Meet two of this year’s UC Davis School of Medicine Alumni Association Scholarship recipients who are working to close gaps in culturally competent care.

Each year since 1988 the UC Davis School of Medicine Alumni Association has awarded surprise scholarships to several incoming first-year medical students. The meaningful support reflected in the generosity of alumni donors inspires and motivates recipients immeasurably as they embark on the rigorous but rewarding medical education ahead.

Recipients Daisy Manzo and Jose Acosta participate in the SJV-PRIME program, a tailored clinical track for students committed to improving health in California’s San Joaquin Valley.

Daisy Manzo

Daisy Manzo

Daisy Manzo grew up in the dangerous south side of Modesto, California, amidst the sounds of periodic gunshots and a pervasive sense of danger. Largely unsupervised, she cared for and helped to raise her young siblings, took on the household chores and worked to offer financial support to her family.

Her exposure to medicine began as early as the second grade, when Daisy found herself being pulled out of school often in order to accompany myriad family members and family friends to their doctor visits. She served the vital role of medical translator, as finding care from a physician who spoke Spanish was nearly impossible. These exchanges exposed and educated Daisy about the limited access to care that her community faced and the chronic illnesses, including diabetes, common among those coming from Mexico.

Years later as a high school student, when Daisy accompanied a friend to her hospital appointment, she was stunned by the amenities, lack of wait lines, and convenient access to labs and pharmacies under one roof. “Once I looked beyond my own community, I realized what I was missing,” she said.

Daisy’s journey to medicine was not an intuitive one. She was the only member of her family to go to college, and at the time, she wasn’t aware she would have to go to medical school after earning a four-year degree in order to be a physician. She learned entirely through trial and error, with one-in-a-million odds of landing where she is today.

Jose Acosta

Jose Acosta

Jose Acosta grew up in San Joaquin, California in Fresno County, at the time a predominately Hispanic farmworker town of about 2,000. “There were a lot of things lacking,” he recalled. Access to education was limited, and students would have to travel half an hour to attend high school. Food was scarce, evident by only a single grocery store. And in a gap that especially stood out to Acosta, health care access was non-existent within an hour’s drive.

An advocate and mentor, Jose’s grandfather, was a hardworking farmer who taught Jose that, “True strength isn’t what is often suggested in Hispanic culture – to not show emotion, or to simply work hard – but in having an education.”

Naturally drawn to science subjects in school, and encouraged to further his education by family, Jose soon embraced the goal of becoming a physician. His family moved to a nearby town to be close to a high school. Jose excelled in the sciences and graduated as valedictorian. He attended CSU Fresno to stay close to the community he wanted to serve.

Jose has acted as the medical scribe for members of his family, translating for the doctor to the patient. He remembers translating what appeared to be stomach cancer on a patient’s CT scan – the same diagnosis that took his grandfather’s life – and has since held a guiding principle to remember to “treat the patient as person, and not as a disease.”