FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A dozen motivated Central Valley students are starting their medical school journey at UCSF Fresno, with plans to return and serve as physicians in the community they call home.
First-year medical student Vanessa Mora knew from an early age she wanted to be a doctor.
"My parents were migrant farmworkers, so I got to see a lot of the inequities they faced being uninsured and low-income," said Mora.
Born and raised in Fowler, she knew her medical journey wouldn't be complete without serving in the Central Valley.
"If I run away from this and I don't go back to make a difference. How can I expect others to do the same?" said Mora.
That's when she set her sights on the UCSF San Joaquin Valley Program in Medical Education or SJV Prime.
"The goal is to bring students like myself, who have connections to the Valley back so we can help our community," explained Mora.
It wasn't easy. Mora says she applied to medical school three times before finally being accepted at her dream school.
"It was a match made in heaven because UCSF was already the dream institution where I wanted to go, and the program that aligned with my values was there," added Mora.
SJV Prime trains students for a medical career right here in the valley.
"There's really an impending health crisis in the Valley," explained Dr. Leticia Rolon, Associate Director of SJV Prime. "There's a very low patient to M.D. ratio."
"We have a lot of doctors that are retiring, a lot of doctors who are leaving the area, and we don't have a lot of doctors coming in," continued Rolon.
A dozen students are part of this year's cohorts, learning their trade mostly from a laptop due to COVID-19 restrictions.
"We have things like simulations and videos, but it's not the same," said Rolon.
"This is not how I expected to start medical school, but this is just for now, and I'll be in school for a very long time," said Mora.
As for Mora, she hopes her medical career will take her full circle, and she may one day work for UCSF Fresno.
Central Valley students start journey to become physicians at UCSF Fresno
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