Bridging the Gap Series : June 2020

Bridging the Gap: A reaffirmation of our commitment to social justice and equity

Introduction from Vice Chancellor Steve Goldstein

The leadership of UCI Health Affairs recently reaffirmed our commitment to social justice and equality. As healthcare providers, racism is contrary to the oaths and moral responsibilities we embrace when we pledge our lives to advancing the health of all people, especially those in vulnerable communities. We also expressed our belief that change requires both speaking out and action.

Today, we begin a series to enunciate why redressing health inequities is an essential foundation of the UCI Health Affairs tripartite mission—DISCOVER, TEACH  and HEAL—and how it drives programming and investments across the Susan and Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences and UCI Health, our health delivery system. This first installment highlights some of the important work in the School of Medicine under the leadership of Dean Michael Stamos, MD.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed painfully, again, the disproportionate harm suffered by minority communities due to health disparities. The high death rates of Blacks infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus are stark reminders of the magnitude of health inequities in America. This is not new information. The Robert Woods Johnson Foundation has shown that the reduced life expectancy in neighborhoods with large black populations can be as high as 30 years, even in adjacent middle-class neighborhoods, and shown these terrifying statistics reflect the places, not the characteristics of the people.

Creating the diverse health care workforce of the future is UCI Health Affairs’ TEACH priority and a goal of the national associations for colleges of nursing and medicine because the value that underrepresented providers bring to the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities is well-established. And yet, health schools struggle to recruit and support underrepresented students.

Khanh-Van Le-Bucklin, MD, MEd, Associate Vice Chancellor of Education and Vice Dean of Medical Education in the School of Medicine offers an essay and podcast on two novel UCI programs she oversees to enroll a diverse class of medical students and to enhance the ability of all graduates to provide comprehensive, high-quality medical care in all communities: the Program in Medical Education for the Latino Community (PRIME-LC) and the Leadership Education to Advance Diversity–African, Black and Caribbean program (LEAD-ABC).

UCI Health Affairs is designed to advance patient-centered, evidence-based integrative health. This is syntonic with health equity because the nature of “integrative” implies the intention to build a healthcare culture that connects all our disciplines, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, population health and allied health occupations to provide team-based, whole person care. Indeed, nothing supersedes the importance of empathy and understanding cultural, racial and gender differences to provide good care.

Each generation has their chance to get it right. As we discover, teach and heal at UCI, we judge ourselves by how we care for all patients, especially the weak and marginalized, and how we support our national declaration that all persons are created equal and endowed with unalienable rights that include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

We have much more to do and a long way to go to achieve equity and inclusion. I commit to you that we will remain intentional in our actions to “bridge the gap”. That requires that we hear from you. What is working? What is broken? Do you have an idea? Please send your thoughts to

UCI Health – A Model for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in Medicine

By Khanh-Van Le-Bucklin, MD, MEd

Listen to UCI Podcast: How UCI went from zero black medical students to 12

When University of California Irvine’s School of Medicine developed the Program in Medical Education for the Latino Community (PRIME-LC) over 15 years ago, we could not have imagined the degree of positive impact it would have for our school and community. Prime-LC is a mission-based program designed to train physicians who are uniquely equipped to address the medical needs of under-resourced Latino communities in Orange County. The first program of its kind in the country, PRIME-LC has recruited talented students from disadvantaged backgrounds and gained national accolades for its actionable commitment to diversity and inclusion. As well, it has helped bring UCI Heath’s hallmark integrative care into underserved communities in alignment with the school’s mission to eliminate health disparities and improve population health.

Given the school’s history of success with PRIME-LC, there was no doubt that this program model was worth replicating for medically underserved African, Black and Caribbean communities. But could we make this program work in a region where only 2% of the local population identifies as Black? It quickly became apparent that therein lied the opportunity for UCI to put into motion the first program anywhere in the U.S. focused on cultivating physician-leaders to serve ABC communities. We knew that if LEAD-ABC could prove successful in Orange County, it would send a strong message that a program like this was possible regardless of a school’s local demographics.

Leadership Education to Advance Diversity- African, Black, Caribbean, or LEAD-ABC, launched in 2019 and has thus far proved to be successful in recruiting the best and brightest minds committed to serving ABC communities. Beyond providing a uniquely tailored curriculum, which includes training future doctors to provide culturally sensitive care to ABC patients, it is a critical step in carrying out our responsibility as a medical school to address healthcare disparities and create an inclusive learning environment for Black students.

LEAD-ABC’s success not only lies in concerted planning by directors Drs. Carol Major and Candice Taylor, but also the engagement of student leaders Kaosoluchi Enendu and Kelley Butler who play an active role in recruitment and program development. In addition to disseminating our program model to other medical schools, we plan to expand LEAD-ABC into UCI Health’s medical residency programs to retain our own students, allowing them to launch their careers in Orange County for the benefit of our local ABC community.
We also envision the implementation of mission-based programs in the College of Health Sciences, developing PRIME-LC and LEAD-ABC tracks in the schools of Nursing, Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Population Health. Summer PRIME-LC and LEAD-ABC Academy programs for undergraduates will begin in 2021 to encourage students to pursue careers in the health professions. If we stay the course and double down on our commitment, we can shift the paradigm of integrative healthcare to a truly inclusive practice.

This fall, thanks in large part to LEAD-ABC, we expect to welcome a diverse incoming class to the School of Medicine, including 12% Black students. This percentage is close to two times the national average at medical schools across the country, and six times the local population of Black residents. LEAD-ABC demonstrates that strategic programming and investment can overcome perceived barriers to recruitment of Black students. Local demographics can no longer serve as an excuse for us or other health professional schools across the country in aspiring to recruit Black students who are vitally needed as healthcare workers of tomorrow.

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