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Summer Enrichment Program preps aspiring undergraduates with a dose of medical school rigor

UMass Chan program supports those underrepresented in medicine

Each summer a group of college undergraduates with hopes and dreams of becoming doctors comes to UMass Medical School to participate in the Summer Enrichment Program. When they leave four weeks later, they take with them tangible skills, knowledge and support to help turn their dreams into reality.

“I was surprised when on the very first day, we had to take eleven tests with pretty limited time,” said class member Narda Bondah. “But it was helpful to let me know where exactly I’m at and the preparations I need to be a competitive candidate for medical school.”

Bondah has completed an associate’s degree at Quinsigamond Community College since arriving from Ghana to join her father in Worcester two years ago; she will matriculate at Cornell University as a sophomore to continue her pre-med preparation. Her interest in medicine dates back six years, when her mother passed away after the birth of Bondah’s little sister.

“We were told that she lost blood because the doctors weren’t paying attention, so I decided I would be an anesthesiologist to be able to help mothers deliver babies without pain, and enjoy childbirth and stay alive,” she explained.

With the goal to increase diversity in the health care workforce, the Summer Enrichment Programis a tuition-free, residential, educational immersion that helps college students from backgrounds that are underrepresented in medicine, or who are economically or educationally disadvantaged, improve their qualifications and competitive standing for admission to professional or graduate school. Students are immersed in challenging academics, community and cultural health seminars and real-world shadowing experiences.

In four weeks they learn a prodigious amount about preparation, study skills, time management and organization; meet and mingle with current medical students and faculty from across the institution; get a feel for what lies ahead by taking a practice medical school admissions test and sitting in mock medical school interviews; and form friendships with like-minded peers.

“They have given us many tools, including professionalism and study skills, which I’ll continue to grow with,” said Michael Rivera, a rising junior at UMass Lowell. “My favorite aspect of this program was meeting everyone—21 colleagues who have developed close friendships, which will help us in the future.”

Rivera’s interest in medicine in general, and psychiatry in particular, grew from his appreciation of the health care he received to deal with childhood traumas. Of Puerto Rican descent and the first in his family to attend college, he was attracted to the UMMS summer program by its focus on helping students from backgrounds underrepresented in medicine. 

“As a Latino, that is what excited me about this program,” Rivera noted. “They’ve instilled a confidence level in me.”

When Bondah and Rivera apply to medical schools their first choice will be UMass Medical School, which has proved an achievable goal for past SEP participants. For example, Peter DaCosta, a graduate of UMass Dartmouth and in the first generation in his family to attend college, was a member of the SEP Class of 2011(he also participated in the UMMS High School Health Careers program). Now a third-year medical student at UMMS, he was recently named one of eight recipients of a James J. Karam Scholarship, which supports high-achieving University of Massachusetts students.

Most of this year’s Summer Enrichment Program students hail from the University of Massachusetts and other state university campuses, and many are participants in the UMass Baccalaureate MD Pathway Program, underscoring the medical school’s commitment to supporting local students.

The Summer Enrichment Program Class of 2018 concluded their time at UMMS on Friday, June 23 with a graduation ceremony in the presence of families and program leaders, where each received a certificate of achievement and several won awards. The proceedings featured presentations of the top three health disparity group research projects, which were evaluated in a judged competition. Bondah’s group won first place, and Rivera’s won second. 

Summer Enrichment Program Class of 2018

Mitchelle Afriyie, UMass Lowell ‘19

Nicholas Belizaire, UMass Boston ‘20*

Danielle Bermingham, UMass Amherst ‘20

Narda Bondah, Cornell University ‘21

Mark Bray, Worcester Polytechnic Institute ‘21

Karen Cevallos, UMass Amherst ‘20*

Nova Chenda, UMass Amherst ‘20*

Perseverance Duche, UMass Amherst ‘20*

Jessica Jawhar, UMass Boston ‘20*

Kassandra Jean-Marie, UMass Amherst ‘20*

Todd Maniscalchi, UMass Amherst ‘20*

Ngoc Noc, Hamilton College ‘20

Melissa Otero, Westfield State University ‘20

Tin Phan, UMass Lowell ‘20

Allen Quang, UMass Amherst ‘19*

Michael Rivera, UMass Lowell ‘20

Joanna Rosa, Worcester State University ‘19

Peace Shobayo, Framingham State University ‘20

Tete Thomas, Worcester State University ‘20

Daniel Ugochukwu, UMass Amherst ‘20*

Sorvena Yoyo, UMass Amherst ‘20*

Yuying Zhang, UMass Amherst ‘20 

*University of Massachusetts Baccalaureate/MD Pathway Program Medical Scholars