California State University, Long Beach
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HPAO Receives $150K Wellness Grant

The California Wellness Foundation has awarded a $150,000 grant to the Health Professions Advising Office (HPAO) in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at CSULB to support its core operating effort of providing academic support to students, particularly minority students, interested in pursuing careers in the health professions.

“The California Wellness Foundation is interested in getting more students into health careers, especially students from underrepresented populations,” said Carol Itatani, a professor of biological sciences at CSULB and director of HPAO. “Cal State Long Beach not only has a large number of students, it has a great diversity of students. Because of that diversity, I believe the California Wellness Foundation finds (the campus) to be a good (investment for its money).”

“Studies have found that students who come from medically underserved backgrounds are more likely to practice in underserved areas,” pointed out Eileen Tom, HPAO coordinator. “If you want to serve the underserved, often the best people to do that are those who know what it is all about, who went through it as a child. So, there is this big untapped market of students from underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds who have an interest in health professions, but may not know how to prepare and need support to help them reach their goals. That is where our office fits in.”

Housed in the Jensen Student Access to Science and Mathematics (SAS) Center, the HPAO was created in 1999 with a goal of assisting all CSULB students (not just those in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics) who have an interest in going on to graduate-level health professions such as medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, optometry, veterinary, etc.

Tom and Francisco Castillo help students plan for that next step. Working with 200-250 students annually, the HPAO staff assists students looking to move on to graduate school. The staff helps all the way through the application process, including writing personal statements, reviewing them, interview preparation, selecting which schools to apply to, and if they are fortunate enough to get more than one offer, how to choose the best school to go to.

“In between, we help them with their academic planning, meeting the prerequisites, but more importantly, their non-academic planning, what experiences they should be seeking such as research, community service and clinical experience,” Tom said “We emphasize how important these involvements are to confirming and demonstrating their commitment. We want to show them how to make their mark and stand out and be unique from other students who are applying.”

Among the other careers within the health professions are physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner, public health specialist, pharmacist, veterinarian, dentist, optometrist and physical therapist.

Itatani also pointed out that now is an ideal time to be looking toward a career in the health care field. 

“You have this huge Baby Boomer population coming along and readying for retirement,” she said. “You can’t go wrong with seeking a career in the health professions because there is going to be a huge need in almost every area of the health care industry.”

Since 1999, the acceptance rate for CSULB students to medical school is about 40 percent. That number goes up to 65 percent when the CSULB students have utilized the HPAO services, and it jumps again to 85 percent when the CSULB students have a GPA that reflects the national mean for accepted students.