Prep Médico, an innovative partnership program of UC Davis Health, Kaiser Permanente and The Permanente Medical Group to boost the number of doctors who care for Latinx communities in California, was recently honored with a Quetzal Award from the Latino Leadership Council.
A regional nonprofit that connects Spanish-speaking communities in Sacramento and Placer counties with health, education and youth services, the Latino Leadership Council presented the award at its 6th Annual Forum on the Latino Community on Sept. 11.
“Like the namesake bird, recipients of the Quetzal Award are often hidden in the background but beautiful and life-changing in their effect,” said Elisa Herrera, executive director of the Latino Leadership Council. “For its tremendous impact on participants and in the health field, we are proud to bestow this honor on Prep Médico.”
The program, which introduces undergraduate and community college students to opportunities in medical professions through a six-week summer program at UC Davis Health and Kaiser Permanente locations, is intended to inspire and empower the next generation of care providers in underserved Latinx communities.
“UC Davis is committed to serving the health of California’s diverse community, and Prep Médico is an important part of that promise,” said Hendry Ton, interim associate vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion at UC Davis Health.
Thus far, 175 students have completed the program, which just graduated its fourth cohort in July. By opening a pathway for young people to embark on a medical career, Prep Médico (short for Preparando Estudiantes Para Ser Médicos, or Preparing Students to Be Physicians) fulfills the central criterion for the Quetzal Award – a demonstrated commitment to engaging with and improving the wellness of the Latino community. The program was nominated for the award by a group of participants in the third cohort.
“In its first four years, Prep Médico has worked with our community partners to advocate for educational and health equity for the Latino community,” said Mercedes Piedra, Prep Médico director and director of multicultural education in the Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. “This award signifies the positive, system-level impact we are having on the individuals and communities we serve.”
That ripple effect across Latinx populations is one hallmark of the program, said Jorge Garcia, Prep Médico assistant director and health sciences clinical professor of internal medicine.
“To have our efforts recognized by the Latino Leadership Council is, of course, a truly exciting and tremendous honor,” Garcia said. “From the very beginning, our hope for Prep Médico was that it would change lives – starting with the lives of our scholars and culminating with the many lives they will impact as health professionals in their local communities and beyond.”
Indeed, the students’ potential impact extends outside of the clinical setting. Piedra notes that Prep Médico also cultivates broader leadership skills in the scholar-advocates, so they become catalysts for systemic change in their communities.
Their influence will only grow as Navigating Your Path into Medicine – the introductory component of Prep Médico – expands from 45 to 60 students in each cohort, and the capacity of the program continues to grow and evolve.
“Our ongoing task is to stay in contact with our scholars to ensure their success,” Piedra said. “Currently we have a number of scholars studying for their MCATs, along with others applying to medical schools across the nation.”
And wherever they end up, they will carry with them the lessons of the program that helped them begin their journey.
“They leave with a deep appreciation for the power of teamwork and community, and a ‘can-do’ belief that they will be able to successfully pursue a career as a physician or other health care professional,” Garcia said.