In 2001, several University of California medical schools established a post baccalaureate consortium of programs to help students from educationally and economically disadvantaged backgrounds gain admission to medical school after they were not successful in their first attempts. Ricardo Molina, MD ’05, and Dayana Carcamo-Molina, MD ’08, were participants in one of the first classes of UCLA’s consortium program, RAP (Re-Application Program). Nearly a decade later, the husband-and-wife physicians have returned to their RAP roots in establishing the Carcamo-Molina Scholarship.
Before completing her undergraduate degree at UC Irvine, Dr. Carcamo-Molina knew that she wanted to pursue a career in medicine. But as a first-generation graduate, she encountered several obstacles along her journey, starting with her transition from high school to college. A lack of guidance, mentorship and financial resources made it difficult for her to hit the benchmarks necessary for acceptance to medical school. “I asked others about applying, and they would say, ‘It’s really hard to get in,’” she says. But in spite of such discouragement and other setbacks, she was not ready to give up on her dream.
Then a friend of Dr. Carcamo-Molina’s who already had been accepted to medical school received a letter regarding the new University of California RAP program. He passed the letter on to her. “He said, ‘I already got in. Why don’t you call?’” she remembers. Dr. Carcamo-Molina took the information and ran with it, applying and being admitted to the first RAP class at UCLA.
Among the criteria for acceptance to RAP, which is an intensive 11-month-long preparatory program of review, mentorship and coursework, is a commitment to practice medicine in an underserved community. “It opened my mind to this community of all these other people that I could relate to,” Dr. Carcamo-Molina recalls of the program. “I just needed somebody to tell me I could do it. I would not be a doctor today if it were not for RAP.” Dr. Carcamo-Molina’s husband, Dr. Ricardo Molina, also recalls a similar experience, “What was so great about the RAP program was that everyone was so different. We all had different reasons why we did not gain admission the first time. For some, a more well-rounded application was needed. For others, they needed more of the science curriculum. The RAP program was able to tailor the curriculum to each and every one of us to improve our individual applications.”
First-year UCLA medical student and RAP graduate Eden Patton shares a similar affinity for the program. “Not only did RAP provide the tools and resources necessary to meet the academic requirements for applying to medical school, it also provided mentorship and compassion throughout the entire process,” she says. Applying to medical school is very taxing physically, mentally, financially and emotionally, and RAP was there every step of the way.”
Not only does the program academically prepare students to reapply to medical school, it also provides weekly mentorship and RAP alumni shadowing opportunities. Monica Perkins, interim director of diversity, inclusion and outreach for the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, says that “it’s important for the students in this program to interact with someone like them. RAP gives students the space and opportunity to bond with other students from similar backgrounds and experiences.”
Throughout medical school, Drs. Molina and Carcamo-Molina served as RAP student mentors. However, their involvement with the program diminished when they left UCLA to begin her internship (in Kansas City, Kansas) and his residency (in Kansas City, Missouri). “We always told one another that once we were ‘there,’ we had to help out somehow,” Dr. Carcamo-Molina says. When they returned to California and settled into their current practices in Northern California, where she is a gastroenterologist and he an orthopaedic surgeon, they decided to give back by establishing the Carcamo- Molina Scholarship, a fund dedicated to supporting UCLA RAP students in their medical school application process.
Patton is among those students who have benefited from the scholarship. “Because of RAP, I was a very successful applicant when I was ready to apply again to medical school. I was elated to have so many offers to interview but was often unsure how I could afford to pay for the travel to these institutions.” The Carcamo- Molina Scholarship was essential to enabling her to complete her application process. “I was able to travel to all interview locations and make the best decision for me as far as my medical school education. Fortunately for me, I was offered a slot at UCLA.”
Reflecting on his own time at UCLA, Dr. Molina explains, “For Dayana and me, it holds a special place in our hearts because that’s where we met each other. Now, after almost 17 years of marriage, moving to the Midwest, coming back to California, UCLA is where it all began.” Having such a strong personal connection to the medical school, he and Dr. Carcamo-Molina always felt they needed to give back in some way. “We both work with underserved communities in our different specialties,” and that, he says, was one of their goals when they chose to become physicians. Helping medical students with similar goals, interests and experiences was a key driver for him and his wife in starting their scholarship fund. “Now that we are both settled in our careers, we think of the scholarship as a very small way to pay back for all of the help we received while in RAP,” Dr. Molina says.
Since 2001, the UCLA RAP program has graduated 142 students, and the Carcamo-Molina Scholarship, since its inception, has supported four prospective medical students. Drs. Molina and Carcoma-Molina plan to continue funding their scholarship for years to come. “It’s a small way that is easy for us to give back,” Dr. Carcoma-Molina says. “We can’t forget how we got to where we are now, and we can’t forget where we came from.”
For more information about UCLA RAP, go to: medschool.ucla.edu/current-ucla-rap