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Cover of the Fall/Winter 2003 SFSU Magazine. Photo of Professor and talk radio show host, Michael Krasny.

 

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Aspiring doctor Eric Sandoval looks up from a table at the UC Irvine library where he’s studying.

On the Right Path

Ever since he was a kid, Eric Sandoval wanted to be a doctor. He didn't know a lot about them -- his parents were Mexican immigrants with no health insurance so doctor visits were rare. But one thing really intrigued him: When he was sick, doctors made him well.

"To have the ability to heal another human being, that was what I wanted," says Sandoval, 25.

But Sandoval didn't see it happening. Neither his father, a landscaper, nor his mother, who cleaned houses, completed the eighth grade. Though he graduated from Concord High with grades good enough to get into San Francisco State, once he got to the University, he was too insecure to take the science courses required to get into medical school.

It took the support of a few caring professors and the backing of a San Francisco State program called HealthPath to give Sandoval the confidence he needed to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor.

He switched his major to biology and with the help of HealthPath, is now studying medicine at the University of California, Irvine, on a full scholarship. He hopes to become a family practitioner and work with underserved communities.

HealthPath, directed by Counseling Professor Amy Hittner, provides academic enrichment and counseling support to more than 300 financially and educationally disadvantaged students, starting at middle school and reaching to the college and university level.

The goal is to increase the numbers of traditionally underrepresented populations in the health and medical professions -- from dieticians and physical therapists to dentists and doctors.

Counseling and advising services are provided by graduate interns from the Counseling Department who work with students at middle and high schools, City College of San Francisco, the University of California, San Francisco, and SFSU. HealthPath students also participate in social events and visit work sites of health care professionals.

Sandoval knows the hard work is just beginning. He'll be spending long hours with his nose in an anatomy text before he starts his career. But now he knows that his dream is within his grasp, just as it is for other young people.

"If I can do it," he says modestly, "other students can too."

-- Tracie White

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