Category Archives: Summer Medical and Dental Education Program

Dec 19 2014
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Disparities, Resilience, and Building a Culture of Health

Scholars Forum 2014 Logo

On December 5, 2014, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) held its first Scholars Forum: Disparities, Resilience, and Building a Culture of Health. It was a dynamic event that drew a standing-room-only audience in Washington, D.C. Following the conversation, the Human Capital Blog asked six participants to answer the question, What do you think is the most important step the country can take now to make progress in reducing disparities?

Gloria Sanchez, MD 
Alumna, RWJF Summer Medical and Dental Education Program

Gloria Sanchez

“The United States has the ability to reduce disparities, but we need a movement that creates neighborhoods that provide sound and affordable nutrition, safe environments to exercise, and supportive communities that are free of pollution. Initiatives should guarantee that those individuals most afflicted by disparities are engaged in re-inventing their communities through assessments and interventions that truly create sustainable, positive change.

“Our nation can overcome the multitude of disparities that afflict so many. With directed resources, research, compassion, and community involvement, there is no doubt we will achieve equality.”

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Dec 18 2014
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The Front Line of Medicine

For the 25th anniversary of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF) Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP), the Human Capital Blog is publishing scholar profiles, some reprinted from the program’s website. SMDEP is a six-week academic enrichment program that has created a pathway for more than 22,000 participants, opening the doors to life-changing opportunities. Following is a profile of Juan Jose Ferreris, MD, a member of the Class of 1989.

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.’

The words of abolitionist Frederick Douglass resonate for Juan Jose Ferreris, a pediatrician and assistant clinical adjunct professor at University of Texas Health Science Center. He sees a straight line between the public funds allocated for children’s care and their well-being as adults.

“Kids receive less than 20 cents of every health care dollar. Meanwhile, 80 percent goes to adult end-of-life care. Why aren’t we spending those funds on people when they’re young, when it could make a genuine difference?”

Ferreris contends that money also shapes health in less obvious ways. Salaries of primary care physicians are well below those of more “glamorous” specialists. Some fledgling MDs, burdened with medical school debt, reason that they can’t afford not to specialize. Consequently, he says, only 3 percent of medical students choose primary care.

For Ferreris, who is both humbled and inspired by his young patients, building a Culture of Health necessitates recalibrating priorities.

“Nobody’s concentrating on the whole; they’re only looking at one part. And they’re not paying attention to the human—the brain, the spirit, the soul.

“We overlook that aspect...but it’s where I believe the primary care doctor has irreplaceable value.”

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Dec 9 2014
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Rare Mettle

For the 25th anniversary of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF) Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP), the Human Capital Blog is publishing scholar profiles, some reprinted from the program’s website. SMDEP is a six-week academic enrichment program that has created a pathway for more than 22,000 participants, opening the doors to life-changing opportunities. Following is a profile of Rachel Torrez, MD, a member of the Class of 1990.

Rachel Torrez

The year was 1992. Rachel Torrez, a second-year medical student, was in line waiting for coffee at the University of Washington when a White male student confronted her.

“You took my best friend’s spot because of quotas,” he sneered.

The granddaughter of Mexican migrant workers, Torrez enrolled at a time when students of color were few and some people—especially in Washington state—were questioning the fairness of affirmative action. Clarence Thomas, an outspoken opponent of affirmation action, had recently joined the Supreme Court.

“We don’t have quotas,” Torrez shot back. “I took your best friend’s spot because I was smarter.”

That mix of brains and backbone is characteristic of Torrez, who conquered severe dyslexia and cultural constraints on her way to an MD. Now a family-practice physician in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, Torrez gives as good as she gets.

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Dec 4 2014
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The Transformative Power of Mentors

Alden M. Landry, MD, MPH, is an emergency medicine physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and an alumnus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Summer Medical and Dental Education Program. Landry, 32, is also co-director of Tour for Diversity in Medicine. On December 5, he will be a panelist when RWJF holds its first Scholars Forum: Disparities, Resilience, and Building a Culture of Health. Learn more.

