Melanin in Medicine



Jazzmin Williams, MD Candidate

Preferred pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Hometown: Stockton, CA

Education: Bachelor of Science in Human Biology with departmental honors at Stanford University; M.D. Candidate in the Program in Medical Education for the Urban Underserved (PRIME-US) at University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine

Why did you choose medicine? A major influence over my decision to become a doctor was my experience observing the course of my grandfather’s type II diabetes and hypertension. To him, these were minor conditions since most people he knew had those conditions at his age. Unfortunately, his physician did not explain, in terms he could understand, the pathophysiology and long-term implications of his diseases or the significance of adhering to the prescribed medication regimen and diet. As a result, my grandfather dismissed his co-morbidities and inconsistently adhered to treatment. He suffered from numerous micro- and microvascular complications, including amputation, and ultimately passed away from a stroke. This experience brought into sharp relief the fact that the quality of a doctor-patient relationship can be a matter of life or death. All too often, physicians dismiss patients as “non-compliant” for simply not understanding their medical conditions or for not engaging in healthy behaviors due to access barriers such as living in a food desert, not being able to afford transportation, medication, or insurance, etc. I chose medicine to be a physician who recognizes my patients as whole people; empowers them to be equal partners in maintaining their health; and combats structural injustices that compromise health and wellbeing.

Where are you now? Right now, I’m living in San Francisco, CA where I’m surprisingly more than half way through my first year of medical school! Since joining the UCSF community, I’ve been involved in promoting an anti-racist curriculum and improving the way race and ethnicity is discussed in the curriculum through my work with White Coats for Black Lives and the Differences Matter initiative. Additionally, I serve as the Underrepresented in Medicine Liaison and the Social Justice and Advocacy Chair in the UCSF chapter of the Student National Medical Association.

What do you love most about your work? As a medical student, I love having the unique opportunity to learn how to be a part of the medical profession, while also being just outside of it enough to question the status quo and define for myself what it means to be a physician. I’m very fortunate to be at an institution like UCSF, and in the San Francisco Bay Area in general, where I can find role models who believe that truly caring for patients doesn’t stop outside of the clinic.

What are your hobbies and interests? I’m interested in exploring ways that physicians can improve community health outcomes by shaping policy. Most recently, I’ve become interested in writing editorials that explore the intersection between policy and public health. In my spare time, I enjoy watching films, going to concerts, hiking, and traveling.

Photo via

Photo via

Jazzmin and Laeesha, both first year medical students in UCSF’s PRIME-US Program and active members of UCSF’s chapter of White Coats for Black Lives, recently published an article in the San Francisco Chronicle linking health disparities to a history of housing discrimination in San Francisco.


Laeesha Cornejo, MD Candidate

Preferred pronouns: She/her/hers

Hometown: San Francisco

Education: BA in Neuroscience at Pomona College, MD Candidate at UCSF School of Medicine.

Why did you choose medicine? I realized at a young age that my family history had set me on a path to pursue medicine. From my ancestors’ stories about war, survival, violence, and perseverance, I inherited a deep desire to heal individuals and communities through the practice of medicine. As a child growing up uninsured, I learned firsthand how destabilizing it was to be unable to access healthcare. I chose medicine because it allows me to take a leadership position in addressing health disparities. I want to create change both through the individual relationships that I form with patients and as an advocate on a larger stage.

Where are you now? I am in my first year of medical school at the University of California. I am in the Program in Medicine for the Urban Underserved (PRIME-US)

What do you love most about your work? What I love most about my first year is the opportunity to organize and attend electives, speaker series, and conferences to grow my knowledge in topic areas including harm reduction and addiction medicine, medical humanities, and health disparities.

What are your hobbies and interests? I love to cook as a way to decompress and connect with friends and family. I also enjoy running, reading (any and all fiction), writing, and exploring the Bay Area.

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