UCSF Fresno’s “Dr. Hutch” Honored with National Award for Humanism

Dr. Hutchison and Jasmean Mann

L to R: Harrol T. (Terry) Hutchison, MD, and Jasmean Mann, a UC Merced graduate and aspiring doctor

By Barbara Anderson

UCSF Clinical Professor of Neurology Harrol T. (Terry) Hutchison, MD, PhD, says humility is something physicians need to learn, and he has taught it, by example, by emphasizing respectful and responsive patient care as he teaches medical residents and students at UCSF Fresno.

Dr. Hutchison, a child and adult neurologist, is renowned for taking extra time with patients, giving out his personal cellphone number and answering after-hours calls even when he’s not the on-call physician.

“He does more than most in terms of getting to know patients’ needs, trying to help patients, trying to be reachable and approachable,” says Mark Stecker, MD, UCSF Fresno clinical professor of neurology and chief of neurology at UCSF Fresno. “Dr. Hutch,” as most call him, treats patients like family, Dr. Stecker says. “Students want to train with ‘Hutch’ to learn how to provide that level of care.” 

Dr. Hutchison received the Child Neurology Society’s 2019 Arnold P. Gold Foundation Humanism in Medicine Award in October at the society meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina. The award recognizes his extraordinary and ongoing humanism in his medical career. The award is named for the late Arnold P. Gold, MD, who is considered a founder of modern child neurology.

Dr. Hutchison says he’s honored to receive the award. He estimates he’s had 40,000 encounters with medical residents and students in nearly 40 years of teaching. “If I’ve influenced students positively in some way, that’s very rewarding” he says.

The honor given Dr. Hutchison is well deserved, Dr. Stecker says. “He has taught so many people how to be great doctors by showing them that for him, it is only about taking care of patients.”

Serena Yang, MD, UCSF Fresno chief of pediatrics, says Dr. Hutchison goes to extraordinary lengths to help patients – and learners. “He is humble, and always welcoming to learners. He is a role mode of compassionate bedside manner, demonstrates patient- and family-centered care, and is a passionate advocate for the highest quality of care for his patients.”

Dr. Hutchison is so worthy of the Gold Humanism Award in Child Neurology, says Audrey Foster-Barber, MD, PhD, a pediatric neurologist at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in San Francisco, UCSF associate professor and vice chair for education in the Department of Neurology.

Foster-Barber, the Child Neurology Society’s 2018 Gold Humanism in Medicine awardee, says Dr. Hutchison has been a mentor and guide in her career. “He has so much knowledge and experience, but that is not what makes him amazing. What families see is a doctor who gets to know them and their child, who makes sure they understand what is going on medically, who fights for their treatments, and who really cares. Hutch knows what parents do for their jobs, how siblings feel about the sick child, what the family pet is named, and what makes the patient smile. He will break rules to get things done, and is available to his patients in a way no currently trained neurologist would ever consider doing!”

Audrey Brumback, MD, PhD, an assistant professor and child neurologist at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas in Austin, has known Dr. Hutchison for more than a decade. “This award was basically made for people like Hutch,” Dr. Brumback says.

During residency at UCSF, Dr. Hutchison was Dr. Brumback’s attending in child neurology.  “In medicine, we talk about ‘pearls of wisdom’ – little kernels of knowledge you want to keep with you, and Hutch was just brimming over with ‘pearls of wisdom,’” she says.

Dr. Hutchison taught at UCSF from 2005 to 2011. Besides those six years in San Francisco, he has been faculty at UCSF Fresno since 1983.

Donna Ferriero, MD, MS, a UCSF emeritus distinguished professor on recall, was a third-year medical student when Dr. Hutchison was a pediatrics resident at UCSF. She was leaning toward adult neurology, but changed to child neurology after observing Dr. Hutchison’s interaction with pediatric patients. “He’s 100 percent invested when he sees patients and he teaches people how to be that way, too.”