Alden Landry, MD, MPH

Tour for Diversity in Medicine (T4D) is a grassroots effort to educate, inspire, and cultivate future physicians and dentists of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds by forming local connections in order to fulfill a national need.  Our concept is simple: Visit students on their home turf; motivate them by introducing them to young, enthusiastic physicians and dentists; and give them the information that they need to be successful. 

Scholars Forum 2014 Logo

We carefully select mentors based on not only their roles in medicine and dentistry but how they got there. Our mentors are the first in their families to have attended college. Some are first-generation U.S. citizens. They come from single-family homes or families where they are the first to enter a career in medicine. They are gay and straight, married and single. They are passionate about their communities and their careers.

Our mentors do have one thing in common: we intentionally select mentors who are young in their careers and recent to the journey.

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Nov 18 2014
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On Balance and Contrast

For the 25th anniversary of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP), the Human Capital Blog is publishing scholar profiles, some reprinted from the program’s website. SMDEP is a six-week academic enrichment program that has created a pathway for more than 22,000 participants, opening the doors to life-changing opportunities. Following is a profile of Nicole Stern, MD, member of the class of 1991.

Nicole Stern, MD Nicole Stern, MD

First, there’s her heritage: her father is Jewish, her mother full-blooded Mescalero Apache. Then there’s her training: Stern is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine. And as a woman practicing sports medicine, she is an uncommon presence in a male-dominated profession.

“I certainly have a lot of dual things in my life,” she muses.

Stern’s cultural background gives her a unique vantage point on health care, particularly the disproportionate number of Native versus non-Native practitioners. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, American Indians represent less than 1 percent of physicians.

As president of the Association of American Indian Physicians (AAIP) from 2012 to 2013, Stern pushed to increase the pipeline of American Indian and Alaska Native medical students. She continues to support AAIP in reversing what she calls a “flatline” in applicants and matriculants from Native populations.

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Nov 3 2014
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Achieving Impossible Dreams

For the 25th anniversary of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP), the Human Capital Blog is publishing scholar profiles, some reprinted from the program’s website. SMDEP is a six-week academic enrichment program that has created a pathway for more than 22,000 participants, opening the doors to life-changing opportunities. Following is a profile of Gloria Sanchez, MD, a member of the 1993 class.

Gloria Sanchez, MD Gloria Sanchez, MD

Can a person thrive in a community ravaged by poverty? Are seemingly impossible dreams attainable?

Gloria Sanchez, MD, grapples with these questions every day, both in her medical practice and while teaching aspiring physicians.

Sanchez is associate program director of the Department of Family Medicine at Harbor–UCLA Medical Center, a publicly funded hospital in Los Angeles. She also oversees UCLA’s PRIME MSIII Primary Care Longitudinal course, which trains medical students to be medical leaders in underserved communities.

The lives of patients Sanchez treats are shaped by social determinants of health—forces that dictate poor health outcomes based on ZIP code more than genetic code. Where you live, work, and play has a profound effect on individual, family, and community health, she says.

“How can someone who doesn’t have a level playing field still attain their goals?” she asks, citing research showing that the stress of social and economic disadvantage contributes to chronic disease. “Poverty can literally change your brain, and your health.”

Noting that Harbor–UCLA Family Medicine’s mission is to advocate for disenfranchised populations, Sanchez says, “That’s why I entered medicine. It may sound impossible, but I’m here to help people attain good health so they can achieve their dreams.”

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Oct 14 2014
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Crusader Against Cancer

For the 25th anniversary of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP), the Human Capital Blog is publishing scholar profiles, some reprinted from the program’s website. SMDEP is a six-week academic enrichment program that has created a pathway for more than 22,000 participants, opening the doors to life-changing opportunities. Following is a profile of Jacqueline Barrientos, MD, a member of the 1994 class.

Jacqueline Barrientos Jacqueline Barrientos, MD

As far back as Ancient Egypt, cancer has frustrated medical practice. Papyri written around 1600 BC describe various cases, with one concluding that “there is no treatment.”

