Jeff Belkora, Professor

Closed (1) The Patient Support Corps at UCSF

Closed. This professor is continuing with Fall 2021 apprentices on this project; no new apprentices needed for Spring 2022.


“This apprenticeship has been the highlight of my time at Berkeley. It has given me a chance to help patients in difficult medical situations, and as a pre-health undergraduate, this is important to me.”

“It is a great opportunity to get clinical experience and work with like-minded people who care about creating a change in health care.”

“We have a great deal of autonomy when working with patients, and it is also a rewarding experience because the patients really do appreciate the service that we give them.”


Note: Our services are currently delivered remotely due to COVID-19 restrictions. Participating students will need to configure their laptops with UCSF-issued software to access tele-health and related systems. Students will need reliable access to the internet and a quiet and private location in which to perform their duties. For now, students can participate from remote locations, from training and onboarding into the program, through delivery of services. Over the course of the year, we may identify some opportunities for in person delivery of services but this is still uncertain.

Overall, the Patient Support Corps (PSC) presents a rare opportunity for undergraduates to deliver direct services to patients as officially badged UCSF affiliates with access to the electronic health record and other internal systems essential for team-based health care.

Students earn academic credit in our unpaid internships, and also gain experience, skills, role models, mentors, and networks - while contributing to patient care at UCSF.

PSC students go beyond shadowing or observation – we train them to serve as health coaches, navigators, and patient advocates working with UCSF care teams.

Our students start with entry-level tasks, such as case-finding or scheduling or making outbound calls and documenting interactions with patients. Students who prove themselves very capable then climb the PSC career ladder and are given more responsibility, such as health coaching, motivational interviewing, or scribing for patients.

Because of the intensive training provided, and the way in which student interns are embedded in care teams, we require a full year commitment. We prioritize students who are interested in participating for multiple years.

PSC interns operate as part of teams that have continual patient care responsibilities. Therefore, we will prioritize students who can maintain their shifts during Winter, Spring and Summer breaks. We will excuse students from their shifts during exam weeks, and they can negotiate short breaks during their longer breaks.

Our team sorts applications by students’ available time slots and assigns accepted applicants to open roles. The more availability and flexibility students have in their schedule, the greater the chances of matching one of our open time slots. Once accepted to the program, student task assignments may change at any time depending on program needs, within the specified time slots. If student availability changes, students may need to withdraw from the program as we cannot guarantee that we will have a clinical need that matches student availability. You will be required to take this program for 3 units unless we request a specific exception for you.

The Patient Support Corps at UCSF works closely with a UC Berkeley student group, the Patient Advocacy Student Group. Many aspects of the program are student-run. This presents leadership opportunities for students.

The Patient Support Corps is blazing new trails in a service learning internship as a high-impact educational practice. We seek students who are adaptable to conditions that evolve. Students are constantly overcoming barriers to their participation (e.g. technology glitches, scheduling issues, difficulty in reaching patients, rapidly changing job responsibilities, etc.) This is not a program for students who expect to plug in to a standardized internship, punch the clock, clock some hours, and go back to schoolwork on a regular, predictable schedule. This is more for students who crave experiential learning on interprofessional teams, and are patient and realistic about how messy that can be, and how flexible they will need to be.

Students will learn skills relevant to the competencies required of healthcare professionals by the Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education, in the categories of medical knowledge; patient care; interpersonal communication; systems-based practice; practice-based learning; and professionalism. These skills are also relevant for students interested in nursing, pharmacy, dentistry, social work, psychology, public health, and allied health professions.


We will be recruiting for interns/apprentices to staff shifts as patient scribes as well as on the COVID Hotline. We will further evaluate initial (round 1) applicants by asking them to fill out round 2 survey form. We will be looking for 2-8 students. Each student will cover one morning (7:30 am to 12:30 pm) or one afternoon shift (12 pm to 5 pm) on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. We do not need coverage on Fridays or weekends.

We will generally hold students to their commitments all year and during breaks. Only students who are willing to work their schedule around these constraints should apply. We will try to accommodate schedule changes when the semester changes but we cannot guarantee an assignment if your availability changes.

For this recruitment, we will prioritize first and second year students, whom we will hope to retain for several years after their intensive upfront training. Before applying, interested students should closely read the articles linked below as examples of the type of training and contribution we expect. However, student assignments may differ.



You can read about our work with the COVID hotline at and

You can read about our the work of patient scribes (question-listing, note-taking, and audio-recording for patients) at

You can read about my approach to mentoring interns who are applying for other positions at

(Optional) For the story behind the Patient Support Corps, consult my book DEAL!



Specific roles, tasks, and learning outcomes depend on specific clinical assignment but will include at least one of the following:

Task 1: Engage in clerical or data management work such as online research; data entry; transcription; data quality control; administering surveys by telephone or in person; and similar tasks.

Task 2: Call patients with upcoming appointments; assess and document their needs; and refer them to resources that address their needs.

Task 3: Take calls during shifts on UCSF hotlines, including the COVID-19 hotline. Assist with triaging patients, addressing questions, and referring or escalating patients to COVID-related resources.

Task 4: Call patients who have been referred for more intensive coaching. Assure that the patients have reviewed educational materials about their condition; and assist them in writing a list of questions to be sent to their physician in advance of their upcoming consultation.

Task 5: Virtually accompany patients to visits with physicians, via Zoom. Take notes for the patient; and make audio-recordings of the visit. Summarize the notes and give copies of the summary and recording to the patient as a memory aid.