Besides being board certified in child neurology and pediatrics, Dr. Hutchison is board certified in clinical genetics and neuro-rehabilitation. In addition to residencies in pediatrics and neurology at UCSF, he completed a doctorate in molecular biology at the University of California, Irvine, and a postdoctoral fellowship in genetics at the University of Washington. His medical degree is from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

“I don’t know anybody with as many certifications and degrees as Hutch – genetics, pediatrics, neurology and rehabilitation,” Dr. Ferriero says.

Dr. Hutchison was the first neurologist in the country to commercially deliver Spinraza, the first U.S. Food and Drug Administration drug approved to treat children and adults with spinal muscular atrophy, a rare and often fatal genetic disease affecting muscle strength and movement, Dr. Brumback says. “He has such a wide ranging expertise and he is just so incredibly humble about it.”

Dr. Hutchison insists humility is something he had to learn and continues to develop.

As a boy and young man, he did not like people much, he says, “I got kind of picked on in some places and ignored in other ways – marginalized, if you will. Not that it was anybody’s fault but my own.” In medical school, he relied on scientific and mathematical abilities rather than social skills to make his way, but a course in Introduction to Patient Evaluation proved life changing.

He had to learn to be objective with patients and with himself, which included discarding personal biases. “I almost failed the course,” he says. But I finally got through it and spent a year or two learning, and then I developed a style of interaction with patients that has not changed,” he says. “I’ve been very proud of that, and I hone and improve it as time goes on.”

Concentrating on the needs of patients without superimposing personal judgments on them is critical to patient care, but Dr. Hutchison understands it can be difficult. He recalls being so angry at a family member of a patient that it took a two-hour walk before he could set aside his feelings, but “I don’t think he ever knew how furious I was with him,” he says.

His patients are his “boys and girls,” regardless of age – and some are in their 70s and 80s. He has been known to make a house call once in a great while, and he’s only a cellphone call away. He made a decision years ago to give all his patients his telephone number. He doesn’t regret it. Other than a couple of people who have called at 3 a.m., he says, “I’ve rarely ever had anybody who abuses it.”

To relax – when he is not teaching, seeing patients or answering patient phone calls – he spends time with Ruth, his wife of 59 years, his three children, nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. He has a two-acre pecan farm and built an apparatus that separates pecans from debris.

Hugs from long-time patients revitalize him, he says, and so does seeing young students who aspire to be physicians. Jasmean Mann, a UC Merced graduate, recently spent a few weeks shadowing him. “She’s going to be a great doctor,” he says. “She has a heart and an ability to think and understand. I’m really proud of her. In the future I can see great things for her.”

Mann, a San Joaquin Valley native, wanted to leave the Valley for a medical education, but the time she spent with Dr. Hutchison at UCSF Fresno changed her mind. “He connects with patients,” she says. “And the more exposure I had with him and to the patients and the problems that are specific to Fresno, versus somewhere else, the more I want to come back here.” 

Acknowledgements by colleagues, students and the Child Neurology Society are gratifying, but Dr. Hutchison finds rewards every day from teaching medical residents.

“You ask me what rejuvenates me? “It’s seeing people that are moving ahead and maybe benefitting from some of my teaching,” he says.

UCSF Fresno is fortunate to have Dr. Hutchison among 285 core faculty who teach more than 300 physicians annually, says Dr. Stecker. “There’s not enough good things to say about Hutch.”

Dr. Upadhyay and Dr. Peterson


UCSF Fresno Lung Nodule Program Celebrates 10-Year Anniversary

L to R: Daya Upadhyay, MD, and Michael W. Peterson. MD

By Barbara Anderson and Daya Upadhyay, MD

A decade ago, patients in the San Joaquin Valley who had suspicious spots on their lungs could wait 70 days or longer to see a specialist to find out if the nodules were lung cancer.  Fast forward to 2019, and patients referred to the Lung Nodule Program of UCSF Fresno and Community Medical Centers have a diagnosis, staging and treatment plans within seven to 10 days on average. The speedy turnaround is better than national and international recommended times.

