FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- California has launched a new pre-medical pathway program for community college students.
UCSF Fresno is one of only four medical schools in the state participating in the California Medicine Scholars Program.
Students from 14 community colleges around the Valley can apply for the program and must meet certain requirements. If accepted, they won't automatically be admitted to medical school, but through the program's additional support, UCSF Fresno officials said students will have a better opportunity to get in.
"They're not coming from these powerhouse high schools that some of the other schools traditionally recruit from, but that doesn't mean they're any less qualified to become physicians in the Valley," said Dr. Kenny Banh.
For the past two years, Dr. Banh has been at the forefront in the Central Valley's fight against COVID-19. He is still leading UCSF Fresno's COVID Equity Project, all while overseeing the school's undergrad programs of medical education.
"I get to do a job I've dreamed about doing, truthfully," he shared.
Dr. Bahn said the journey to get to where he is today wasn't an easy one.
"My parents are a family of refugees. Nobody came through the college system," he said. "I had nobody in medicine."
Dr. Banh faced many barriers. Medical school was expensive. He had no guidance on how to apply.
Those are among the same barriers many community college students from underserved communities still face.
However, through the California Medicine Scholars Program, students will get the support Dr. Banh said he wish he had.
"We'll be giving them guidance. We'll be giving them counseling. We'll be helping them with their applications. We'll be providing resources for academic support," he explained.
The goal is to diversify the healthcare workforce in the Valley, which is already experiencing a physician shortage.
"Doctors who come from the same backgrounds as their patients do better. They trust them more," said Dr. Banh.
The State of California will give UCSF Fresno $1.6 million for three years, then $250,000 for the fourth year -- to support the pathway effort.
After four years, UCSF Fresno hopes to receive more funding to reach more students.
UC Davis School of Medicine, UC Riverside School of Medicine and UC San Diego School of Medicine also will serve as regional hubs for the new state-funded program.