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Program in Medical Education for the Latino Community

A crucial mission of the UC Irvine School of Medicine is to educate highly qualified physicians who are able to serve the diverse populations of California. The Program in Medical Education for the Latino Community, known as PRIME LC, is designed to help fulfill that mission.

Our five-year combined medical degree and master's degree training program is intended to meet the increasing demand for physician-leaders who are culturally sensitive and linguistically competent to address the specific needs of California's Latino population.

Students from all backgrounds are eligible for enrollment in the program.

View a welcome message from PRIME-LC director Charles P. Vega, MD ›

About PRIME-LC »

PRIME-LC was established in 2004 with a projected capacity of 60 students in all levels of the five-year medical school curriculum. This combined medical degree/masters’ program responds to an increasing demand for physician-leaders who are culturally sensitive and linguistically competent to address the specific needs of California's Latino population.

Students from all backgrounds are eligible for enrollment in the program upon acceptance to UC Irvine School of Medicine. Successful applicants should have outstanding academic credentials, a solid Spanish-language conversational ability and, most important, a significant commitment to the Latino community. We encourage all who are interested to apply, including those who are not currently California residents.

PRIME-LC students accept additional curriculum in addition to their regular medical school training in order to further their mission of becoming physician-leaders. The PRIME-LC curriculum begins before regular medical school enrollment in the first year of the master's program and includes activities through all five years of training. It includes some regular medical school coursework that has been altered to reflect the goals of PRIME-LC, in addition to curriculum designed and required for PRIME-LC students alone. Use this link <<>> to see an overview of the curriculum from years MS1 to MS5.

Curriculum highlights include:

  • Summer Pre-MS1 Curriculum.

Students spend a month before the official start of medical school developing a foundation as community physicians and leaders. Tuition and fees are covered by the program for this training, as are housing, food and travel costs. Specific highlights of the program include:

    •  Clinical rotations in community health centers
    •  The first of three classes on culture, politics, economics and Latino health taught by the UC Irvine Department of Chicano and Latino Studies
    •  A five-day trip to central California to practice medicine and learn about health and social issues faced by migrant farm workers
    •  A trip to Sacramento to advocate in the state capitol for improving health disparities
    •  Several visits to successful community-based organizations with meetings to understand the underpinnings of their success, including dialogue on funding from philanthropic groups.
    •  A trip to the U.S.-Mexico border with a non-government organization that is focused the well-being of migrants
    •  Media training
  • Clinical Foundations course for the MS-1 year feature Spanish-speaking standardized patients and deal with issues of culture and health. These classes are led by physicians who have devoted their careers to working in Latino communities.
  • PRIME-LC features monthly student-faculty meetings that include dialogues between students and experts in Latino health issues as well as career-building advice and mentorship from PRIME-LC alumni and other physicians who focus on Latino health.
  • PRIME-LC students are placed in health centers with a majority Latino patient population and with mentors who focus on Latino health during the Patient-Centered Clerkship, which spans years MS-1 and MS-2.
  • Students participate in coursework led by the Department of Chicano and Latino Studies through the first three years of medical school. Courses, which focus on contemporary health issues facing Latinos, are taught by leading medical anthropologists and psychologists. They are taught in small seminars and include critical context for issues of social justice, culture and health disparities as students see patients in clinic and hospital settings.
  • The MS-3 year includes the final course from the Department of Chicano and Latino Studies as well as priority clinical rotations in UC Irvine Health facilities that serve low-income Latino populations.  PRIME-LC students learn from faculty members who share their passion to make a difference in the health of Latinos.
  • Between the MS-3 and MS-4 years, PRIME-LC sponsors a one-month clinical rotation at Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia Hospital in Lima, Peru, as a contrast to the U.S. medical system. All PRIME-LC students complete this rotation together, affording another important chance to bond with your fellow PRIMISTAS. 
  • The master’s degree program is usually completed in the MS-4 year. Students have focused on degrees in public health, business administration, public policy, international health, demographics and social analysis, public health in developing countries, healthcare law and even philosophy. While most program graduates stay in Southern California, the reputation of PRIME-LC and our students’ commitment to underserved medical populations, have helped them to gain acceptance and scholarships at highly competitive schools, such as Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Columbia universities.
  • Students complete team-based community intervention projects over their five years of training. Previous examples of such projects include founding free clinics, launching Orange County’s first needle-exchange program and starting Radio Bilingue in Santa Ana, as well as creating programs that increase exercise opportunities for urban children.
  • PRIME-LC funds an annual retreat for current PRIME-LC students and alumni. There is also a weekend forum at which students from all University of California PRIME programs can get to know one another and build a network of advocacy.

Application process for PRIME-LC

All applicants must complete and submit an American Medical College Application Service application between June 1 and Nov. 1 of the year preceding your anticipated admission. Qualified candidates receive a UC Irvine secondary application, including a supplemental application for the PRIME-LC program.

The Admissions Committee reviews the secondary application materials and selects candidates who advance to the interview process. If selected for interviews, applicants have one interview conducted in Spanish.