The Lung Nodule Program is the only comprehensive, rapid, early diagnosis and management center for lung cancer of its kind in central California and is one of only 25 Centers of Excellence for Lung Cancer in the nation designated by the GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer, a national nonprofit organization serving the lung cancer community.  Michael W. Peterson, MD, UCSF professor of medicine and associate dean at UCSF Fresno, launched the Lung Nodule Program in 2009 during his tenure as Chief of Medicine at UCSF Fresno.  Daya Upadhyay, MD, medical director of the Lung Nodule Program since 2014 and UCSF associate professor of Medicine, enhanced the program further to a nationally recognized Center of Excellence in Lung Cancer.

The unique diagnostic center for thousands of incidentally detected lung nodules in the Central Valley is one of the largest centers in the nation. “Before the Lung Nodule Program, patients were waiting and worried for over two months that they might have cancer, and they were left to fend for themselves in a complicated medical environment,” said Dr. Peterson, a pulmonologist and leading expert on Valley fever (coccidioidomycosis).

“A nodule does not necessarily mean cancer, it can be due to various lung infections,” said Mohamed Fayed, MD, UCSF assistant clinical professor of medicine, who is an expert in pulmonary infections. The Lung Nodule program has streamlined the diagnosis and care by getting a group of lung specialists, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, radiologists and pathologists together to provide coordinated care.

“Since its inception in 2009, this program has grown in both qualitative and quantitative standards by providing state-of-the-art care using the national guideline standards to a wide spectrum of patients with lung nodules and lung cancer. Currently, we see nearly 3,000 patients annually,” said Dr. Upadhyay. 

Kathryn Bilello, MD, UCSF assistant clinical professor of medicine, runs the screening program for early detection of cancer. If the diagnosis is delayed, survival of patients with late-stage lung cancer is less than 5%.  If the diagnosis is done early, the survival rate increases to over 80%.

“If a nodule is large, very often we get the diagnostic tests done within 24 hours,” Dr. Upadhyay said.  Rapid patient evaluations are followed by one-step diagnosis and staging by interventional specialists Pravachan Hegde, MD, UCSF assistant clinical professor of medicine and director of Interventional Pulmonology at UCSF Fresno; and Karl Van Gundy, MD, UCSF clinical professor of Medicine and division chief of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at UCSF Fresno.

The Lung Nodule Program has a wide range of diagnostic and therapeutic thoracic endoscopic procedures for early diagnosis of lung cancers, said Dr. Hegde, who is fellowship trained in Interventional Pulmonology.  A combination of endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS) and endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) in a single setting is a unique superior test for early diagnosis and staging of lung cancer and the Fresno program is the only center in California using this one-step approach in staging lung cancer. UCSF Fresno also started the first robotic bronchoscopy program in California and the West Coast for early diagnosis of lung cancer, he said.

The rapid diagnosis is followed by expedited treatment planning at a “multidisciplinary tumor board,” per national guidelines. The patients with early stage lung cancer who are eligible for surgery are treated using minimally invasive thoracic robotic surgery, video-assisted thoracic surgery. Patients who are not eligible for surgery are treated with Cyberknife®, a form of targeted radiation therapy.

Identification of specific tumor mutations has revolutionized the cancer treatment. “All patients with advance stage lung cancer get a 360 gene mutation analysis, then we design mutation based personalized treatment such as, targeted therapy, immunotherapy or chemo-radiation per national guidelines for better results,” said Dr. Upadhyay, who also is director of Translational Research at UCSF Fresno.  A dedicated lung cancer nurse navigator provides continuity of care for all cancer patients.  Oncology support services provide comprehensive cancer care including compass care, pain management, diet and nutrition, social support, rehabilitation, a support group at the new Community Cancer Institute (CCI) in Clovis. And multiple newer drug therapy trials are available to benefit patients. 

David Peters, 77, a Kingsburg farmer, board member of the Leon S. Peters Foundation and a former Kingsburg agriculture teacher, had back pain that led to an MRI last year and detection of spots on his spine and lungs. At the Lung Nodule Program, he was told the nodules on both his spine and lungs were cancerous. “Dr. Upadhyay was always upfront, but never scary,” Peters said.  The tumor board reviewed Peters case and recommended he receive radiation for the nodules on his spine. “The treatment eliminated my excruciating back pain,” Peters said. He then was treated with chemotherapy by UCSF Fresno oncologist Haifaa Abdulhaq, MD, at CCI. The treatments have greatly reduced the nodules in his lungs and spine.  “I’m feeling good, Peters said. “I know people who have gone out of the area for cancer treatment, but I would say our doctors and our graduates are superior to any doctors or any program that is out there.”

