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School of Medicine Faculty Interview: Marissa Raymond-Flesch, MD, MPH

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Tell me a bit about your background.

I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a minority majority state with tremendous health challenges for youth. My high school class started with about 1,000 students, but we graduated with just under 500. We lost students to gang violence, poverty, and pregnancy. This experience fostered a sense that something was broken and I wanted to fix it. I became deeply interested in how I could improve the lives of Latino youth. Since then, I have focused my career on understanding the challenges that Latino and immigrant communities face.

My research focuses on access to care for adolescents and young adults, with a particular interest in in improving reproductive health access for minority and border communities. I use community-based participatory research to bring health care and health education into these underserved communities.

October is Diversity Month! Tell me about your work as a John A. Watson Faculty Scholar.

My current research, conducted in partnership with colleagues from RTI, UC Berkeley, and the Monterey County Health Department, examines the relationship between mental health, community violence, and unintended teen pregnancies in Salinas, California - a small, predominantly Latino community in California’s rural central coast. Although some research has examined the association between violence and teen pregnancies in large urban centers, little is known about this association in rural communities. Work from this investigation highlighted the critical role that family plays in positive youth development and reproductive health knowledge. This work, and the community engagement associated with it, also revealed wide-spread concern about the mental health of Salinas youth. This data has informed the development of "A Crecer: The Salinas Teen Health Study," an ongoing longitudinal survey of 600 early adolescents in Salinas.

What is your personal commitment to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion at UCSF?

My inclusion as a Watson Scholar really made me feel that there’s a place for me here at UCSF. It opened up space in my work to continue driving at policy and health factors. I am committed to serving as a mentor to help cultivate others with similar interests. Sometimes you just need someone to say “Let’s keep going” and I want to be that person to others.

We work on what we measure. How can we track how diversity, equity, and inclusion is being worked on across UCSF? We have an obligation as health care providers to talk about this. We must work with students to obtain quality feedback to foster change. These are not soft health issues – they’re of integral importance to the quality of care we provide.

Thank you, Marissa!

- interviewed by Lesley Snyder