The California Department of Health Care Access and Information announced $40.8 million in grant awards to 20 organizations that support and encourage students from underrepresented regions and backgrounds to pursue healthcare careers, including Fresno State. 

Fresno State will receive a $2.9 million award over five years, to be issued through the Health Professions Pathways Program. Other California State Universities awarded include California State University, Dominguez Hills ($3.3 million), San Diego State University ($2.5 million), and California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt’s Sponsored Programs Foundation ($498,000).

“The Health Professions Pathways Program will strengthen preexisting relationships and support building new partnerships,” said Lilia DeLaCerda, the principal investigator on the project and director of the Health Careers Opportunity Program at Fresno State. 

Since health professionals are most likely to practice where they graduate or where they grew up, facilitating the successful admission of more Fresno State graduates into health professional programs “is our best available strategy to address health care shortages in the Central Valley,” she said.

Health Professions Pathways Program is one piece of a larger $1.4 billion “Workforce for a Healthy California for All” initiative that aims to tackle workforce shortages in health and human services.

In a tweet on Tuesday, Assemblyman Dr. Joaquin Arambula wrote, “These efforts are helping to build up the healthcare workforce needed in our State and even more so in the Central Valley.” 

Fresno State’s Health Professions Pathways Program will be housed with the campus Health Careers Opportunity Program and will support underrepresented and/or disadvantaged high-school and college-level students from the San Joaquin Valley who aspire to give back to their communities as primary care physicians, dentists, pharmacists, physician assistants, optometrists, chiropractors, clinical lab scientists, clinical psychologist/behavioral health practitioners, podiatrists and public health specialists.

“These residents are among the most medically underserved in the state and …some of the poorest and most economically disadvantaged in the entire nation,” DeLaCerda said. “Our program will emphasize engaging, recruiting, and supporting underrepresented and disadvantaged students interested in pursuing health care careers.”

Current recruitment and academic programs will be enhanced with peer mentoring, test prep, internships, academic advising and health conferences. New internships and additional programs will be established at high schools and community colleges, along with activities to empower Fresno State students to become competitive health professional school applicants.