Milagros “Millie” Dart, 58, of Delano, was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2016 at the Lung Nodule Program, and she had surgery. Dart had been coming back for checkups every six months until this past April, when she was told she would only need to be seen once a year going forward. “You receive the highest level of care at the Lung Nodule Program,” Dart said. “It’s awesome. It’s state-of-the art.”

After surgery for lung cancer, patients are followed periodically for five years. Through speedy diagnosis, treatment and ongoing management, the Lung Nodule Program has improved lung cancer patient survival.  In the past five years, the Lung Nodule Program has reduced late-stage cancer diagnoses from about 60% in 2009 to 16% in 2019, “which means we are saving lives,” Dr. Upadhyay said.  “Every faculty physician has literally put their hearts into this program and our staff members and navigators are gems.  They are the pillars of our program,” she said. “It’s hard work, but it’s gratifying.”

Dart is grateful for the comprehensive care and she said, at the UCSF Fresno Lung Nodule Program there’s a combination of skill, expertise and heart.



UCSF Fresno Toxicologist Looks at Effectiveness of Participation in Opioid Drug-Reversing Program

Dr. Michael Darraq

Michael Darracq, MD

By Barbara Anderson

California began allowing pharmacists to dispense an opioid-reversing medication without a health care provider’s prescription five years ago. But a study led by UCSF Fresno toxicologist Michael Darracq, MD, found the state law has not resulted in extensive participation, nor immediate availability of naloxone, the life-saving drug.

“Overall participation was very, very low,” Dr. Darracq said. “And we found that planned future participation was low – less than 30%; and the cost of naloxone products was variable, even within the same county.”

Between January and March 2017, Dr. Darracq and four co-authors surveyed 622 pharmacies in seven California counties – Plumas, Lake, Lassen, Humboldt, Shasta, Fresno and San Diego – about participation in Assembly Bill 1535, which became law in 2014. The law permits, but does not mandate, pharmacists to dispense naloxone without a prescription.

Plumas, Lake, Lassen, Humboldt and Shasta were chosen for inclusion in the study because they are among California counties with the highest average opioid-related deaths in the state, Dr. Darracq said. But the five Northern California counties are geographically isolated and sparsely populated. For counterbalance, he added the more populous counties of Fresno and San Diego, in the central and southern parts of the state, respectively.

The observational survey study found overall 37% of pharmacists queried were currently participating in the naloxone dispensing program; and only 21% planned to participate in the future, Dr. Darracq said. The study, “Pharmacist dispensed naloxone: Knowledge, availability, participation and cost in selected California counties,” was published September 2019 in the “International Journal of Drug Policy.”

Pharmacists were not asked why they were not participating in AB1535. “However, many of the pharmacists volunteered that they hadn’t got around to it or their employer was not paying them for CME (continuing medical education) credit,” Dr. Darracq said. In order to participate, a pharmacist has to complete one to two hours of CME, he said.

Some of the non-participating pharmacists in the five northern counties with the highest opioid-related death rates said “nobody had asked for it; and “it wasn’t a problem in their area,” Dr. Darracq said. Reasons for non-participation deserve further study, he said. But research done in New Mexico found the biggest deterrents for pharmacists were moral and social issues about whether participation in a naloxone-dispensing program would encourage opioid misuse; and concerns about reimbursement, he said.

The survey of pharmacists included a question about the cheapest naloxone product available at the pharmacy. Dr. Darracq said variability in cost was surprising. “Even within the same county (San Diego) there was a span of like $27 to $4,500 for a naloxone (injectable) product.”

More studies are needed about ways to reduce opioid-related deaths, Dr. Darracq said. Teasing out the effect of AB1535 is difficult, he said. Since the 2014 law, several counties and municipalities independently have decided to give naloxone free to the public, as well as supplying the opioid-reversing drug to law enforcement and first responders, he said.