But there’s hope for patients diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)—a cancer that attacks the blood and bone marrow—thanks to Jacqueline Barrientos, MD, who isn’t intimidated by the history surrounding the disease.

She’s busy helping to rewrite it.

Barrientos is part of a team researching new CLL therapies at the North Shore-LIJ Cancer Institute’s CLL Research and Treatment Center on Long Island. In clinical trials, the pioneering drug treatments produced unprecedented results—considerably better than those achieved with chemotherapy, and minus the brutal side effects.

“We’ve never seen response rates like this before,” says Barrientos. “It’s astonishing.” When the FDA approved the use of the new treatments earlier this year, she and her team were elated. “We’re giving life to patients who once had no hope of surviving because the cancer was so aggressive.”

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Sep 19 2014
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An American in Africa

For the 25th anniversary of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP), the Human Capital Blog is publishing scholar profiles, some reprinted from the program’s website. SMDEP is a six-week academic enrichment program that has created a pathway for more than 22,000 participants, opening the doors to life-changing opportunities. Following is a profile of Sam Willis, MD, a member of the 1995 class.

Sam Willis

After completing medical school, Sam Willis decided his residency could wait. He wanted to see the world.

So he joined the Peace Corps and spent two years working as a health volunteer in Burkina Faso, one of Africa’s poorest countries. Living among the Burkinabé, in a mud-and-brick house with no running water, Willis learned the native language along with French. Every day, he hauled water back from a well so he could take a bath outdoors.

He talked to the villagers about sanitation, HIV/AIDS prevention, and ways to fight malnutrition. He helped set up a food bank to tide residents over during the summer dry seasons, when the rains stopped and they couldn’t plant crops.

When he came back to the United States, it was with a different worldview.

“Learning to speak another language opened up my mind to understanding how the world works,” says Willis, who today is an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine and practices family medicine in Houston, Texas, treating patients from disadvantaged communities.

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Sep 8 2014
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Field of Dreams

“In the NFL, you have to be ready for everything,” says Lutul Farrow, MD.

He should know: For more than three years, the orthopedic surgeon was a member of the medical staff for his hometown Cleveland Browns. With Farrow on the sidelines were a nonsurgical sports medicine doctor and an anesthesiologist; in the stands were a paramedic and a dentist. “That was just for our team,” he says.

Farrow currently works with the Yellow Jackets, a Division III team at his college alma mater, Baldwin Wallace University. Because football requires physician coverage at every game, he travels with the Yellow Jackets to games throughout the Ohio Athletic Conference. He’s also the head team physician for the Brunswick High School Blue Devils.

On game day, he has a field-level view of every play—and every injury. “We mostly see strains and sprains,” he says, including hamstring pulls, ankle sprains, and ligament sprains of the knee.

Farrow predicts that the current attention to concussions—most recently the NCAA’s settlement of a class-action lawsuit brought by former college players—will change the way the game is played.

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Jun 23 2014
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RWJF Milestones, June 2014

The following are among the many honors received recently by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, grantees and alumni:

Emery Brown, MD, PhD, an alumnus of the Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program has been elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipient James Perrin, PhD, is the new president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He took office on January 1, 2014, beginning a one-year term.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has named Deborah E. Trautman, PhD, RN, as its new chief executive officer, effective June 16. Trautman, an RWJF Health Policy Fellows program alumna, currently serves as executive director of the Center for Health Policy and Healthcare Transformation at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The American College of Physicians (ACP), the nation’s largest medical specialty organization, has voted Wayne Riley, MD, MPH, MBA, its president-elect. Riley is a former RWJF senior health policy associate.

Kenneth B. Chance, Sr., D.D.S. has been appointed dean of the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine and will begin his duties on July 1, 2014. He is an alumnus of the RWJF Health Policy Fellows program, and served on its national advisory committee. His is a current member of the national advisory committee of the RWJF Summer Medical and Dental Education Program.

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