Diversity Program Shapes Tomorrow’s Doctors and Allied Health Professionals

Nicole Cruz was inspired to pursue a career in medicine after watching her physician grandmother treat underserved residents in their native Dominican Republic.

“I learned that everyone has a story, and you get to be a part of that story and have a positive impact on their life through medicine,” said the junior at Cornell University.

Cruz is one of 50 college students attending this year’s MCAT/Motivation program, which is part of the University of Miami’s larger Miami Model diversity program, coordinated by the Miller School of Medicine’s Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs and the Coral Gables Campus Office of Academic Enhancement.

The seven-week intensive summer program kicked off on June 1. Now in its 35th year, the initiative aims to build diversity in the medical and allied health professions by providing students from underrepresented backgrounds an opportunity to develop the skills necessary to successfully compete for admission to schools in these fields.

Designed to be a mini first-semester medical education experience, the program exposes the participants to both clinical and classroom settings where they dissect cadavers in anatomy lab and shadow physicians on clinical rotations. College participants are grouped into the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) Preparation or the Minority Students in Health Careers “Motivation” programs.

Cruz, a Motivation participant, said that the program helps students from diverse backgrounds overcome the “paralyzing fear” of pursuing a career in medicine.

“It’s motivating to be surrounded by others who will inspire you to do your best and believe in you,” said Cruz. “The motivation program is also an incredible opportunity to be exposed to diverse physicians and patients at one of the best research universities in the country.”

Miller School Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs, welcomed the college students at orientation and said the MCAT/Motivation program is an important initiative and exemplifies the University’s core values of diversity, integrity, responsibility, excellence, compassion, creativity and teamwork.

“It engages the next generation of doctors and allied health professionals – some of whom are from our very own community,” he said. “It gives college graduates and existing health professionals the tools that will increase their chances of being accepted to medical school.”

Rising high school seniors from local schools also began a seven-week program on June 15 on the Coral Gables campus and are attending science classes and seminars on community diversity and cultural issues related to health care.

Selected from hundreds of applicants from around the country, the college participants have excelled academically in one of the sciences or nursing and demonstrated maturity and leadership among other qualities needed to apply to medical school. All of the high school students who have completed the program have been accepted into college, and 60 percent of former college participants have been accepted into medical school.

“The Miami Model for Health Professions Education provides students a supportive environment in which to learn, explore and grow. The ultimate goal is to increase diversity of the health care workforce,” said Nanette Vega, Executive Director for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs. Stephen Symes, M.D., Associate Dean for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, also provides one-on-one mentoring as part of the program.

“This program means the world to me. I feel blessed by this opportunity,” said MCAT participant Nantambu Fentress, a 2015 UM graduate and former football player. The aspiring pediatrician has always excelled at science, but he said being an athlete didn’t leave him much time to study for the MCAT exam.

“I want to go back and serve underserved communities and inspire black males to be positive role models,” he said.

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