About the time of the study, CVS also made it a public policy that any CVS pharmacy would participate in AB1535, Dr. Darracq said. “So counties that had higher rates of participation also had higher penetration of CVS,” he said.

And a new California law has made pharmacy participation less of an issue in opioid overdose. Beginning in 2019, California requires that any patient who is prescribed opioids or is taking opioids with other controlled substances that have respiratory implications – or individuals at risk of overdose – must be discharged with a prescription for naloxone.

But researching the outcome of AB1535 remains valuable, Dr. Darracq said. “It’s still interesting from our perspective that this bill, that was going to save the world, didn’t really do anything,” he said.



UCSF Fresno and Partners Encourage Wellness

By Brandy Ramos Nikaido

Nationwide, about 50% of physicians report feeling burned out. Physician burnout is defined as long-term job stress that doesn’t go away and results in feeling overwhelmed and worn out. The physician suicide rate is even more alarming. About one physician a day dies by suicide – more than twice that of the general public.  

The San Joaquin Valley can’t afford to lose physicians due to burnout. There are 133 active physicians (excluding medical residents) per 100,000 population compared with the state rate of 222 active physicians per 100,000 population, according to a Healthforce Center at UCSF report.

A number of factors contribute to physician burnout, including more time spent on non-clinical paperwork, loss of clinical autonomy and less time available to spend with new patients. Physician burnout impacts not only health care providers and their families, but also the patients they care for as well as learners and staff.

“Happy doctors are vital to improved patient outcomes,” said Michael W. Peterson, MD, associate dean at UCSF Fresno. “Physician wellness is a priority at UCSF Fresno and it’s important to our community. In fact, it’s such a critical issue that we are extending resources to our faculty physicians, advanced practitioners, learners and staff members so they have access to the information and means to prevent burnout, too.”

UCSF Fresno recently expanded its wellness committee – Life, Inspiration, Vitality and Engagement (LIVE) –  a multidisciplinary wellness committee that aims to provide UCSF Fresno community members with the guidance, tools and support to achieve a more balanced life.

LIVE is made up of representatives from UCSF Fresno, Community Regional Medical Center and our faculty physician group, Central California Faculty Medical Group. The Live Wellness Committee focuses on wellness initiatives for health providers and staff.

LIVE was initiated by Lori Weichenthal, MD, assistant dean for graduate medical education. “Physicians and other providers need to ‘practice what they preach’ and develop healthy practices that support their well-being and resilience,” said Dr. Weichenthal. “They also need to feel that they are working in health care systems and a society as a whole that recognizes and supports their work.” 

The LIVE Wellness Committee presented its first event in October, a Harvest Wellness Festival, featuring refreshments and fun, ranging from rock painting, chair massages, aromatherapy, basic health screenings in the UCSF Fresno Mobile Health and Learning Clinic, games and more.

Earlier this year, to help lower stress levels and encourage a more balanced life among physicians and local health professionals, UCSF Fresno hosted national expert Dike Drummond, MD, CEO of TheHappyMd.com. Dr. Drummond presented “The Burnout Proof” Live Workshop for physicians and other health care professionals.

Dr. Drummond, a Mayo Clinic-trained family doctor and executive coach, has worked with nearly 170 organizations to train more than 30,000 physicians. All local health professionals as well as UCSF faculty, fellows, residents, medical students and staff members at UCSF Fresno, and their spouses and significant others were invited to attend. The daylong event, expanded LIVE Committee and hiring of full-time wellness manager, Andrew Field, underscore UCSF Fresno’s commitment to wellness.




UCSF Fresno
People Spotlight


Carolyn Crawford and Grandson Harrison

Carolyn Henke and her grandson, Harrison

UCSF Fresno’s success and growth are a direct result of the dedication and inspiration of our faculty, staff, residents, fellows, students, alumni, partners, donors and friends. In each issue of Focus, we introduce you to the people who contribute to the greatness of UCSF Fresno through informal interviews.

This month, please meet: Carolyn Henke

What is your name? Nickname?

