Our History

The idea and first versions of CaHPSA, active under several different names, started around 2005 as a loose association of campus level leaders who had a passion for health reform and primarily organized around Lobby Day each year. Parker Duncan, the first Medical Student Fellow, was extremely involved in the development of the student leaders during these years.

In 2009, involved campus student leaders, along with the statewide Lobby Day team, held their first student leadership meeting to brainstorm ways to structure the organization for the future. There was a general consensus that additional organization at the state level could be a useful tool for CaHPSA. The mission statement was developed from a rougher draft of the previous year. The core functions of the organization were agreed upon to be "Educate – Advocate – Grow" and statewide positions were developed from these core functions. JB Fenix, the second Medical Student Fellow, was integral during this professional transition.

In January 2010, the first official CaHPSA statewide team was selected and trained to expand the organization. In August that same year, CaHPSA became the official autonomous student program of Physicians for a National Health Program California, now California Physicians Alliance (CaPA). CaPA supports CaHPSA’s statewide and chapter development.

During this time, the fellowship was renamed to the Shearer Student Fellow in honor of PNHP-CA’s former president, Dr. John Shearer. Molly Tavella became the third fellow to help coordinate the CaHPSA program. The CaHPSA planning and leadership teams worked very closely to organize events and promote the mission.

In April 2011, the CaHPSA team held another meeting to further develop its mission, activities, goals, and vision statement. It developed more structured bylaws and a more solidified timeline of organizational events, as well as new leadership positions to further the goals of “Educate – Advocate – Grow.”

The next Shearer Student Fellows, Cindy De La Cruz, followed by Keyon Mitchell, helped to further CaHPSA’s educational and advocacy goals by organizing statewide events and leading two more successful Lobby Days in Sacramento.

As the CaHPSA program grew in scope, so did efforts to establish strong chapters across college and university campuses. In 2013, the CaHPSA Shearer Student Fellowship position was renamed to the CaHPSA Coordinator. Angelica Ramirez, the first CaHPSA Coordinator was instrumental in supporting chapter development, organizing educational events, and creating outreach opportunities - including the Activate U Conference and launch of Project White Coat. The CaHPSA Coordinator works closely with chapters, acts as a liaison between CaHPSA and CaPA, and coordinates events and projects.

For CaHPSA, the 2010s have been characterized by a greater focus on chapter growth, strengthening of its commitment to helping people get health coverage now, development of health advocacy skill building events, and coalition building. Efforts to create more engagement opportunities for members and expand the CaHPSA program are now led by Anali Gutierrez, who joined the team as CaHPSA Coordinator in 2016.

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