One of the utmost things that I love about living in the Coachella Valley is the extensive health initiatives embedded throughout our desert communities. Within these precincts lie the Desert Healthcare District (DHCD), UC Riverside (UCR), and the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership (CVEP), which have similar visions that parallel my own: to ultimately improve the overall health of our residents. Motivated by this noble cause, these organizations continue to foster key programs to decrease the health disparities prevalent in our community today. These programs include an investment in our youth through scholarships, internships, and jobs in their field of interest. It is this particular focus on our leaders of tomorrow that opens the window of career-advancing opportunities and gives our students access to a vast array of resources, such as mentors and career guidance.

Last year DHCD, UCR, and CVEP provided me the opportunity to attend a health conference hosted at Stanford University. Those readers immersed in the world of academia understand me when I write that ‘networking is everything.’ A health conference is the perfect place to expand your professional network, become exposed to the diverse branches of medicine, and learn about the different options that can advance your career. By attending a series of workshops at the conference, and after hearing an interactive lecture given by a public health professor, my comprehension of and interest in public health grew.

My favorite part of the conference, however, was those opportunities where students and professionals were able to interact. While conversing, I gained valuable knowledge about science and medical programs throughout the nation—not to mention the advice from important personalities.

Today, the collaborative continues to provide this phenomenal experience to students across the Coachella Valley. This year seven DHCD scholars will participate in the pre-medical/pre-health conference in UC Davis. The importance of creating these opportunities for our students is highlighted by the connections and the knowledge they will acquire to become stronger community leaders.

My aspirations are fueled by the constant support, assistance, and resources that the collaborative and the rest of my community give me. My vocational goal is to become a doctor, and my passion is to serve my community. I dream of one day using my vocation to live my passion. I strive to return to the Coachella Valley and utilize my medical education to reduce the healthcare inequalities. I will ultimately become a physician activist in order to give a voice to those who are silenced due to socioeconomic or political struggles. By working together, we will create community programs to improve the overall health status of our neighborhoods and expand the health initiatives present today. I thank DHCD, UCR, and CVEP for the valuable opportunities and investment in the education of tomorrow’s leaders. Investing in our education is investing in our communities. This ideology is summed up by the words of the human rights activist, Cesar Chavez, “The end of all education should surely be service to others.”

Joshue Leyva can be reached at [email protected]. For more information on mentoring opportunities, please contact Donna Sturgeon at Coachella Valley Economic Partnership: [email protected].

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