Administration »


Charles Vega, MD
Executive Director, PRIME-LC

John Billimek, PRIME-LC director of community engagement and administration

John Billimek, PhD
Director, PRIME-LC Community Engagement and Administration

Lucero Zamudio, administrator, Prime-LC Program

Lucero Zamudio-Fernandez
Program Coordinator, PRIME-LC

Faculty »
  • Rosa M. Andrade, M.D.
    Assistant Professor
    Department of Medicine
  • Belinda Campos, PhD
    Assistant Professor
    Department of Chicano/Latino Studies
  • Steven Chessler, MD, PhD
    Associate Professor
    Department of medicine
  • Judith H. Chung, MD 
    Assistant Professor,
    Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology
  • Michael J. Montoya, PhD
    Associate Professor
    Department of Chicano/Latino Studies
  • Jose J. Rea, MA
    Administrative Director, PRIME-LC
  • Charles P. Vega, MD
    Professor, Department of Family Medicine
    Residency Program Director, Department of Family Medicine
    Executive Director, PRIME-LC
  • Michael Vincent Zaragoza, MD
    Assistant Professor
    Department of Pediatrics
  • Albert Zlotnik, PhD
    Professor of Physiology & Biophysics
  • Lucero Zamudio
    PRIME-LC Coordinator
Curriculum »

Sample PRIME-LC Curriculum with Master's Degree

Frequently Asked Questions »

Q. What is the mission of PRIME-LC?
A: PRIME-LC's mission is to provide specialized training for future physicians who are committed to careers in public service. PRIME-LC graduates are expected to work on closing the healthcare gap of the nation's largest ethnic group by improving healthcare delivery, research and policy in California's underserved Latino communities.

Q. What additional courses do I need to take during medical school?
A: Medical students in the program take all required medical school courses. The special curriculum for PRIME-LC students begins approximately six weeks before their general curriculum, with a one-month immersion in Latino health, advocacy and outreach. In addition, PRIME-LC students are required to take a specialized Chicano/Latino Studies curriculum over the first three years of medical school to develop their leadership skills. Other courses, such as Clinical Foundations, have been modified to allow PRIME-LC students to work directly with Spanish-speaking patients. PRIME-LC students complete a clinical rotation with Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in Lima, Peru at the conclusion of their MS-3 year, prior to leaving for their master’s degree training in the MS-4 year.

Q.  What support is available for PRIME-LC students?
A: Most PRIME-LC students come from an economically disadvantaged background. The program recognizes the financial burden associated with an extra year of training. Therefore, PRIME-LC students are granted a $50,000 award during their MS-5 year to defray tuition and other expenses. PRIME-LC students also get preferred status for on-campus housing, which can further reduce expenses.

Q. Do I have to speak fluent Spanish to apply to PRIME-LC?
A: No, but applicants need to have a strong foundation at the beginning of the program to gain what they need from the curriculum. Language acquisition continues throughout the five-year, dual-degree program.

Q. What master's degrees options are currently available?
A. PRIME-LC students have pursued seven different types of graduate degrees, the most popular being Public Health and Business Administration. Any degrees related to the mission of the PRIME-LC program will be considered with prior faculty approval.

Q. Do I take all the same courses as non-PRIME-LC students?
A: Yes, PRIME-LC students must meet all medical school requirements and are required to take all basic science and clinical courses in addition to the PRIME-LC coursework described above.

Q. What regular PRIME-LC sponsored events are hosted throughout the year?
A. PRIME-LC activities include a monthly lecture series with guest speakers from different fields who present material on a variety of topics affecting underserved populations and the clinicians who care for them. Two retreats, including a meeting with students from all University of California PRIME programs, are held during the academic year. Another is the PRIME-wide Conference

Q. Is PRIME-LC a medical Spanish immersion program?
A: No, PRIME-LC is not a Spanish language immersion program or an international medical program. The goal of PRIME-LC is to prepare competent physician-leaders to address the health needs of California's underserved Latino communities.

Q. What is the criteria for acceptance into the PRIME-LC program?
A: Accepted applicants must meet all requirements to UC Irvine School of Medicine as well as PRIME-LC requirements, which are: 1) demonstrated commitment to community service, particularly in the Latino community; and 2) at least moderate Spanish language proficiency.

Q. Are there any community outreach opportunities available to PRIME students — local and international?
A: You can have an amazing impact in Orange County. Students have worked with existing programs or created their own to promote healthier communities. Current projects include Orange County’s first needle-exchange program, a radio show on health issues airing in Santa Ana, mentorship of students from junior high through college and multiple free clinics. There are more things to do than you will possibly have time for!

Q. Do I need to be of Latino descent to apply to PRIME-LC?
A: No, applicants from all backgrounds are welcome to apply to PRIME-LC. 

Q. How do I apply to the PRIME-LC program?
A: Once your AMCAS application is verified and sent to UC Irvine School of Medicine, a selected group of applicants are invited to submit a secondary application. Check the PRIME-LC box in the secondary application and provide the additional information to apply to the program.

Q. Does PRIME-LC hold its own admission process?
A: Yes. Applicants accepted to UC Irvine School of Medicine who applied to PRIME-LC are considered for acceptance into the program by an admissions committee formed by students and faculty from PRIME-LC.

Q. If I'm not accepted to PRIME-LC, does that affect my admittance to the regular class?
A: No, successful applicants are first admitted to the regular medical school class. If accepted into PRIME-LC, the applicants can decide to participate in the regular class or PRIME-LC without any consequences. Each year we have students in the regular class who did not get accepted into the PRIME-LC program.

Q. Is completing this program significantly harder than the normal MD program?
A: Unquestionably additional work is required of PRIME-LC students, in part because of the second degree and in part because of the unique courses and activities related to PRIME-LC. Across the board, however, PRIME-LC students state that they would not have it any other way. These students are strongly committed to working with underserved Latino communities and they recognize that the unique training they receive is important to their future careers as physician-leaders in Latino communities.

For more information, please contact us at:

Medical Education Building, 836
836 Health Sciences Road
Irvine, CA 92697-4089
Phone: 949-824-7136