UC Merced sees its first medical students

MERCED, Calif.

Sidra Ayub and four others are the first students to enroll in the UC Merced San Joaquin Valley Program in Medical Education.

Christina Thabit said, "We're from the Valley and want to stay in the Valley."

And they just arrived this week to begin a weeklong orientation where they'll visit rural clinics and shadow Valley physicians.

Thabit said, "I thought medicine was out of my reach, too far, too big, something I couldn't accomplish."

Now the five classmates are part of a unique curriculum with UC Davis and UC San Francisco's campus in Fresno - specifically designed to serve the needs of the San Joaquin Valley.

Donald Hilty, San Joaquin Valley PRIME Co-Director said, "They get to know people and community organizations they'll later be serving."

The students were selected from about 150 applications - mostly from the Valley. They'll spend their first two years of the medical education program at the UC Davis campus in Sacramento. During their third and fourth years, they'll conduct clinical rotations at Valley hospitals. The students say they're excited to work near their home towns and give back to the valley's underserved communities.

Kelly Fujikawa said, "I was born and raised in Fowler, California which is near Fresno. I went away to college, but always intended to come back and practice."

Thabit said, "This program makes it easier to know what the problems are and how to best attack them."

Each student will get a $10 thousand scholarship. And while a $5 million donation from the United Health Foundation is helping fund the program, Co-Director Donald Hilty said, "The ultimate goal is for UC Merced to build a medical school, but that takes a long time."

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