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Kaiser Permanente Grant to Expand UCLA International Medical Center Graduate Program

$2 Million Grant to Help Increase Hispanic Family Physicians in California

LOS ANGELES and OAKLAND, Calif., May 5 /PRNewswire/ -- Kaiser Permanente announced today a $2 million grant to the David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles, to expand its International Medical Graduate Program. The program targets international medical school graduates who are committed to serving California's vulnerable communities and need to pass United States Medical Licensing Exams. After obtaining licensure in the United States, the program will place the graduate students in family medicine residency program positions in California.

The IMG program, administered through the UCLA Department of Family Medicine, addresses the shortage of primary care providers, who are the main source of health care for an increasingly diverse, aging and uninsured U.S. population.

"We predict California will face a physician shortage of up to 17,000 by 2015 and this shortage disproportionately affects underserved communities," said Patrick T. Dowling MD, MPH, chair of the Department of Family Medicine at UCLA and co-founder of the IMG program. "Meanwhile, about 2,500 licensed physicians from Mexico and Latin America are legally residing in California but are not practicing medicine because they are not yet licensed in this country. The UCLA IMG program is committed to helping these skilled individuals navigate the road to licensure."

The shortage of primary care physicians in the United States becomes more acutely evident during health crises because it is during those times that disadvantaged communities are disproportionately impacted due to a lack of access to care. The goal of the IMG program is to infuse the workforce with culturally competent physicians who are committed to providing primary care to those most in need.

"Providing high-quality health care to underserved communities and addressing health disparities are priorities for Kaiser Permanente," said Raymond J. Baxter, Ph.D., senior vice president, Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit, Research and Health Policy. "Efforts like the UCLA IMG program are crucial to addressing the supply of primary care physicians and access to culturally competent care for all communities. We are committed to building the future of health care in California and proud to partner with the UCLA Medical School."

The UCLA IMG program was formed in 2006 with private funds to increase the number of bilingual Hispanic family practitioners in California. Hispanics represent one-third of the state's 36.5 million population, yet only 5 percent of the physician workforce. According to Michelle Anne Bholat, MD, MPH, executive director of the program, more than 200 languages are spoken in Los Angeles County, with Spanish being the most common. Studies have documented repeatedly that patients face significant barriers to accessing medical care when their physician neither speaks their language nor understands their cultural traditions and practices. Approximately 35 percent of California's Hispanic population lives in medically underserved areas, compared to 20 percent of the total number of Hispanics in the state.

The program helped Miguel Casillas, 28, achieve his dream of practicing medicine in the United States. Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and raised in Tijuana, Casillas had always been interested in the sciences and initially had considered a career as a surgeon. But changed direction during his final year of medical school at the Autonomous University of Baja California in Tijuana, when he fulfilled a required Social Service year in clinics in underserved areas.

These were people with little money and no insurance, and the patients were always grateful for the service the doctors provided, which included access to free sample medications and psychological referrals. He often formed strong bonds with these patients and became convinced that family medicine was his calling, Casillas said.

After working as a medical assistant in San Diego for six months, Casillas joined the IMG program in January 2007 and now will begin his residency in family medicine this June at the University of California, San Diego.

"There's no other place where I could have received this preparation," Casillas said. "The IMG program closes the gap for medical care in underserved areas, and it's a way for us to pay back for our medical education."

About University of California, Los Angeles

The UCLA Department of Family Medicine provides comprehensive primary care to entire families from newborns to seniors. It provides low risk obstetrical services and prenatal and inpatient care at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center and Orthopedic Hospital, and outpatient care at the Les Kelley Family Health Center in Santa Monica and the Mid-Valley Family Health Center, which is located in a Los Angeles County Health Center in Van Nuys, Calif. The department is also a leader in family medicine education, for both medical students and residents, and houses a significant research unit focusing on geriatric issues and health care disparities among immigrant families and minority communities in Los Angeles and California.

About Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente is shaping the future of health care. We are America's leading health care provider and not-for-profit health plan. Founded in 1945, our mission is to provide high-quality, affordable health care services to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve 8.6 million members in nine states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. In 2008, Kaiser Permanente proudly directed approximately $1.17 billion to support community benefit programs and services through research, community-based health partnerships, and direct health coverage for low-income families and collaboration with community clinics, health departments and public hospitals. For more information, go to

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