SJV PRIME Matriculating Class of 2021

Adam Alyafaie

 

Adam Alyafaie

Adam Alyafaie was born and raised in Fresno, California. Throughout his childhood, Adam was exposed to the health disparities that exist in Fresno while working with his father at their family-owned pizzeria. Growing up with families that struggled to satisfy their basic health needs has not only inspired Adam to pursue medicine but also to return to his hometown and alleviate some of the struggles he witnessed while being raised in the Central Valley. For high school, he attended Clovis West, and then in 2020, graduated from UCLA with a degree in biology. 

Adam was also part of a lab at Scripps Research where he studied Gamma Delta T cells and their responses to acute exposures to carcinogens. He hopes to use the skills he learned from there to continue his research career and expand the limits of medicine. Beyond medicine, Adam enjoys cooking, fishing, hiking, and trying new food. He looks forward to being part of the SJV program and getting closer to reaching his goal of practicing in Fresno.
 

Noor Chahal

 

Noor Chahal

Noor was born in Punjab, India and moved to Fresno, California at 4-years-old. He attended Clovis West High School and went on to pursue Biology at the University of California, Los Angeles. In Fresno, he had the opportunity to interact with the San Joaquin Valley’s diverse patient population and began to see first-hand the effects of the physician shortage as well as disparities in healthcare and health literacy. In Los Angeles, he used this understanding to help promote health literacy among underserved youth by leading activities that focused on physical and mental health. He believes that the ability to teach is one of the most important qualities in a physician.

As part of the SJV-PRIME program, he hopes to not only bring high-quality, holistic care to the communities that need it most, but also to promote health education and to inspire the next generation of healthcare professionals in the Valley.
 

Andrew Contreras

 

Andrew Contreras

Andrew was raised in the agricultural community of Madera, California. He is a first-generation Latino and the first in his family to earn a college degree. He attended Madera High School and began his college journey at Madera Community College majoring in business administration and biology. He later transferred to Fresno State and earned a B.S. in biology with minors in physical science and sociology. In his free time, he enjoys taking his dog Mescal on walks and playing both soccer and pickleball. 

From a young age, he had several jobs either gardening or selling baked goods outside supermarkets to help his family remain financially stable. Working and serving the Central Valley through an array of work positions allowed him to better understand the populations and existing disparities. Having a first-hand view of the social inequities, underrepresentation, and challenges Central Valley residents face motivated him to become a physician.

Madera is very close and dear to his heart and being part of SJV is a dream come true. Giving back to the Central Valley community is a core value of who he is, and plans to continue that principle as a physician by serving his community. His interests are addressing the lack of diverse resources within Madera and the Central Valley. He aspires to establish and expand community, health, and education programs through public policy so disadvantaged community members have access to safe and positive resources.

John Cruz

Stephen “John” Cruz

John Cruz and was born in Manila, Philippines, and raised in Bakersfield, California. He attended Liberty High School and graduated with a degree in Human Biology at the University of California, Irvine. As a family-oriented person, he has always found joy in spending time with family, connecting with others, and building community with those around him. He is also extremely passionate about utilizing education and mentorship to create spaces that emphasize advocacy and diversity and intend on carrying these passions throughout his career. 

Growing up in under-resourced communities in the Central Valley and working directly with those affected by natural disasters provided him with a passion to pursue a career in medicine to care for the most vulnerable in my community. He intends on becoming a physician to provide medical services to marginalized and immigrant communities and to those affected by natural disasters. Through UCSF SJV PRIME, he is humbled by the opportunity to grow in my passion for medicine and am determined to serve the Central Valley communities as a physician and community leader."

Pardeep Dhillon

 

Pardeep Dhillon

Pardeep grew up as the son of two hard-working immigrant parents in Atwater, CA and went to Buhach Colony High School. After high school, Pardeep attended UCLA where he  majored in psychobiology. He has always been an active person. He loves playing sports, exercising, hiking, and participating in many other outdoor activities. Also, he enjoys cooking and baking. When he doesn’t feel like being so active, he enjoys watching tv (mostly action or comedy), anime, playing video games, and drawing. Academically, Pardeep is interested in various regions of medicine including emergency medicine, internal medicine, surgery, and biomedical research. His medical interests flourished in college when he began to volunteer in mobile clinics and community health outreach events for underserved communities. These experiences were very fulfilling and often reflected the disparities of his family and hometown, inspiring him to pursue medicine to make a change.

Rafael Verduzco Guillen

 

Rafael Verduzco Guillen

Despite not being born in Bakersfield, Rafael Guillen takes pride in the community that raised him. His parents immigrated to this country with a work ethic that propelled them to make a life for themselves here. He inherited that same work ethic and applied it to school at Foothill High School and UC Berkeley, the latter of which he had the privilege of studying Molecular and Cell Biology. Beyond the classroom, he engaged in several opportunities to learn the challenges that underserved communities face both locally and abroad. This, coupled with having been raised in a similar community and having worked in construction alongside his father, has given him an inside perspective into the social determinants of health that impact the people of the Central Valley. During Rafael’s gap years he has furthered his roots in the central valley by serving as an emergency room volunteer and youth soccer club coach. He looks forward to returning to the Bay Area at UCSF, where he will continue to work toward becoming a physician capable of going beyond the four walls of a clinic to be a competent advocate in the community. 

