Miami Model Program Investing in Future Physicians

After losing one of the most influential people in her life to Crohn’s disease, Chelsea Tate was certain that medicine was the right path for her. “I wasn’t able to save my grandmother, but if I can lend a helping hand to another individual through medicine, then it will be just as rewarding,” said the biology major at Xavier University of Louisiana.

Tate is among the 75 college students participating in one of three Miami Model programs, coordinated by the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs under the direction of Nanette Vega, Executive Director of Programs, and the Coral Gables campus Office of Academic Enhancement.

The Minority Students in Health Care Motivation Program essentially turns the first year of medical school into a seven-week crash course that exposes its participants to both clinical and classroom settings. Its coursework is designed to build the skills of competitive students seeking admission to medical school.

All students were chosen as part of a selective application process, which has drawn more than 125 applicants for each program’s 25 slots. In addition to the rigorous coursework, this initiative seeks to build diversity in the medical and allied health professions by encouraging students from underrepresented backgrounds with visits by guest physicians at a weekly dinner and discussion, and a mock interview for medical school.

“My participation in this program has provided me with the resources necessary to further push myself in the direction of medicine,” said Tate. “It is important to be surrounded with a diverse group of physicians in order to provide the best care to an increasingly diverse population. By increasing the amount of diverse individuals in the health field, it will reduce the amount of individuals with bias and intolerance to health disparities.”

Recognition of the need for diversity initiatives is reflected in the conversations of this year’s participants, which highlight the rise of social justice movements during their college years. The program itself aligns with the advancement of the University’s “Roadmap to Our New Century,” specifically in regards to standing as an exemplary university.

“I am proud to serve an institution that not only values diversity but supports initiatives like the Miami Model Programs to ensure that our future physicians reflect the diverse population we serve,” Vega said.

Participant Nareka Trewick was born in Jamaica where she experienced first-hand the effects of health disparities on a community. “A huge part of improving health care is diversifying the population that asks our medical research questions and is able to effectively communicate with patients of all backgrounds to provide optimal care, as those who suffer disproportionately from our deadliest diseases are people of color.”

Rising high school seniors from the surrounding area also began a seven-week program on June 13. Students accepted into the High School Careers in Medicine Workshop have demonstrated leadership and academic excellence in the sciences. Jefferson Santilien, a senior at Miami Lakes’ Health Science Academy, says he aspires to “become a successful physician — sensitive to my patient’s necessities and cognizant of my responsibilities to education, humanity, and the health care system.”

He first became interested in medical professions when he began volunteering through his church and met a woman who had been left homeless under an overpass in downtown Miami. That was when he realized he wanted to help others return to a better state of mind and body.

Saintilien is astonished at how much he learned.

“Within College Informatics I was able to receive a complete college rundown of the application process, insight on the financial aid application and the CSS profile,” he said. “On a daily basis you’re surrounded by other students eager to learn, and professors with Ph.D.’s that are passionate about their field of study and educating the youth of today.” By the time college applications open he will have completed a majority of the work.

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