My full name is Carolyn Norene Henke. Cooper is my maiden name. My middle name is a variation of my grandmother’s name, Nora. As for nicknames, I had two nicknames since early childhood. You will have to ask my family and childhood friends. They are silly names and there is no way I would advertise that information!

Where did you grow up and where did you go to school?

I grew up in Easton south of Fresno in the country. I attended Washington Union High School. My father was a rancher and my mother was a first-grade teacher’s aide. Both parents came to California with their families during the Great Depression in 1935. My father came from Tennessee and mother from Arkansas. They eventually met, married and purchased their own ranch in Easton where they grew and harvested cotton and grapes. Neither parent attended college and they really did not push me in that direction. They simply encouraged me to work hard, be honest and be happy. Mine was not a typical educational experience. Life threw me some curve balls immediately following high school. Over the years, I attended Fresno Pacific University, Fresno City College, and Fresno State, always with a focus on business/health care. However, I did not complete my education until my late 30s. Being a single mother of two, with no child support and working full-time, the online route for completing my degree was the best option. I tried attending Fresno State, taking night courses, but that was just too much time away from my children.

How long have you worked for UCSF Fresno? What was your first position here?

I began working at UCSF Fresno in October 2007. Michael Peterson, MD, then Chief of Medicine, hired me as manager of the Internal Medicine (IM) Department. I had originally applied and interviewed for manager of the OB/GYN department, but was asked to also interview for IM. I worked in IM for nine years.

What is your current title/current role? And what does it entail?

My current title is Chief Administrative Officer at the UCSF Fresno Campus. I have been in this role for almost three years. My entire career at UCSF Fresno has been non-stop growth and change, both for the organization and me, personally. To give a broad-stroke description, this role is ultimately responsible for the administrative and operational functions of a campus, from ensuring the safety of our campus community, to financial sustainability, to strategic planning, and everything in between.      

What is the favorite aspect of your job at UCSF Fresno?

Challenge. I love a challenge. No single day is predictable.

What was your first job or volunteer experience as a young person that influenced you?

My first work experience was a volunteer position. I was a “candy striper” at Community Regional Medical Center (then, Fresno Community Hospital) for several years while in high school. I served in roles in the admitting department, surgical services, on the rehabilitation patient care area, with my final assignment being in radiology. I was hired full-time in radiology as soon as I turned 18 years old. That experience definitely influenced my career path and I know that was my mom’s plan (she told me so much later in life). At one point in my early 20s, I tried the legal and business fields, but that was short-lived. I went back into health care and stayed there.

What is your vision from an administrative perspective for the future of the UCSF Fresno branch campus? What goals do you have in your role for UCSF Fresno?

My goal is for the UCSF Fresno campus and our community of faculty, residents, fellows, staff and students to feel appreciated and recognized for their efforts toward improving health care in the Valley through education, research and high quality patient care. I look forward to building out the branch campus to the full complement of students and expanding the educational experiences of the consistently top-ranked UCSF School of Medicine in Fresno. I look forward to UCSF Fresno having the same level of name recognition within our region that UCSF has in the Bay Area. I am excited to expand our pipeline programs to provide increasing opportunity to those who may be economically challenged, or in underserved populations to break the cycle of poverty through education and mentorship programs at UCSF Fresno. I envision having a charter school that is health science focused as part of our campus for those who are interested in any type of health career.  I would also love to have a hotel and conference center on our campus, similar to that of UCLA, to host events, UC-wide conferences, and for patient families and student families to stay and visit.

If you could pick up an instant skill, what would it be and why?

I would love to instantly know all languages. The thought of being able to speak the native language of multiple populations is an exhilarating thought. Plus, it would make it so much easier to travel abroad, right? I aspire to be a master gardener because I love the beauty of a garden and also appreciate fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs.

Do you have a favorite cause or charity you wish people knew more about? What is it and why is it near and dear to you?

The causes I work most closely with are domestic violence and homelessness. Domestic violence because I have first-hand experience and can relate to the struggles coming out of that situation. Helping the homeless through volunteer work and support of the Fresno Rescue Mission was modeled to me through my parents while growing up. I have volunteered at Fresno Rescue Mission through church and with my family for nearly four decades. Homeless men and women are people, like you and me. On a recent visit to San Francisco, there was a man sitting by a storefront, obviously homeless, but not panhandling. He and I made eye contact and I said a friendly hello as my husband and I passed by. The gentleman replied, “thank you for seeing me”. Human kindness.    

