JMP student awarded Family Medicine scholarship


September 27, 2018

Joshua Pepper, a 5th-year student in the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program, has been awarded a 2018 Piscano Scholarship by the Piscano Leadership Foundation (PLF). The scholarships, valued up to $28,000 each, are awarded to students attending U.S. medical schools who demonstrate a strong commitment to the specialty of Family Medicine.

Pepper is interested in the intersection of health, technology, and the environment. This passion began in high school, when he used basic mapping tools to investigate the relationship between asthma and socioeconomic status in his home town of Fresno, California. He completed a dual degree undergraduate program at UC Santa Cruz and UC Berkeley, earning degrees in Environmental Studies and Civil and Environmental Engineering, respectively. He then spent several years working at Pesticide Research Institute, where he used geospatial analysis to map pesticide use patterns in rural communities of California.

Each Piscano Scholar received an endorsement from his or her medical school prior to being reviewed by the Selection Committee. In addition to a commitment to Family Medicine, each applicant must show demonstrable leadership skills, superior academic achievement, strong communication skills, identifiable character and integrity, and a noteworthy level of community service.

As a JMP student, Pepper helped run the Suitcase Clinic, a free health center for the local underserved population. During his second year, he also planned and facilitated a weekly seminar for incoming students, where they discussed the unique challenges of providing healthcare to low-income and marginally housed communities. He has also volunteered for the Ethnic Health Institute for the past four years, helping to screen for hypertension and diabetes at a local African Methodist Episcopal Church.

For his master’s thesis at the JMP, Pepper used a novel approach of tracking the time and location of rescue asthma inhaler use to associate real-time air pollutant exposure with asthma exacerbation. He also spent a summer in South Africa building the first online, interactive map of HIV services across seven countries in southern Africa.

Since 1993, the PLF has selected 146 outstanding medical students for the Piscano Scholarship. Approximately 2700 applicants representing more than 140 medical schools competed for these scholarships. The Pisacano Leadership Foundation, Inc. was created in 1990 by the American Board of Family Medicine in tribute to its founder and first Executive Director, Nicholas J. Pisacano MD (1924-1990). Dr. Pisacano is acknowledged around the world as one of the leaders in the effort to recognize Family Medicine as a major specialty.