Quick Take:

Kaiser Permanente Family Medicine Physician Dr. Jack Watson, MD, is passionate about getting more young people in Santa Cruz County interested in becoming doctors or pursuing other health care careers, addressing a need at a time dozens of physicians are retiring in the next several years.

Since coming to Kaiser Permanente in 2017, Family Medicine Physician Jack Watson, MD, has worked with the UC Santa Cruz Life Sciences Department to bring pre-medical students into his practice at Kaiser Permanente’s Watsonville Medical Office. The students spend four hours a day, twice a week job-shadowing Watson as he treats patients.

“The students observe the interaction between me and my patients,” Watson said. “Later, we chat about what they observed. Once they’re back at school, they can use their medical textbooks to learn more about what they saw in the office.”

The students receive college credit for shadowing Watson. The experience is also beneficial when they apply to medical school.

Dr. Watson consulting out of his Watsonville office. Credit: Kaiser Permanente

Training future doctors to work on the Central Coast is part of Watson’s role as president of the Physicians Foundation for a Healthy Central Coast. One of the group’s missions is workforce development. Watson says he is passionate about getting more young people interested in becoming doctors or pursuing other health care careers.

A recent study by the University of California found the Central Valley and Central Coast will be short 1,151 primary care clinicians by 2025.

Watson and other physicians who work at Kaiser Permanente Santa Cruz County recognize the importance of mentoring programs that expose students to a career in medicine. Kaiser Permanente Internal Medicine Physician Joyce Orndorff, MD, serves as president of the Santa Cruz County Medical Society and says Santa Cruz County will have dozens of physicians retire over the next several years.

Dr. Orndorff demonstrating care in a clinical setting. Credit: Kaiser Permanente

“The Medical Society’s data shows there is a potential reduction of at least 33% of the physicians practicing in this county over the next 5-10 years,” says Orndorff. She believes educating students about careers in medicine is critical to making sure there are enough providers in the future.

The Medical Society’s Bridge to Medicine program is doing just that by informing school children in Santa Cruz County about possible careers in health care.

“There’s a lot of really bright kids in this community who have the potential to be exceptional physicians,” Watson said. “They just need nurturing and the chance to learn more about all of the career possibilities available to them.”

About Kaiser Permanente

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Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans.

Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente has a mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve 12.5 million members in 8 states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal Permanente Medical Group physicians, specialists, and team of caregivers.

Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery, and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education, and the support of community health.

Jessica M. Pasko has been writing professionally for almost two decades.She cut her teeth in journalism as a reporter for the Associated Press in her native Albany, NY, where she covered everything from...