Three YVC students to participate in national program for future health professionals

Yakima, Wash. — Three of Yakima Valley College’s STEM students have been selected as scholars in the Summer Health Profession Education Program (SHPEP), a national program that aims to increase diversity in health professions and thereby improve access to quality health care. Students Eddie Juarez, Cassandra Cruz and Eliezer Alcazar will participate in the 6-week enrichment program hosted by the University of Washington.

SHPEP scholars, including Juarez, Cruz and Alcazar, will be encouraged to explore what their unique role will be in improving the health of communities through curricula exploring self-identity, culture and personal strengths in a context presenting a range of health professions.

Each year UW, one of 12 university host sites in the nation, selects 80 students to participate in the program according to Director Nora Coronado. This year represents the first time YVC has three students selected to participate in the program thanks to efforts of the college’s STEM program staff.

“The UW has been so fortunate to have forged a relationship with YVC STEM Academic Intervention Coordinator Cristy Rasmussen. Champions of programs like SHPEP are key to the long-term success of students and are important to increasing diversity in the health professions,” stated Coronado.

The SHPEP involves rigorous academic enrichment through classes that provide a strong knowledge base in foundational sciences and statistics. The curriculum is designed to build on students’ knowledge of the social determinants of health and health disparities through the lens of social justice.

“Part of the joy of directing enrichment programs such as SHPEP is following the students over time to see what their career choices are,” Coronado said. “Many of our students are the first in their families to go to college or consider a career in the health professions so they are often navigating the system with less support and knowledge of the processes. Our goal is to provide students with the tools that will help them become successful.”

SHPEP’s goal is to strengthen the academic proficiency and career development of students underrepresented in the health professions and prepare them for a successful application and matriculation to health professions schools.

Alcazar, who ultimately hopes to enter the field of pediatrics, is excited to participate in SHPEP and build his knowledge of medical careers.

“The program’s enthusiasm to help students who are underrepresented in the community made me want to apply to the SHPEP,” stated Alcazar. “Given UW’s diversity and renowned medical program I felt participating in this program could help me gain valuable experience in a health field. Moreover, I am looking forward to learning about the medical field and getting a glimpse into what a health professional has to do on a daily basis.”

Alcazar will graduate from YVC in June and plans to transfer to Central Washington University where he will pursue a degree in psychology.

“I strongly believe that working in the medical field and having a background in psychology is very valuable towards understanding patients and working with them to build essential trust. I do not want children to fear their doctor,” Alcazar said.

Each SHPEP site provides scholars with academic enrichment in the basic sciences and math, career development activities, learning and study skills seminars, financial planning, wellness and virtual hands-on activities. The UW’s program is a collaboration of its nationally-ranked Schools of Medicine, Dentistry and Public Health.

The program begins on June 21 and runs through July 30, 2021. Each student earns a $600 stipend distributed in two installments. Students also receive a $400 food supplement.

Press Release Contacts:
Dustin Wunderlich / 509.574.6870 /
Stefanie Menard / 509.574.4646 /