Mentoring Future Doctors in Fresno

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Seven Doctors Academy students are job-shadowing Kaiser Permanente physicians as part of a program aimed at supporting the development of doctors and health care professionals from diverse and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Pictured above, Brian Sherman, MD, with Emmanuel Mendez.

Emmanuel Mendez admits his first day working in the Critical Care Unit at Kaiser Permanente Fresno was a bit overwhelming.

Brian Sherman, MD, shows student Emmanuel Mendez how an echocardiogram machine works.

At just 16-years-old, Mendez said he had never been exposed to critically ill patients before, and had no idea what he was in for when he signed up for a six-week summer internship program through the University of California San Francisco Fresno Doctors Academy program.

“I didn’t know what to expect and it was scary that first day,” said Mendez as he put on a gown before recently entering a patient’s room in the Critical Care Unit to view a procedure. “It was a lot to take in.”

Mendez is one of seven Doctors Academy students from Fresno-area high schools who are job-shadowing pediatricians, surgeons, pathologists, and Critical Care physicians at Kaiser Permanente Fresno.

The Doctors Academy program, which started at Fresno’s Sunnyside High School in 1999, is a program for students interested in careers in medicine and the healthcare profession. The program also is offered at Fresno’s Caruthers and Selma high schools.

First-Hand Exposure to Careers in Medicine

This year, Kaiser Permanente gave a $75,000 regional Community Benefit grant to the UCSF Latino Center for Medical Education and Research to fund part of the Doctors Academy health careers pathway program. The funding will also support other clinical, research, and community internships to economically disadvantaged, and under-represented high school and college students in Fresno County.

Doctors Academy student Genesis Benavides, 16, listens to patient Mason Chastagner’s heart during a recent visit to the Pediatrics department in Clovis.

Students such as Mendez likely wouldn’t have the first-hand exposure to medicine in high school if not for the Doctors Academy program and partnerships with hospitals like Kaiser Permanente Fresno, said Katherine Flores, MD, director of the UCSF Latino Center for Medical Education and Research.

“We are extremely grateful to Kaiser Permanente Fresno for exposing our students to careers in medicine,” Flores said.

Critical Care physician Brian Sherman, MD, said he enjoys working alongside young people, like Mendez, because it gives students the opportunity to see first-hand what a career in medicine entails.

In his first week in CCU, Mendez saw catheters inserted into dialysis patients, an ultrasound of a heart and lungs, and he met with pharmacists and emergency medicine physicians to get a better understanding of the integrated system of care Kaiser Permanente provides.

“It’s really a great opportunity for students who don’t have the financial and social means to get exposure to the medical field,” Dr. Sherman said.

Supporting Students from Disadvantaged Backgrounds

Pediatrician Lorraine Lopez, MD, has been a physician-mentor with the Doctors Academy program for ten years and said it’s is a way for her to give back to her community: “I didn’t have a program like this when I was growing up. My parents were farmworkers, so I understand the challenges a lot of these students face.”

Doctors Academy student Genesis Benavides poses with physician-mentor Lorraine Lopez, MD.

Many of the students in the program come from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Some will be the first in their families to graduate from high school and attend college.

Genesis Benavides, 16, said she’s always been interested in pursuing a career in medicine; she just isn’t sure if she wants to be a doctor or a nurse. She is spending time working alongside some of the pediatricians in Kaiser Permanente’s Clovis Medical Office and said she’s getting to interact with patients and observe procedures.

She was thrilled to be partnered with Dr. Lopez on a recent day because she used to be her pediatrician: “When they told me I would be shadowing her, I said, ‘Wow she used to be my doctor’.”

Prateek Basraon, 16, also is working in the Clovis Pediatrics department and said he’s learning something new every day.

“It’s been a great learning experience for me,” said Basraon. “I’m getting to see something different every day. I’m really enjoying it.

Discussion5 Comments

  1. Such an AWESOME opportunity for students interested in the medical field to have this exposure at a young age. A true example of how a positive experience can have the potential to change the future of an entire community dynamic.

  2. So happy to see this all happen for our kids. I have a 4-year-old who wants to be a doctor. I hope I can talk Dr. Amit Saini in Fresno into become a teaching doctor. He is to me the best doctor in the world…

  3. Rachelle Valenzuela

    Makes me so proud to know that KP is providing this wonderful opportunity for the high school students and more importantly that these Latino students are interested in health care careers. Viva KP!!

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