SF State News {University Communications}

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News Release


SF State and City College collaboration receives national honor

San Francisco Welcome Back Center recognized for public program innovation by Harvard Kennedy School of Government's Ash Institute


SAN FRANCISCO, July 29, 2008 -- The San Francisco Welcome Back Center, a non-profit program that helps foreign-trained health professionals qualify for and secure jobs in the United States health sector, was selected as a finalist for the 2008 Innovations in Government Awards given by the Harvard Kennedy School of Government's Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation. The joint program of San Francisco State University and City College San Francisco was one of 15 finalists selected from a pool of nearly 1,000 applicants nationwide.

The Innovations in Government Awards recognize creative approaches and solutions to pressing public problems. Welcome Back was the only California finalist selected and the only program involving higher education.

Policy analysts, government officials and academic experts at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and other institutions across the country selected the finalists after several months of rigorous evaluation. David Gergen, Harvard professor of public service, former U.S. News editor and adviser to four U.S. presidents, chaired the selection committee.

"From the beginning our mission was to build a bridge between the need for linguistically and culturally appropriate health services in underserved communities," Welcome Back Founder and Director Dr. José Ramón Fernández Peña said. "By contributing to the diversification and cultural competency of California's health work force, we hope to improve access to health services." Most of the program's alumni choose to work in low-income communities where suitable health care is not readily available.

"The Welcome Back Center is a model for positive change and deserves this recognition not only for its innovation and creativity, but for the dramatic effect it has had on the lives of both the medical professionals involved and the people they serve," San Francisco State President Robert A. Corrigan said.

Interim Chancellor of City College San Francisco Don Q. Griffin congratulated the Welcome Back Center's students, faculty, staff and generous supporters. "I'm extremely proud that the Welcome Back Center has been recognized by Harvard University," he said. "The program is incredibly unique in its responsiveness to the needs and issues that impact all of us: health care, immigration and economic development."

The Welcome Back Center is an initiative of Community Health Works, a partnership of San Francisco State University and City College San Francisco. The San Francisco Welcome Back Center is the lead site of a nationwide initiative that includes centers in San Diego, Los Angeles, Boston and Providence. Another center will open in Washington state this fall. Since the Initiative was launched in 2001, thousands of people from more than 130 countries have obtained the licenses and certifications required to continue their careers in health in the United States. For more information, visit www.e-welcomeback.org



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