Who gets to be a doctor?

December 6, 2017

Thanks to an equity-driven partnership with Denver Health, students are making inroads into health care opportunities.


Story by Cory Phare | Photos courtesy Alyson McClaran + Denver Health

Jose Parra Gonzalez works with patients who have stage 4 cancer. The 2016 graduate who majored in biology and minored in chemistry is now a professional research assistant and clinical coordinator, advancing knowledge that may one day improve end-of-life care delivery – and serve as impeccable medical school application material.

For Gonzalez, though, it’s personal.

“I’ve lost family to cancer,” he said. “The molecular biology and cancer-related coursework I took at MSU Denver reaffirmed my decision to study oncology and help others.”

And when it came to making the jump to this career-defining work, he credited a unique partnership that helped him tie it all together.

“Before I got involved with the Healthcare Interest Program (HIP), I didn’t know how I was going to get into the health care field,” Gonzalez said.

“I honestly wouldn’t be where I am today without it.”

Launched in 2009, HIP is an effort within Denver Health designed to help students from underrepresented populations thrive in healthcare fields. Through a series of hands-on educational programs, participants gain access to clinical experience, career preparation and targeted curricula to tailor graduate school applications. And, paired with supportive mentors, students have an advocate to help them at each step along the way.

In addition to guidance, HIP can also provide another vital item: a route into health-related jobs.

That’s especially important for students like Gonzalez, who recalled how the program helped transition him from working as a server at a restaurant into a pharmacy technician, which laid the foundation for his current role with the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

“Our students are working so many hours, balancing so many other demands, how can we support them so they perform well in rigorous science programs? How can we say ‘yes, you belong in a field like health care?’” asked Emily Matuszewicz, D.C., chair of the Department of Health Professions.

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