Honors for Commitment to Diversity

January 03, 2005
Three campus members, who are leaders in promoting ethnic diversity at UCSF, have been named winners of the Martin Luther King Jr. Award. The winners -- who will be honored Tuesday, Jan. 25, noon to 2 p.m., at a ceremony in Cole Hall as part of Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Week at UCSF - are: Carmen Portillo, RN, PhD, FAAN, associate professor in the School of Nursing's Department of Community Health Systems; Charles Alexander, PhD, associate dean for student affairs in the School of Dentistry; and Katherine Lupton, a fourth-year medical student. Carmen Portillo, the faculty winner of the award, came to UCSF in 1990 and in many ways has promoted cultural diversity. "As result of her mentoring, junior faculty and students from underrepresented ethnic groups have more successfully weathered the strains of campus life, and new approaches have been developed to reach out to underrepresented communities to support and encourage individual applications to our graduate programs," said an award nominator from the School of Nursing. Portillo has given her time to serve on numerous committees, including the University Committee on Affirmative Action and Diversity and the Academic Senate Committee on Equal Opportunity. She served for eight years a sponsor of the School of Nursing Hispanic Nurses' Support Group and five years as a consultant to the School's Recruitment and Retention Committee. For five years, she coordinated the School's Hispanic Nurses' Symposium, and she was a founding member of the Faculty Mentor Program. She has also served on several national professional and policy groups, including the National Association of Hispanic Nurses, in which she has addressed the unacceptable shortage of Latino nurses and nursing faculty. Charles Alexander, selected to receive the Martin Luther King Jr. Award in the staff category, established the nation's first Post Baccaluareate Program exclusively for dental students. The program is designed to boost dental admission test scores and basic science grades of students who intend to practice in underserved communities. In six years, 79 of the 80 students in the program have gained admittance to a dental school. Alexander and his unit also administer: the Dental Mentorship Program, an alliance between UCSF and San Francisco high schools that brings students into the dental clinics to observe fourth-year dental students and postgraduate residents at work; the Health Sciences Enrichment Program, which introduces high school students who are considering college and careers to UCSF health science and students professionals; and the Undergraduate Mentorship Program, designed to create a pool of students, particularly from underrepresented, disadvantaged and minority backgrounds, who are interested in a dental career. In the latter program, of the 138 participating students, 68 have gone on to dental school and six others are pursuing postgraduate degrees. He also holds posts on community and national organizations, including director of the Western Region of the National Association of Medical Minority Educators. Katherine Lupton has made community service and outreach a focus of hers even through four years of medical school. In her first two years here, she served as chair of the Native American Health Alliance, recruiting Native students to the School of Medicine and designing a series of speakers and presentations for UCSF's First Annual Native American Heritage Month Celebration. In her second year at UCSF, she co-founded "Medlink," a student-initiated and student-run academic enrichment program to encourage underreprsented high school students in San Francisco to consider careers in health care. She has spent countless hours working with students, developing a health curriculum and networking with other groups to ensure success of the program. She currently is pursing an Area of Concentration (AoC) in Community Health and Social Advocacy, a new School of Medicine elective program comparable to a "minor" in college. For her AoC project, Lupton is examining institutional support of students of color.