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Physicians Honored as TCWF Champions of Diversity in the Health Professions


Michael V. Drake, Hector Flores and Ernest C. Levister Awarded $25,000 Each for Their Leadership in Increasing Diversity in the Health Professions

Woodland Hills (CA) —Three remarkable physicians will be honored as the 2007 Champions of Health Professions Diversity by The California Wellness Foundation (TCWF). Dr. Michael V. Drake has worked for 30 years to encourage minorities to enter and succeed in health-science schools within the University of California system. Dr. Hector Flores returned to his Southern California community to practice medicine and establish a residency program that encourages young doctors to do the same. Dr. Ernest C. Levister, an ardent advocate for diversifying medical schools, has become an important mentor to many young students.

On June 11, 2007, TCWF will honor these three leaders at its fifth annual “Champions of Health Professions Diversity Award” ceremony in Los Angeles. In recognition of their efforts to reduce entry barriers and to ensure the success of underrepresented minorities in medical professions, the honorees will each receive a cash award of $25,000.

“The future health of the people of California, as well as the health of our state’s economy, depends partly on developing a culturally competent, language-proficient health care workforce,” said Gary L. Yates, TCWF president and CEO. “By bringing awareness to these champions and their accomplishments, we hope to encourage others to follow their example.”

Michael V. Drake, MD
Dr. Michael Drake is chancellor of UC Irvine. His efforts to increase diversity in the UC system’s health-profession schools have elevated him as an expert and leader in recruiting and retaining minority students. He is chair of the board of directors of the Association of Academic Health Centers and is a member of the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Strategies to Enhance Diversity of the Health Sciences.

Drake has a long and accomplished association with the UC system that spans more than 30 years. He was the UC vice president of the Office of Health Affairs, where he oversaw education and research activities in 15 health-science schools, including schools of medicine, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy and public health. He also supervised UC Special Research Programs, which studies health issues ranging from tobacco-related diseases to breast cancer to HIV/AIDS. Drake was Steven P. Shearing Professor of Ophthalmology at UC San Francisco (UCSF). He also served as senior associate dean for admissions and extramural academic programs at the UCSF School of Medicine, where he was responsible for the school’s admissions process and educational outreach programs. He was involved in the establishment of the faculty-student Committee on Recruitment and Retention and served as its chair for 10 years.

“I think it’s really important for all of us to know that when we are around young people, a little bit of encouragement can make a big difference,” said Drake.

Hector Flores, MD
Dr. Hector Flores co-founded and currently serves as the medical director of the Family Care Specialists Medical Group in East Los Angeles. He also serves as co-director of the White Memorial Medical Center (WMMC) Family Medicine Residency Program, which he established with five other Latino family physicians. The program provides young physicians with the training and skills to become excellent clinicians in shortage-area practices, to provide culturally responsive health services, and to achieve leadership positions in the medical community. Most of the program participants go on to practice family medicine in underserved communities statewide, and 100 percent are Board Certified Family Physicians.

Flores was a founding member of the California Latino Medical Association. He served on the Clinton Health Care Task Force and the California Task Force on Culturally and Linguistically Competent Physicians and Dentists. He has given testimony to the California State Senate on the need to increase diversity in UC medical-training programs.

“Cultural competence is fundamentally based on the humanistic traditions of medicine,” said Flores. “If we’re open-minded about medicine being a lifelong learning endeavor, we need to understand that recognizing peoples’ cultural identities is also a lifelong endeavor – and that sometimes our best teachers are our patients themselves.”

Ernest C. Levister, Jr., MD, FACP
Dr. Ernest C. Levister is a highly regarded advocate for the underrepresented and for dismantling health care disparities. He practices internal and occupational medicine in San Bernardino and has personally mentored students pursuing careers in medicine, engineering and education. He is a long-time health columnist for the Inland Empire Black Voice News.

Levister’s desire to level the playing field propelled him to lead the Vines Medical Society, an affiliate of the National Medical Association. Levister assisted in the creation of programs at UC Riverside, designed to ensure faculty diversity and greater retention and graduation of people of color. He was instrumental in and supported the establishment of the student organization African-Americans United in Science.

“It is important to level the playing field, not to change admission or graduation standards, but to give kids the opportunity to develop their skills, to bring them up to the level that they should be,” said Levister.

The California Wellness Foundation is an independent, private foundation created in 1992 with a mission to improve the health of the people of California by making grants for health promotion, wellness education and disease prevention.

The Foundation prioritizes eight issues for funding: diversity in the health professions, environmental health, healthy aging, mental health, teenage pregnancy prevention, violence prevention, women’s health, and work and health. It also responds to timely issues and special projects outside the funding priorities.

Since its founding in 1992, TCWF has awarded 4,633 grants totaling more than $559 million. It is one of the state’s largest private foundations, providing an average of $50 million in grants each year in pursuit of its mission.


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