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Medical Students Reach Out to Create a Healthier Valley

June 9, 2016

SJV-PRIME students (from left) Neetu Malhi, Kenneth Job, Karenee Demery, Monique Atwal, Mandeep Sidhu and Stephanie Melchor.Six medical students, all with ties to the San Joaquin Valley, are spending part of their summer reaching out and giving back to the community they call home.

The students are taking part in a four-week, voluntary summer program called Research, Education and Community Health in the San Joaquin Valley (REACH SJV). Four of the students are enrolled in the San Joaquin Valley Program in Medical Education (SJV PRIME), a collaboration between UC Davis School of Medicine, UC Merced, UC San Francisco and UCSF Fresno to train future physicians to work with underserved communities, particularly those in the San Joaquin Valley.

REACH SJV was designed by medical students at UC Davis a year ago and focuses on immersive community engagement that aims to address the Valley’s needs through research, mentorship, outreach and clinical clerkships, in which students learn while working alongside physicians to care for patients. 

“REACH is a way to keep the students connected to the Valley,” said Kenny Banh, M.D., assistant dean of Undergraduate Medical Education and Student Services at UCSF. “The fact that the program is created by medical students for medical students is what makes it especially unique and impactful.”

Students participate in REACH SJV between their first and second years of medical school. As part of the program, they work with local physicians to improve health care delivery through research while enhancing their clinical skills through preceptorships in Fresno, Fowler and — starting this year — at Golden Valley Health Centers in Merced.

In addition, the students mentor other students — such as those in the UCSF Fresno-Fresno State Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP) — to help prepare them for medical school admission through workshops, panels and skill-building exercises. The medical students also meet with cultural leaders in the community to better understand the strengths and challenges that exist in the region.

Students participating in the program this year include:

  • Karenee Demery from Merced, a graduate of Harvest Christian School;
  • Kenneth Job from Fresno, a graduate of Buchanan High School;
  • Mandeep (Mandy) Sidhu from Bakersfield, a graduate of Centennial High School;
  • Monique Atwal from Selma, a graduate of Sunnyside High School and the UCSF Fresno Doctors Academy;
  • Neetu Malhi from Fresno, a graduate of Central High School East Campus; and
  • Stephanie Melchor from Visalia, a graduate of El Diamante High School.

Driven by students and with strong community support, REACH enables community members, future health professionals, and practicing physicians the chance to work together to voice and develop ideals for a healthier lifestyle in the Valley while obtaining a deeper understanding and sense of pride for the region. The program started this year in mid-May and wraps up Friday, June 10 with a dinner and presentation from the students on what they’ve learned over the past month.

I chose to enroll in SJV PRIME to learn more about specific needs and appropriate interventions within the Valley that I can implement in my own future practice to improve overall population health outcomes,” Melchor said. “By participating in REACH SJV this summer, I have begun my medical education in my home — the Valley — and have enhanced my clinical skills with doctors from Fowler to Merced while I learn more about community medicine and mentor HCOP students. I eventually plan on returning to the San Joaquin Valley to practice primary care for these deserving communities.”