(Top) Dr. Blanca Campos instructing students in the IMG program.
(Bottom, from left) Dr. Michelle Bholat, executive vice chair of the Department of Family Medicine and executive director of the UCLA International Medical Graduate (IMG) Program; Dr. Patrick Dowling, chair of the Department of Family Medicine and associate director of IMG; and Dr. Blanca Campos, assistant director of IMG.
Photos: Courtesy of UCLA Department of Family Medicine
Blanca Samira Campos, MD (RES ’11), is one of the first graduates of the UCLA International Medical Graduate (UCLA IMG) Program, developed in 2007 by Michelle Bholat, MD, MPH, and Patrick Dowling, MD, MPH, of the UCLA Department of Family Medicine, to address the state’s changing demographics and existing shortage of Hispanic doctors. After completing her residency in family medicine at UCLA, Dr. Campos worked at the Wilmington Family Health Center in Wilmington, California. Currently, she is a primary-care physician at the UCLA Family Health Center in Santa Monica, California, a junior faculty physician in the UCLA Family Medicine Residency Program and assistant director of the UCLA IMG program.
My story began 2,700 miles away from UCLA. I was born in Belize, a tiny country in Central America. My dad was a construction worker and my mom a housewife. I am the oldest of three daughters. My interest in medicine grew out of accompanying my mom to meetings and fundraisers of the hospital auxiliary. The mission of the auxiliary was to raise funds to help purchase items that the hospital in our small town would need, such as sheets, nebulizers and wound-care supplies.
Belize did not have a medical school, and aspiring physicians went to other countries, such as Guatemala, Mexico or Jamaica, for their medical education. Thanks to the generosity of the Jesuit Society in Belize and Father Messmer, a Jesuit priest and my physics teacher, I received my medical education in San José, Costa Rica, at the University of Health Sciences of Central America. Father Messmer offered to help with my tuition because he knew that my family could not afford to send me to medical school. After completing medical school, I practiced at one of the outpatient clinics of the Costa Rican Social Security Administration.
Love brought me to Los Angeles. My childhood sweetheart, now my husband, had emigrated to the United States. Once settled, I prepared for the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) board exams on my own, as well as by enrolling in Kaplan courses, and successfully passed the USMLE Step 1, USMLE Step 2 CK, USMLE Step 2 CS and Step 3. Then, I volunteered with the UCLA Division of Pediatric Endocrinology and later worked in the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science breast-cancer-prevention program.
I met Dr. Dowling when I interviewed at UCLA for the Family Medicine Residency Program. Due to personal reasons, I had to withdraw from the match, but I kept in touch with him. In 2007, Drs. Bholat and Dowling started the UCLA IMG pre-residency training program, consisting of pre-preparatory courses Basic Science Review for USMLE Step 1 and English for Health Professionals, Program A course Basic Sciences/USML Step 1 Preparation, Program B courses Clinical Science/USMLE Step 2 CK and CS Preparation and Program C course Clinical Observership.
Since I already had passed the USMLE board exams, I applied to Program C, which consisted of 60 hours per week for three months. I did my clinical observership at the UCLA Family Health Center; UCLA Health - Santa Monica Medical Center family-medicine inpatient service; and Olive View-UCLA Medical Center urgent care. In 2008, I applied to the UCLA Family Medicine Residency Program. My acceptance was such a blessing.
Upon completion of the residency program, I was required, as an IMG graduate, to spend 24-to-36 months working in an underserved community caring for immigrants and low-income patients who face financial and language barriers to care. Following my residency, I enjoyed working with the patients at the Wilmington Family Health Center, one of the Northeast Community Clinics and a federally qualified health center.
In 2014, I returned to UCLA as a primary-care physician at the UCLA Family Health Center in Santa Monica. I feel I have come full circle. Now, as a junior faculty member, I prepare bilingual (English- Spanish), bicultural IMGs to become board-certified California family physicians through this unique pre-residency training program. Soon, there will be 100 IMG graduates, all using their time and talents to make a difference in the communities they serve.
For more information visit UCLA International Medical Graduate Programs.