The zombie apocalypse is coming, which three people at UCSF Fresno would you want on your team and why?

In a zombie invasion, I would want Dr. Jim Davis for his medical, surgical, trauma and Stop the Bleed training. I’d also like Maria Ragan head of Finance with me.  Those of us who know her, can you envision her getting wound up and using a machete Michonne-style! My third selection would be Kelly Noorani, who is in charge of Facilities, to help build a thriving compound for all the survivors.

Where do you find your inspiration?

My inspiration comes from God and His creation. In particular, the sheer beauty on this Earth – the mountains and ocean are favorites (scenery, animals, sounds, smells).

What’s the most important thing you’d like people to know about you? Or what else would you like to add about you, your background or family?

I am blessed with a wonderful, fun family and doing work that I enjoy. Oh, and the best for last – I am a first-time grandma to an adorable, smart grandson named Harrison.


Psychiatry resident Monique Atwal, MD, with Mobile HeaL pediatric patient

Supporting UCSF Fresno

Central Valley Community Foundation and Blue Cross Support UCSF Fresno

UCSF Fresno psychiatry resident Monique Atwal, MD, with
Mobile HeaL pediatric patient. Dr. Atwal is a graduate of
SJV PRIME and the UCSF Fresno Doctors Academy

By Brandy Ramos Nikaido

The Central Valley Community Foundation recently awarded UCSF Fresno a $130,000 grant to benefit the UCSF San Joaquin Valley Program in Medical Education (SJV PRIME). The one-year grant is funded by the Blue Cross Rural Health Initiative Fund.

“Thanks to the Central Valley Community Foundation and Blue Cross, we will be able to expand health care services provided through our Mobile HeaL Clinic,” said Kenny Banh, MD, assistant dean for undergraduate medical education at UCSF Fresno. Funds also will be used to award scholarships for SJV PRIME medical students who commit to practice in the San Joaquin Valley, Dr. Banh said.

Mobile HeaL, which stands for Mobile Health and Learning, is UCSF Fresno’s mobile clinic which takes health care to communities where it is needed most and provides learning opportunities for future health care providers. The grant enables UCSF Fresno to continue caring for underserved communities, including migrant farm workers, homeless populations, rural areas, at-risk children, and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender communities.

“We are pleased to offer this support to UCSF Fresno to advance their efforts aimed at improving health in the region through medical student education and patient care, especially for diverse and vulnerable populations,” said Ashley Swearengin, president and CEO of the Central Valley Community Foundation.

SJV PRIME is a tailored track for medical students to prepare them to address the unique health needs of the Valley’s diverse and underserved populations. The medical education program was started in 2011 as a partnership among UC Merced, UC Davis School of Medicine, UCSF School of Medicine and UCSF Fresno. UC Davis originally was the medical degree-granting institution. That responsibility was transferred to UCSF, beginning with the SJV PRIME cohort of six students who started this past August.

Mobile HeaL is the brainchild of UCSF Fresno’s Dr. Banh, an emergency medicine physician with a passion for giving back and providing opportunities for people like his younger self who didn’t have many advantages growing up.  Mobile HeaL involves faculty physicians and medical residents at UCSF Fresno, SJV PRIME and other medical students and regional college and university pre-health students. To build and enhance their skills, pre-health and medical students work alongside experienced medical residents and faculty. Participating pre-health students gain valuable clinical skills – experiences needed to be successful applicants to health professional schools and essential to developing the skills needed as practicing physicians.

Through SJV PRIME, Mobile HeaL and a variety of other programs, UCSF Fresno seeks to recruit, train and retain outstanding physicians and patient advocates for the Valley’s diverse populations.

To learn how you can support UCSF Fresno and SJV PRIME, please contact Kathleen Smith, Development, UCSF Fresno at (559) 499-6426 or give@fresno.ucsf.edu