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UC Davis Health System

UC Davis Health System

A clearer path to medical school

Photo of medical student walking to class Established in 1991, the postbaccalaureate program helps students from disadvantaged backgrounds realize their dream of practicing medicine and delivering care in underserved communities.

Growing up in Los Angeles, Brandon Henry never saw a doctor because his family couldn’t afford health insurance. Today, as one of 15 students in UC Davis School of Medicine’s Postbaccalaureate Premedical Program, he chuckles at the irony.

"I never saw a doctor while growing up, and now I’m working like crazy to become one," said the 25-year-old Sacramento State graduate.

Henry said a lack of access to health care and mistrust of physicians can be common in his community. But for him, these experiences, including his grandmother’s interactions with a disrespectful doctor, led him to focus on making things better.

"I made a promise to my grandmother that I’d make a difference in medicine," he said. "For me, it’s about creating more access and trust in communities that have been underserved for far too long."

Henry considers the postbaccalaureate program "an absolute blessing" that is making him a better and stronger medical school applicant so he can achieve his goals.

Established in 1991, the postbaccalaureate program helps students from disadvantaged backgrounds realize their dream of practicing medicine and delivering care in underserved communities.

"The program gives outstanding students from disadvantaged backgrounds who have completed their undergraduate college studies the guidance they need to submit successful applications to medical school," said Claire Pomeroy, vice chancellor for human health sciences at UC Davis and dean of the School of Medicine. "Our students are committed to working in medically underserved communities and have demonstrated their dedication to public service through their volunteer or advocacy work. They are strong candidates for becoming physician leaders and role models in communities throughout California that need them."

Photo of Claire Pomeroy"Our students are committed to working in medically underserved communities and have demonstrated their dedication to public service through their volunteer or advocacy work."
— Claire Pomeroy, vice chancellor for human health sciences at UC Davis and dean of the School of Medicine

Designed as an enrichment program, the postbaccalaureate program offers a year-long intensive curriculum that helps students to improve their learning skills, strengthen their science backgrounds, raise their grade-point averages and Medical College Admission Test scores, and prepare for the application process. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association about the UC postbaccalaureate programs found graduates were 6.3 times more likely to matriculate into medical school than other college graduates.

UC Davis recently led the formation of the California Postbaccalaureate Consortium, a partnership of the postbaccalaureate programs at the five UC medical schools. The consortium provides an opportunity for the programs to share resources, best practices and data. The California Endowment is providing major funding for the consortium, with a three-year grant for $2.3 million. The partnership is also working to secure long-term funding for the program and to increase support for student stipends.

On average, the consortium enrolls 75 students per year, and more than 80 percent of participants gain acceptance to medical school. At UC Davis, 86.6 percent of postbaccalaureate students have matriculated to professional health-care schools, and 20 percent have been admitted to the UC Davis School of Medicine. One of the goals of the new grant is to raise matriculation into UC medical schools to 50 percent. The grant also funds new programs at UCLA’s Charles R. Drew School of Medicine and Science and UC Riverside.

"The premedical program builds skills that enable more disadvantaged students to matriculate into medical school," said Barbara Webster-Hawkins, senior program officer in The California Endowment’s North State Regional Office in Sacramento. "It also helps to diversify the health-care work force, which is an important goal for us."

As the state’s population becomes larger and more diverse, more Californians lack access to quality health care, and the disparity between well-served and underserved communities continues to grow. Through the consortium, UC medical schools and The California Endowment are training culturally competent, compassionate practitioners who better meet the health care needs of Californians.