california, Health Research

Kaiser Permanente joins San Joaquin Medical Society in giving students an interactive look at the medical field and increase the number of minority physicians.


MODESTO, CA— Local high school students considering a career in healthcare visited Kaiser Permanente in Modesto and experienced firsthand what is like to work at a hospital through the program “Decision Medicine” on Thursday, July 19.

Launched in 2001 through a partnership of Kaiser Permanente and the San Joaquin Medical Society, “Decision Medicine” is a two-week program designed to introduce students to the field of medicine through personal mentoring and visits to regional hospitals.

Decision Medicine participants witness an emergency drill in the simulated labor and delivery of a baby using simulation manikins which are used at Kaiser Permanente

The goal is to motivate young students to become physicians with the hope that they return to San Joaquin County or Stanislaus County and establish their practices.

“It lets them (the students) realize they could be a physician after hearing people talk and share their experiences,” said Nikki West, Deputy Director of the San Joaquin Medical Society. “We strive very hard through the application process to have a diverse representation of the Central Valley.”

But current physician workforce is a far way from reflecting the diversity of the general population.

As more patients from underserved populations start to enter the healthcare system through healthcare reform, there will be an increasing need to have more African-American and Latino physicians to help provide quality health care.

“Kaiser Permanente understands the importance of having a healthcare workforce that will reflect the diversity of our ever-evolving population,” said Yvette Radford, with the Community Affairs division at Kaiser. “We recognize that there are insufficient numbers of African-American and Latino medical students, and our support for National Medical Fellowships is one way to help address this important issue.”

And the trend is slowly changing thanks to local programs and people like Vanessa Armendariz, a “Decision Medicine” alumnus from 2005.

Kaiser Permanente Central Valley President and Area Manager Corwin Harper spent time talking with the Decision Medicine participants.

“I saw physicians who were like me. They were a woman or Hispanic. I went through the program, was motivated. I graduated valedictorian and got a full ride scholarship to Johns Hopkins,” said Armendariz as she talked about her experience going through the program.

Stories and people like Armendariz inspiring young students like Vanessa Briseno, a 17 year old from Tracy High School.
“I have seen what it’s really like in a hospital, how doctors go about their day. It’s very interesting,” said Briseno. “People feel more comfortable with someone who speaks their language, someone they can relate to. I think it’s important to have diversity in healthcare.”

The greatest skill you need is listening. You need to be able to listen to your patients to serve them, “advised Corwin Harper, Kaiser Permanente Central Valley Area Vice President, during the students’ visit to the facility.

About Dennise Rocha

Journalist with Bilingual Weekly Newspaper

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