SF State, City College collaboration wins national award

E. Pluribus Unum Prize will be awarded to the Welcome Back Initiative


SAN FRANCISCO, May 18, 2011 -- The Welcome Back Initiative, a program that helps medical professionals from other countries qualify for practice in the U.S., was honored with a 2011 E. Pluribus Unum Prize. The national award recognizes successful initiatives that focus on integrating immigrants into the fabric of American life.

Awarded by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) in Washington, D.C., the E. Pluribus Unum Prize carries a $50,000 cash award funded by the J.M. Kaplan Fund. It was presented today in Washington, D.C.

"The nimble Welcome Back Centers work tirelessly to prevent the talents of skilled immigrants from going to waste, allowing them to instead be used for the benefit of all Americans," said Margie McHugh, co-director of MPI's National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy.

José Ramón Fernández-Peña, M.D., who emigrated from Mexico in 1985, founded the Welcome Back Initiative. Also an Associate Professor of Health Education at SF State, Dr. Fernández-Peña, created the program based on the difficulties he faced when pursuing credentials and licensing in the U.S. health sector. He maintains that the underemployment of foreign-trained health professionals is a loss not only to these individuals, but to the U.S. health care sector in general.

"California, for example, has a population that is nearly one-third Latino, yet only four percent of the state’s doctors and nurses are Latino," Fernández-Peña said. "This means that immigrant or minority communities may not have health educators and providers who speak their language or understand their cultural approaches to disease prevention and treatment."

An initiative of Community Health Works, the Welcome Back Initiative is a partnership of San Francisco State University and City College of San Francisco (CCSF). Since its founding in 2001, Welcome Back has helped thousands of health professionals from more than 150 countries obtain the licenses and certifications required to continue their health sector careers in the U.S.  The San Francisco Welcome Back Center is the lead site of the nationwide network of centers in Colorado, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Washington, Maryland, New York, Texas and San Diego, California. Staff counsel and guide foreign-trained health professionals through the process of licensing, credentialing and finding educational programs they may need, including English language instruction. Services are free of charge. For more information about the Welcome Back Initiative, visit http://welcomebackinitiative.org

The Migration Policy Institute is a nonpartisan think tank dedicated to the study of human migration worldwide. For more information, visit: http://www.migrationpolicy.org/  For more information about the E. Pluribus Unum awards, visit: http://www.migrationinformation.org/integrationawards/

San Francisco State University is the only master's-level public university serving the counties of San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin. The University enrolls more than 30,000 students each year. With nationally acclaimed programs in a range of fields -- from creative writing, cinema and biology to history, broadcast and electronic communication arts, theatre arts and ethnic studies -- the University's more than 180,000 graduates have contributed to the economic, cultural and civic fabric of San Francisco and the greater Bay Area.

City College of San Francisco (CCSF) is celebrating its 75th Anniversary this year.  Currently, CCSF serves more than 100,000 students by offering AA, transfer, certificate and noncredit programs.  CCSF has 51 departments, and San Franciscans benefit from more than 300 educational programs offered in the college. 

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