Third-year medical student Vanessa Abarca has been awarded the first-ever Legacy Health Endowment (LHE) Scholarship. As an LHE Scholar, Abarca will receive approximately $200,000 to cover the remainder of her medical school tuition and living expenses.
LHE is a charitable foundation based in Northern California. The foundation is tasked with improving the health and wellbeing of residents living within California’s Stanislaus and Merced Counties, where medical care and personnel have not kept pace with the quickly growing communities.
As a recipient of the scholarship, Abarca has agreed to practice medicine for four years in one of 19 zip codes in the Greater LHE community. The commitment will begin after she completes her residency training. Abarca also has promised to take on a portion of Medi-CAL, or Medicaid, patients once she begins practicing.
“This program was great for me given that my goal is to return home and serve the community that raised me,” says Abarca, who is originally from Modesto, CA. “Receiving this grant is so humbling. Donations from my community are literally funding my medical education so I can contribute to bridging the gap in medicine in underserved zip codes.”
Abarca is still deciding which specialty she is most interested in pursuing as a physician; right now, it’s between pediatrics, plastic surgery and cardiology.
Abarca, a former medical scribe and EMT, holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from California State University of Stanislaus in Turlock, CA and a master’s degree in biomedical sciences from Rowan University in Stratford, NJ.
As a Burrell College medical student, Abarca is a member of the local chapters of the American College of Osteopathic Pediatricians (ACOP) and the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA). She also is an Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Scholar and a former executive board member of Sin Limites, a student club that focuses on building positive relationships with young children in the community.
“I am a firm believer of health care being a fundamental right. The best way for me to help make that statement true is by starting in my community.” Abarca says. “I believe having osteopathic manipulative medicine as an extra tool in my medical toolbox, along with being bilingual, will make me a better equipped physician to serve the Greater LHE community.”