziland, saying that "the people of Swaziland shall always remember your contributions... I hope that you will come back to Swaziland again for many years to come."