His interest outside of school include coaching/playing soccer, being outdoors, and spending time with his loved ones.

Mandeep Kaur

Mandeep Kaur

Mandeep was born and raised in Fresno, CA, where she attended Central West High School and later CSU, Fresno. She was first exposed to medicine when a family member struggled to find the specialized care they needed locally. To learn more about the field and reaffirm her interest, she took on a range of extracurricular activities throughout high school and college, from volunteering at Community Regional Medical Center to doing both clinical and basic science research. In the future, she plans to contribute to the mitigation of disparities in the delivery of local healthcare. She also intends to incorporate her passions for community service and research into an impactful career advancing the health of underserved San Joaquin Valley patients.

Bagieng Keophimphone

 

Bagieng Keophimphone

Bagieng was born and raised in Fresno, California, where his parents immigrated to from Laos as refugees caused by the Vietnam War. He went to Central West High School, Central East High School, and ultimately graduated from Buchanan High school in 2016. He graduated from CSU Fresno and received his Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry in 2020.

As a child of Laotian immigrant farm field workers, his experienced the social determinants of health and the medical disparages present within the Central Valley very early on in life through the health of his father. Having to translate to providers for his father who suffered multiple strokes and being involved within the Central Valley community through free clinics and UCSF Fresno, his autonomy for healthcare equity and quality for the Valley became the foundation for his path in medicine. In the future, he hopes to come back to the Valley as a physician who will be a part of the steps to improve the quality and equity of healthcare of those who also call the Central Valley their home.

Rojina Nekoonam

 

Rojina Nekoonam

Rojina Nekoonam was born and raised in Iran before relocating to the United States with her father when she was 16 years old. Beginning her new life in Fresno, California, an ethnically diverse and medically underserved area, she realized the critical need for affordable healthcare and culturally competent physicians. As an immigrant, she encountered comparable obstacles to many others in the San Joaquin Valley, such as limited access to healthcare and language barriers. Seeing many people in her community suffer as a result of mismanaged chronic diseases further reaffirmed her commitment to caring for the vulnerable. Rojina attended Clovis West High School before receiving a merit-based scholarship to Fresno State, where she majored in biology. During her undergraduate studies, she became involved in community-based organizations and worked as an interpreter and assistant at low-cost medical clinics that targeted migrant health issues. She intends to use the training provided by the SJV program as a framework to eliminate the societal causes of health inequities and deliver resources to those in greatest need.

Alyssa Marie Rivera

 

Alyssa Marie Rivera

Alyssa was born in the Philippines and immigrated to America in 2005. She spent most of her childhood in hospital rooms witnessing her mother undergo chemotherapy. It was not until her biology teacher at Clovis West High School, however, and his talk on the surrounding underserved community that she realized not everyone receives the same great medical care her mother received. Her passion in medicine was reaffirmed while attending California State University, Fresno where she became deeply involved in cancer treatment research and worked as an emergency medicine scribe at Community Medical Regional Center. She also worked on community projects alongside pediatricians at UCSF Fresno and high school teachers to improve adolescent health. Her combined experiences taught her the all-encompassing role a physician has inside and outside the hospital doors. In the future, Alyssa hopes to combine research into clinical practice to improve health outcomes in communities like her own.

Amritpal Singh

 

Amritpal Singh

Amritpal was born in a rural region of Punjab, India and have lived in the San Joaquin valley ever since immigrating to the US. This is the region that provided a home and better living opportunities to him and his family which is why he wishes to give back and serve the valley population as a physician. His desire is to give back and serving others stems from the core principles of his faith in Sikh religion which also defines him as an individual, his personality, and identity that he will continue to embrace moving forward in his profession.

His interest in medicine developed over time coming from a family of farmers and immigrants. He has personally witnessed how people working hard manual labor jobs, outdoors, or in the fields compromise their personal health; often putting it at risk. Amritpal has met Punjabi-speaking members of family and some immigrants from other valley communities who have struggled to receive quality healthcare due to the language barrier.  Therefore, by returning to the valley as a physician, he wishes to help eliminate such healthcare barriers, improve access to and quality of healthcare for the San Joaquin population. This is also why he attended UC Merced for undergrad because it allowed him to understand the healthcare disparities of this region through different volunteering and clinical experiences.

Shizra Sipra

 

Shizra Sipra

Shizra Sipra was raised in Clovis, California to a family of Pakistani immigrants both working as clinical lab scientists. Throughout her childhood a love of learning and exposure to the sciences inspired the dream of becoming a physician serving the Central Valley. Shizra graduated in 2020 from Fresno State University under the Smittcamp Family Honors College with a B.A. in Biology. While studying at CSU Fresno she conducted a research project on Alzheimer’s Disease, and became involved in student organizations with a focus on healthcare in underserved communities across the Valley. After graduation, she gained hands-on experience with medicine as a medical scribe at Madera Community Hospital. Shizra is excited to start this new chapter as an SJV PRIME medical student, serving patients and making strides towards equality in healthcare in the Central Valley.