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Laeesha Cornejo comes from a long line of doctors, including her grandmother and three aunts. She’s always wanted to work in public health, helping to meet the needs of underserved populations. With support from Hebrew Free Loan, Laeesha is now finishing her second year at UCSF School of Medicine.

Before starting medical school, Laeesha volunteered with a homeless outreach program in San Francisco’s Mission district. Being a full-time medical student hasn’t slowed down her commitment to serve others. During the fall and winter she spent one afternoon a week with a mobile outreach van, giving hepatitis tests to residents of homeless encampments in the Bayview district. She also started an addiction medicine interest group at UCSF. Laeesha’s commitment to advocacy and service helped win her the Tanette Goldberg Memorial Scholarship for Social Justice, awarded annually to Jewish women students involved in social justice work.

Everything’s changed since the coronavirus. Laeesha had just started her clinical hospital rotations when she and her fellow medical students received an emergency message on March 16, saying they couldn’t come into the hospital for at least two months. She can’t go out to the Bayview or other neighborhoods either, because of the risk that she might become infected with Covid-19 and transmit the virus to other vulnerable populations.

Laeesha immediately switched gears and joined the UCSF Covid Student Aid group, which collected over 20,000 masks for distribution to Bay Area hospitals. She’s also packaging hand sanitizer for unhoused people in the Tenderloin, creating fact sheets for pregnant women and their providers about Covid-19 care during pregnancy, and calling at-risk seniors to connect them to resources.

Receiving interest-free student loans from Hebrew Free Loan has relieved stress for Laeesha and her family, and has meant that she can immerse herself in her studies and spend her limited free time on volunteer work and advocacy.

“Hebrew Free Loan has helped immensely with my medical school costs. I’ll have much less debt when I graduate, so I can continue being of service to people who have limited access to health care.”