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Summer learning opportunity at UMass Chan welcomes students underrepresented in medicine

Morehouse School of Medicine and CUNY School of Medicine students gain clinical experience, mentorship

Students from Morehouse School of Medicine and the CUNY School of Medicine participated in the Diversity for Health Care, Innovation and Medicine Summer Learning Opportunity at UMass Chan Medical School.

A new program that brings medical students underrepresented in medicine to UMass Chan Medical School for immersive learning was successfully piloted this summer.

The Diversity for Health Care, Innovation and Medicine (Diversity for HIM) Summer Learning Opportunity welcomed 11 students from Morehouse School of Medicine and the CUNY School of Medicine in New York from June 19 to July 16.

Students were introduced to campus at a white coat ceremony, at which Marlina Duncan, EdD, vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, gave them three rules: “Be kind to yourself; do not prove but improve yourself; and have fun.” In the context of the program that seeks to increase the representation of Black men and other underrepresented groups in health care professions and biomedical sciences, Dr. Duncan’s rules for engagement were strategic.

Characterizing UMass Chan as a unique place of collegiality between students and instructors, Chancellor Michael F. Collins said, “When we take our oath to practice medicine, one of the things we commit to is to educate the next generation. You will find a real fidelity to that here.”

Students were immersed in hands-on clinical rotations across five departments: dermatology, radiology, pediatrics, obstetrics & gynecology, and orthopedics. They were assigned faculty or resident mentors to ask questions of and gain clarity from on their areas of interests in medicine.

“The students enriched learning for everyone on the team by bringing new perspectives.’” said Nisha Fahey, DO, MSc, assistant professor of pediatrics, who served as a mentor. “It was also an important opportunity to reflect on the diverse population living in Worcester and acknowledge that increasing diversity in health care is a critical component of advancing health equity.”

Participating medical students spoke about the power of connections and access to opportunities that allow them to explore their gifts and interests.

“Prior to this program, I did not see opportunities in the pediatric world to gain the experiences I have gained here, shadowing experts, and growing the number of mentors in the specialty that I can learn from,” said Angel Rodriguez, a second-year student at the CUNY School of Medicine, who is interested in pediatrics.

Zion Eberhart, a second-year student at the Morehouse School of Medicine who is interested in dermatology, helped set the program into motion. She had attended monthly information sessions run by the dermatology faculty at UMass Chan and asked if they might be able to expand the program.

“Morehouse School of Medicine and UMass Chan have a sister partnership. Within this partnership, monthly informational sessions are hosted by dermatology faculty at UMass Chan to introduce Morehouse students to dermatology and help increase the number of underrepresented students going into the field. After attending a session, I decided to reach out to UMass Chan’s dermatology department in hopes of seeking clinical/research experience,” Eberhart said.

She and fellow students expressed their interest in the power of specified programs for students of color in health care and biomedical sciences.

Riley McLean, MD, assistant professor of dermatology and Eberhart’s mentor, hailed the power of the program to confirm areas of interest for the learners.

“Early exposure has given each student a chance to begin a research project that will enhance their application and allow them to begin building the relationships necessary for specialty-specific mentoring,” she said. “The partnership was beautifully organic; the students who came for the summer were incredibly competent, eager and ready to learn. “

“I have never seen persons of color in medicine in my life,” said Chelsie Napier, a second-year student at CUNY School of Medicine who is interested in dermatology. “The experiences I’ve had at UMass Chan have truly built my character. This program allowed me to see myself in this space. I am leaving this program feeling a sense of belonging.”

“As a person underrepresented in medicine, I want to know that there is a future for me that exists in the field and a lot of that is shown through support. The program has shown the importance of support,” said Victor Owiredu, a second-year student at Morehouse School of Medicine who is interested in orthopedics.

In addition to hands-on clinical experience, that support was evident through didactic Fridays facilitated by the Diversity and Inclusion Office in collaboration with various staff across the Medical School. Students were offered tools for professional development through workshops that taught preparation for residency, self-branding and owning one’s narrative as well as public speaking. Associate Vice Chancellor of Diversity and Inclusion Lynn Hernandez helped students unpack discomforts and fears and share moments of growth and hope.

“We were overwhelmed by the level of interest just from the two schools represented,” Duncan said.

Hernandez said the program will continue annually, geared toward students entering their second year of medical school.

For more information on the Diversity for Health Care, Innovation and Medicine program, contact UMass Chan’s Diversity and Inclusion Office.

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