Medical Students Train in Valleys Latino Community

July 24, 2009 8:44:08 PM PDT
A group of medical students from Southern California are in the Valley this week. They're here to learn more about the area's Latino population, and their access to quality medical care. The goal is to one day ... as doctors ... make an impact in this underserved community.As doctor Robert Fernandez tends to a young patient ... medical student Bryce Spitze, watches and listens. The future doctor is part of the UC Irvine program in medical education for the Latino community, or Prime-LC.

Prime-LC Director, Dr. Charles Vega said, "We are training not just excellent clinicians for the Latino communities in need, but leaders in those communities as well."

The program provides students with a better understanding of the Latino community and their specific healthcare needs.

Bryce Spitzee said, "Lots of patients won't even come in because they are afraid of the system and they don't really know what to expect and so if you can just break down a barrier here, a barrier there then it makes a big difference in the long run."

Some of those barriers are cultural, such as language-- others are socio-economic and environmental. That's why the group will spend the week working with rural and migrant patients at the United Health Care Center in Parlier.

Wednesday they visited with children at this migrant housing daycare center and taught them about healthy food choices.

Dr. Charles Vega said, "There is so much talk right now about healthcare reform and these are the students who are going to get that whole perspective so they can create change-- lasting, enduring change that means something very positive for these communities."

The program requires an additional year of training for students.

Sergio Figueroa Arragon said, "Exactly the location, I'm not sure where I'll be in 10 years but I know I will definitely be working with an underserved Latino community ... I definitely will."

UC Irvine's Prime-LC works in collaboration with UCSF-Fresno. Doctor Adrianna Padilla hopes that bringing the students here will entice some of them to one day practice in the Valley.

Padilla said, "It's important for us to share or educate the students about what it is about rural health care that is very important, what it is that doctors can give back to this community so they start thinking about this population and hopefully carry it with them during their medical student education."

The medical students also took part in mentoring activities with students from the Doctors Academy at Sunnyside High School. Doctor Vega says every student who participates in the program eventually returns to practice in an underserved Latino community.

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