Task 6: Staff other projects that may need student assistance with patient support tasks, including supportive care (e.g. distress screening), survivorship, prehabilitation for surgery, and others.

Task 7: Maintain key standards after training in patient privacy, good clinical practices, legal and risk management requirements, and documentation and data collection and management.

Task 8: Reflect critically on Tasks 1-8 every week in writing and in a case review meeting with the program director (Jeff Belkora) or coordinator (Saffanat Sumra) or UC Berkeley student group leaders. Students will learn the Critical Incident Technique for practice-based learning and improvement. Our program also conducts research on the data collected by students regarding barriers and facilitators relevant to program implementation.



Do not apply if you cannot fulfill the first requirement for availability. Do not apply if you don't agree to configure your technology to meet UCSF requirements (#2 below). Number your responses as follows:

1. Begin the statement of interest with your name and class year.

2. State how you heard about this application, for example which person or organization referred you.

3. Specify which shift(s), Monday-Thursday, you will keep open for PSC duties if selected. AM means 7:30 am to 12:30 pm; PM means 12 pm to 5 pm. List your available shift(s) on separate lines, e.g.
- Monday AM
- Thursday PM

4. Please give examples in your statement of interest (application) to illustrate how you have demonstrated, in the past, your ability to fulfill the required qualifications c, d, and e below.

In your statement of interest, address each of the qualifications c, d, and e (listed below) under its respective heading: 4c. Communication, 4d. Professionalism, 4e. Maturity. We will explore other qualifications in later rounds of our selection process.

For responses 4c-e, we value specific examples from your past. Feel free to draw from personal, school, family, work, or other relevant domains. Keep your statement of interest under 300 words.



a. AVAILABILITY: Five to six hours per week available to staff (online) at least one virtual clinic or hotline morning or afternoon slot on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Morning slots are 7:30 am to 12:30 pm; afternoon slots are 12 pm to 5 pm. In addition, you need to attend our weekly online meeting Friday at 5 pm for an hour. Plan on an addition 3 to 5 hours of additional weekly program meetings, record-keeping/documentation, training, and communication. Average commitment will be 9-11 hours per week.

b. TECHNOLOGY: You will need to provide a laptop with a hard drive and internet connection, and consent to installing UCSF security software on your laptop, giving UCSF IT the ability to wipe your laptop remotely if it is stolen or missing. Google Chromebooks do not meet our UCSF encryption standards. Students with Apple devices will need to spend extra time with UCSF's IT department, and may be asked to defer software and hardware upgrades until UCSF can ensure compatibility. Students will also need a USB (wired) headset for best audio fidelity. Wireless (e.g. Bluetooth) headsets do not meet our standards. To assure a reliable connection when using UCSF's Virtual Private network, you may need an ethernet (wired) connection to your internet router, and adapter to connect the ethernet cord to your device. Note: students can apply each year for funds to partially or fully reimburse the purchase of these necessary supplies on the basis of financial need.

c. COMMUNICATION: Aptitude for patient-centered, neutral, non-directive communication, including very clear verbal enunciation, high volume when speaking, and clear spoken and written English. Many of our patients are older, hearing impaired, speak limited English (you may need to speak clearly via an interpreter), or have cognitive difficulties. Our positions require a high degree of verbal communication. We will train you but you must recognize the importance of these peformance characteristics and pledge to improve enunciation, volume, and distracting filler words (e.g. like).

d. PROFESSIONALISM. Be ready to leave behind all the informality of college campus interactions. We operate in a highly regulated, formal, and patient-centered environment. You must be obsessive about reading and following instructions, have unbelievable attention to detail, and the humility to quickly admit when you are stuck and escalate to a supervisor. You must be reliable and accountable for staffing your shifts, finding substitutes, or communicating with maximum lead time if you will not be available. You must err on the side of over-communication and respond promptly to emails, phone calls, SMS, and other messages. Our team highly prizes reliable, consistent follow through. This is not a program for flaky people.

e. MATURITY. Exceptional maturity, self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and humanism. We have built a culture of collaboration, service, and peer support. My personal slogan is: Nothing is cooler than kindness. Successful PSC students are oriented towards service and contribution.

f. TYPING/WORD-PROCESSING. Ability to touch-type or enter 40+ words per minute; or willingness to pursue online typing courses to attain this threshold prior to starting with the Patient Support Corps. Alternative arrangements possible for students who face barriers to inputting data via keyboards.

g. MULTI-YEAR: Preference given to early-stage students who are available and interested in participating for multiple years.

h. HEALTH CAREERS: Preference given to students interested in exploring health-related careers, especially those from backgrounds that are under-represented in health care.

i. YEAR-ROUND AVAILABILITY: Preference given to students who can maintain their shifts during Winter, Spring, and Summer vacations.


Because of resource constraints, the Patient Support Corps must operate in a fairly standardized way. However, for humanitarian and humanistic reasons, I also want to make exceptions to our standard operating procedures when warranted. Please don't hesitate to email me if you wish to request an exception to any aspect of the application process or the implementation of our program. My email is I expect most people can comply with the instructions as provided, but I will pay attention if you want to bring some unique circumstances to my attention.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Saffanat Sumra (, Staff Researcher

Qualifications: ==============================================

Weekly Hours: 9-11 hrs

Off-Campus Research Site: remote

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