The Journey Here
Getting to UCSF was not easy.
I took the 122 from my home to Stonestown, where I hopped on the M to get to Laguna Honda. There, I waited for the 43 to bring me to Parnassus. It was the summer of 2008 and I was a rising high school junior, participating in Program for Investigation and Training for Careers in Health (PITCH) at UCSF.
PITCH is organized by the UCSF Early Academic Outreach Program to enable high school students explore higher education opportunities and careers in healthcare under the guidance of UCSF professional school students.
Most of my memories from the three-week program have escaped me by now. We must have also sutured bananas as I have a picture of two poorly stitched up pieces of the fruit as a reminder. And I vaguely remember searching for colleges and preparing resumes.
But what I vividly remember is our research project on the interdisciplinary care for patients with diabetes, which culminated into a group presentation in front of our families and counselors at the closing ceremony.
While practicing my presentation skills was useful, the biggest reward came from sharing a moment with my family, none of whom work in the healthcare. My parents were there to support me regardless of how well they could understand my presentation.
PITCH did not provide me with much concrete medical knowledge that I could retain. It did better — it showed me how supportive my family is and introduced me to an equally encouraging community.
Now, nine years later, I am studying about diabetes at UCSF again. This time, I am doing so as a medical student on my path to becoming a physician, just as PITCH had encouraged me to explore.
The effectiveness of a short-term outreach program in increasing the diversity of medical students remains unclear. Numerous studies have shown promising results. However there may be a participant section bias in which motivated high school students are more likely to stay in such programs than their less motivated counterparts.
While I do not have hard evidence to add to the debate, I do have this personal anecdote and gratitude to share. No banana suture singlehandedly piqued my interest in medicine. Rather, I am a fortunate beneficiary of a series of outreach efforts that started with PITCH and continued throughout college.
Through PITCH, UCSF was no longer a place high up on the hill where I only visited when I needed help as a patient. It became a place where I was welcomed — where I could learn and contribute.