Jose Cortez was born and raised in Southern California to immigrant parents from Mexico. Growing up in a largely Mexican Catholic community, Jose experienced both silent and overt discrimination that negatively impacted his mental health. His desire to avoid stigmatization led him to enroll at Pitzer College. He quickly recognized the power of mentorship and began serving as a mentor for LGBTQ+ students, individuals who were first-generation to college, and students of color. During this time, Jose also witnessed the health inequities that were commonplace in the LGBTQ+ community and committed to addressing them as a health care provider. Jose partnered with the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies at Columbia University to work on developing a campaign to increase awareness of acute HIV amongst ethnic minority and LGBTQ+ communities.
In 2016, Jose matriculated at the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program (JMP), and is participating in the Program in Medical Education for the Urban Underserved to become a leader in urban underserved care. His experience with difficulty in accessing care guides his thesis research, where he is examining how different factors influence an individual’s access to specialty care. He has also collaborated in analyzing the representation of skin color in materials used to train dermatologists on different skin diseases and is investigating melanoma prevention in giant congenital nevi. Jose provides care for individuals experiencing homelessness and LGBTQ+ folks through his involvement in student-run free clinics. He serves as an admissions interviewer for the JMP to recruit more LGBTQ+ applicants to diversify the physician workforce. Jose also continues his role as a mentor for aspiring LGBTQ+ health care providers through his mentorship for students in the Bay Area and Southern California. In working toward health equity, Jose aspires to improve access and quality of health care for LGBTQ+ and other marginalized individuals.