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Clovis West Grads Claim 4 of 12 Seats in UCSF Fresno Medical School
gvw_nancy_price
By Nancy Price, Multimedia Journalist
Published 3 years ago on
September 14, 2021

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Clovis West High School might well claim bragging rights over the newest class of medical students at UCSF School of Medicine’s San Joaquin Valley Program in Medical Education (SJV Prime). Four of the 12 brand-new medical students are Screaming Eagles, UCSF Fresno reports.

Check out my other School Zone columns at Nancy Price’s School Zone Facebook page.

SJV PRIME is a medical school track designed for Valley students who want to be physicians and indicate they plan to remain here after their graduation and residencies, which would help ease the region’s severe shortage of medical personnel.

The latest class of SJV Prime medical students:

  • Adam Alyafaie was born and raised in Fresno, attended Clovis West, and graduated from UCLA with a degree in biology.
  • Noor Chahal, a native of Punjab, India, moved to Fresno at age 4. He attended Clovis West High School and earned a biology degree at UCLA.
  • Andrew Contreras was raised in Madera, attended Madera High School and Madera Community College, and then earned a bachelor’s in biology with minors in physical science and sociology at Fresno State.
  • Stephen “John” Cruz was born in Manila, Philippines, and raised in Bakersfield. He attended Liberty High School and graduated with a degree in Human Biology at UC Irvine.
  • Pardeep Dhillon grew up in Atwater, went to Buhach Colony High School, and attended UCLA, where he majored in psychobiology.
  • Rafael Verduzco Guillen grew up in Bakersfield, attended Foothill High School, and graduated from UC Berkeley, where he studied molecular and cell biology.
  • Mandeep Kaur was born and raised in Fresno, where she attended Central West High School and Fresno State. She participated in UCSF Fresno’s Summer Biomedical Internship Program and was mentored by Dr. Rais Vohra, emergency medicine faculty at UCSF Fresno and Fresno County’s interim health officer.
  • Bagieng Keophimphone was born and raised in Fresno, went to Central West High School, Central East High School, and graduated from Buchanan High School. He earned a bachelor’s in biochemistry at Fresno State.
  • Rojina Nekoonam was born and raised in Iran until she and her father relocated to the United States when she was age 16. She attended Clovis West and then received a merit-based scholarship to attend Fresno State and studied biology.
  • Alyssa Marie Rivera was born in the Philippines and immigrated to the United States in 2005. She attended Clovis West High School and Fresno State.
  • Amritpal Singh was born in Punjab, India. He immigrated to the United States with his family at a young age, was raised in Ceres and later moved to Atwater. Singh attended Ceres High School and graduated from UC Merced.
  • Shizra Sipra was born and raised in Clovis. She graduated from Fresno State as part of the Smittcamp Family Honors College with a bachelor’s degree in biology.

Students in the UCSF SJV PRIME program spend the first 18 months at the UCSF campus in San Francisco. They then move to UCSF Fresno for the remaining 2 1/2 years of their medical education including research and community engagement in collaboration with UC Merced.


Also in School Zone: 

  • U.S. News & World Report ranks Fresno State, Fresno Pacific, UC Merced in latest survey.
  • Fresno State biochem major is named a CSU Trustees Scholar.
  • Duncan Polytechnical ready to break ground on new MASH unit.
  • Fresno Unified needs teacher subs and is upping the ante to hire them.

Seven of the eight SJV PRIME students who graduated earlier this summer stayed in California to provide medical care. Six matched with University of California-affiliated residencies. Three stayed at UCSF Fresno to complete residency programs in Internal Medicine, Surgery, and Emergency Medicine.

“SJV PRIME takes students from the Valley; we train them here, offer them residency training in the Valley with the hope they will stay to practice,” said Dr. Kenny Banh, assistant dean, Undergraduate Medical Education at UCSF Fresno.

In the National Spotlight

Fresno State once again was a national leader among universities for graduation rates, according to the latest U.S. News & World Report survey. The university ranked No. 3 among public national universities for its graduation rate and fifth overall among national universities.

It’s becoming somewhat of a tradition: Fresno State has ranked No. 3 among public universities for the past four years and was No. 1 in 2017.

Fresno State’s other rankings, per the magazine: No. 213 in National Universities (tie); No. 21 in Top Performers on Social Mobility (tie); and No. 107 in Top Public Schools (tie).

Fresno Pacific also did pretty well, coming in at No. 13 in the social mobility category and at No. 41 in best values among Regional Universities—West. Washington Monthly ranked Fresno Pacific at No. 65 on its best value list and No. 105 overall in its nationwide Master’s Universities category.

UC Merced tied at No. 93 in National Universities, tied at No. 58 in Best Undergraduate Teaching, and was No. 129 in Best Value Schools, according to the survey.

The rankings are derived from a massive database that includes graduation rates, tuition and fees, faculty salaries, and other facts that students and their parents might want to know about when considering a college.

CSU Trustees Recognize Students

Maram Kiran

Twenty-three California State University students — one from each CSU campus — were honored Tuesday with CSU Trustees’ Awards, the university’s highest recognition of student achievement.

Students are selected for the donor-funded scholarships because of their superior academic performance, personal accomplishments, community service, and financial need.

Fresno State senior Maram Kiran was named the Trustee Emerita Claudia H. Hampton Scholar.

The Yemeni American grew up in the San Joaquin Valley, where she saw how socioeconomic and language barriers limited her family’s access to quality health care.

Kiran, who is majoring in biochemistry, established the campus chapter of Doctors Without Borders and conducts research through the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation. As part of the Smittcamp Family Honors College, she also donates time to community service.

She plans to pursue a master’s in global health sciences and obtain a doctorate of medicine after she graduates from Fresno State in the spring of 2022.

Speaking of Medicine …

The Medical Academy of Science and Health (MASH) programs are getting a new home at Duncan Polytechnical High School in Fresno. The official groundbreaking for the new career technical education facility will be held at 9:30 a.m. Friday.

If the project stays on schedule, MASH students could be in their new building by the fall of 2022. Until then, they will continue learning about nursing, physical therapy, and pharmacy work in the current MASH headquarters at the school, which was formerly a middle school until it was converted into a magnet high school.

Need for Subs Drives up Pay

Fresno Unified isn’t the only school district desperately searching for substitute teachers, who may have to fill in when regular classroom teachers need to go on quarantine or be away from the classroom for other reasons.

So the district announced Tuesday that it’s raising the daily pay for subs to $208.04, or an extra $45 on top of the daily base rate. But subs need to be prepared to do “simultaneous teaching,” which is teaching kids in classrooms and online at the same time.

Interested? You will need to upload a resume, transcripts, two letters of support, and a substitute permit or credential when you apply online at fresnounified.org. Need a substitute permit? Contact the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools at (559) 265-3005.

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Nancy Price,
Multimedia Journalist
Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email

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