Fresno

Growing your own doctors in the Valley

After four years in the UCSF Fresno Doctors Academy program at Selma High School, graduating student Natalia Martínez, right, is heading to CSU Bakersfield to pursue a career in nursing.
After four years in the UCSF Fresno Doctors Academy program at Selma High School, graduating student Natalia Martínez, right, is heading to CSU Bakersfield to pursue a career in nursing. mortizbriones@vidaenelvalle.com

After four years in the UCSF Fresno Doctors Academy program at Selma High School, graduating student Natalia Martínez is heading to CSU Bakersfield to pursue a career in nursing.

“Doctors Academy isn’t just an academic elective or a program for students interested in medicine, it’s a place to call home,” said Martínez as she delivered the senior address in Spanish. “Doctors Academy has given us many things, whether it be study skills, tutoring, college trips or friends.”

The Doctors Academy program was launched in 1999 at Sunnyside High School and later expanded to Caruthers and Selma high schools in 2007.

Dr. Katherine A. Flores, director of the UCSF Fresno Latino Center for Medical Education and Research, said the Valley is in dare need for health care providers and one of the goals of the program is to plan the seed to grow their own doctors who will come back to the Valley to serve their community.

“Beyond the need for provides, we have a need for provides who can speak the different languages and who can speak the languages of the community,” Flores said.

Flores said many people in the Valley live in poverty and are covered under Medical, which means many physicians don’t accept their insurance coverage.

“It’s a struggle for those patients to see somebody,” Flores said, adding that the program tries to show students that it is important to become a healthcare professional who remembers “what is like to come from Selma and to return to communities like Selma.”

Martínez was one of the 20 students in Selma that graduated this year on May 8 during an awards ceremony. Caruthers graduation will take place on May 16 while Sunnyside will be held on May 22.

The 18-year-old said she got inspired to become a nurse after her internship at Fresno’s Community Regional Medical Center where she got the opportunity to shadow a nurse and see the work they do with patients.

“I got to see what she does on the daily basis, every day is different and that is what I loved,” Martínez said, adding that she was always exited to go to her internship every morning.

Martínez would be the first one in her family to go to college.

The program, which is run through the Latino Center for Medical Education and Research at UCSF Fresno, also have the Junior Doctors Academy program at four middle schools in the county - Kings Canyon, Sequoia, Terrónez and Caruthers Elementary.

For the past 20 years, the Doctors Academy program has aspired to nurture the development of future doctors and allied health professionals who can deliver culturally sensitive and appropriate health services to the ethnically diverse population of Fresno County.

Martínez’ classmate Jessie Contreras delivered the senior address in English while Harjot Kaur and Kiran Mehmit did in Punjabi.

Recalling many memories and experiences as a class of 2019, Contreras said, “we really learned how to come together as a family.”

The Doctors Academy is a challenging school-within-a school program at Caruthers, Selma and Sunnyside high schools for students interested in health professional careers. The program provides extended academic, personal, and career counseling as well as test preparation.

Doctors Academy provides a supportive and academically rigorous education pipeline program for students from disadvantaged and underrepresented backgrounds.

The Doctors Academy includes summer school enrichment programs; rigorous accelerated classes with an emphasis on math, science and writing; weekly tutorial support from current college students; Study academies and workshops; special counseling and support services; parent empowerment workshops; medical or health practitioner mentors; clinical placement in medical, science or health settings.

María G. Ortiz-Briones: 559-441-6782, @TuValleTuSalud

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