Medical students work in the pediatric simulator lab.
Medical students work in the pediatric simulator lab. Each year, 10 to 12 incoming medical students join UCI’s PRIME-LC, a five-year M.D./master’s program committed to training physicians to meet the needs of under-resourced Latino communities. Building on the success of PRIME-LC, the new UC PRIME Pre-Health Pathways will provide resources for undergraduates from underserved populations interested in pursuing careers in healthcare. Steve Zylius / UCI

Irvine, Calif., Feb. 9, 2023 — Increasing underrepresented students’ access to careers in medicine is the focus of a new interdisciplinary, pre-health professional development program at the University of California, Irvine. A five-year, $3.6 million grant from the California Department of Health Care Access and Information will support UC PRIME Pre-Health Pathways, a resource for undergraduates from underserved communities who are interested in pursuing careers in healthcare. UCPPP will also establish a select cohort for intensive training, advising and support to increase their readiness for medical school.

“This funding will enable us to reach, support and provide foundational training to underrepresented pre-health students. At UCI, there has been a group of faculty, students and community allies talking for years about what we can do to clear the path for our students who are dedicated to the goal of training to be physicians that serve the communities that need them most. When we learned of the Health Care Access and Information opportunity, we knew this was our chance to turn those multiyear conversations into a promising reality!” said lead principal investigator Belinda Campos, professor and chair of Chicano/Latino studies and a faculty member in the Program in Medical Education for the Latino Community. “UCPPP will build the robust undergraduate programming necessary to ensure that the physicians of the future who serve the needs of Californians will better represent its diverse peoples.”

The innovative program builds on the long-standing partnership between PRIME-LC in the School of Medicine and the Department of Chicano/Latino Studies in the School of Social Sciences to train physicians to meet the needs of under-resourced Latino communities. Coupled with additional efforts from the Program in Public Health, the Department of African American Studies in the School of Humanities, the HELIOS lab in the Health Policy Research Institute, the Program in Medical Education Leadership Education to Advance Diversity – African, Black and Caribbean in the School of Medicine and the California Alliance for Minority Participation, the UCPPP will prepare more underrepresented undergraduates for careers in medicine to serve communities in need.

“We have been building our infrastructure to recruit and train medical students from underrepresented backgrounds for years at UCI, and we have signature programs that highlight that mission. These graduates are most likely to follow careers in service to poor and marginalized communities, as 95 percent of our PRIME-LC alumni do,” said co-principal investigator Dr. Charles Vega, clinical professor of family medicine, assistant dean for culture and community education, and director of PRIME-LC in the School of Medicine. “UCPPP will expand the pool of talented and motivated students who will go on to practice healthcare where it’s needed most.”

Leading the program alongside Campos and Vega are John Billimek, associate professor and vice chair for academic affairs in the Department of Family Medicine and co-director of PRIME-LC’s residency track; Dr. Candice Taylor Lucas, associate clinical professor of pediatrics and co-director of the Program in Medical Education Leadership Education to Advance Diversity–African, Black and Caribbean; and Ursula Worsham, chief diversity officer and assistant dean of admissions in the School of Medicine. They’re joined by more than a dozen interdisciplinary UCI faculty mentors and subject matter experts who will be working to expand underrepresented students’ access to medical school.

Worsham noted: “UCPPP amplifies our outreach efforts at UCI to engage an increasingly diverse community of students exploring careers in medicine. The opportunity to support pre-health students historically underrepresented in medicine early in their academic journey creates a bridge of access to our undergraduates while fostering a rich learning community comprised of medical students, faculty and staff. The program’s cohort model and intended support have the potential to impact pre-medical school readiness and create a pathway toward greater diversity in the healthcare workforce.”

UCPPP also includes a plan for evaluation and advocacy to provide longitudinal tracking of participants and outcomes for all related activities and to develop additional resources to sustain and expand the program beyond the five-year period and throughout the statewide UC PRIME network.

With grant funding secured, UCPPP leaders are now working to lay the groundwork for a summer 2023 launch. To learn more about UC PRIME Pre-Health Pathways, visit

About UCI’s Brilliant Future campaign: Publicly launched on Oct. 4, 2019, the Brilliant Future campaign aims to raise awareness and support for UCI. By engaging 75,000 alumni and garnering $2 billion in philanthropic investment, UCI seeks to reach new heights of excellence in student success, health and wellness, research and more. The School of Medicine and the School of Social Sciences play vital roles in the success of the campaign. Learn more at and

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities and is ranked among the nation’s top 10 public universities by U.S. News & World Report. The campus has produced five Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 224 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $7 billion annually to the local economy and $8 billion statewide. For more on UCI, visit

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