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‘From the Valley, For the Valley’: Local Students Start Training at UCSF to Become Physicians for the Region

August 19, 2020
The newest cohort of students participating in SJV PRIME.

The San Joaquin Valley has a shortage of doctors, but students such as Kyle Shen (’18) aim to change that by attending a tailored track at UCSF’s medical school specifically designed to address this problem.

Shen is one of 12 recently admitted to the newest cohort of students in the UCSF San Joaquin Valley Program in Medical Education, or SJV PRIME. SJV PRIME is for medical students who are committed to ensuring high-quality, culturally appropriate, and accessible medical care to improve health for individuals and communities in the Valley.

 “I care very much about my hometown, and this program aligns with what I would like to achieve in the future,”said Shen, who graduated from UC Merced with a degree in biological sciences with an emphasis in molecular and cell biology. “Starting this fall has its challenges because of COVID-19, but I’m excited to finally start medical school.”

A Merced native, Shen saw first-hand how the physician shortage affected his friends and family, which spurred his interest in pursuing medicine. He volunteered in a local hospital’s intensive care unit in high school and college and plans to practice medicine in Merced upon the completion of his program.

Besides bringing more doctors to the Valley, SJV PRIME’s goals include diversifying the workforce with people who understand the communities they are serving. Fifty percent of SJV PRIME students come from backgrounds underrepresented in medicine and 42 percent are the first in their families to graduate from college.

The Valley has one of the lowest ratios of practicing doctors in California and the COVID-19 pandemic underscores the need for more physicians, physician leaders and physician change makers in the region, especially those who come from the diverse communities they serve.

As part of their introduction to the program, incoming students participate in ARISE, or Advance Regional Information: Summer Education. ARISE exposes students to various activities with community partners and initiatives to address health disparities and research unique to the Valley. Community participants include the Fresno County Health Improvement Partnership, Black Infant Mortality Group, Merced-based health educational center Healthy House and local physicians, among others. While ARISE took place virtually due to COVID-19, students were still able to connect with UC Merced faculty and learn about health-related research.

The SJV PRIME Matriculating Class of 2020 is composed of students from a range of Valley towns, including Fresno, Selma, Clovis, Turlock, Merced, Fowler, Reedley and Patterson.

SJV PRIME represents the sixth program in the University of California’s Programs in Medical Education. It was established in 2010 as a partnership among the UC Davis School of Medicine, UC Merced, UCSF Fresno and the UCSF School of Medicine.

Find out more about SJV PRIME here.