UCSF Fresno creates internship program to diversify healthcare workforce

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- UCSF Fresno is working to increase the Valley's diversity in healthcare.

The Department of Surgery selected six Central California students who come from groups traditionally underrepresented in medicine to be part of its new Pre-Medical Surgical Internship (PSI) program.

The program's goal is to prepare current pre-med students, such as Karina Peterson, to get accepted into medical school successfully.

"These people that I'm surrounded with, that I'm working with, that are providing the resources -- have proved to me that it's possible," Peterson said.

Peterson works and goes to school.

She said it's a lot to carry, especially coming from a low-income family.

"When you come from a background that doesn't have people that look like you that are going the path of becoming a doctor, you don't really know which way to go," said Peterson.

The internship includes preparation for the Medical College Admission Test, sessions on health equity and disparities, skills labs and clinical experiences in all areas of surgery. The interns are learning from doctors and program residents.

"All these things are, step-wise, in a fashion to provide mentorship and guidance for our interns," explained Dr. Eckroth Bernard, with the UCSF Fresno internship program.

The internship helps pay for the interns' application to medical school, which can be a barrier for those in underrepresented communities.

"You don't have the funds to pay for things such as prep courses for the MCAT," said Peterson.

UCSF Fresno hopes this group of diverse students comes back to serve the Central Valley to better patient care.

"When patients are being taken care of by physicians that actually look like them, they tend to follow the rules a little bit more," said Dr. Bernard. "They tend to be more compliant when it comes to taking their medications. They tend to trust what their physician is saying to them, and they tend to have better outcomes with their disease processes."

The seven-month internship program ends in May. The school hopes to welcome more new classes in the future.
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