Miami Model Program Prepares Aspiring Medical Students
Port-au-Prince native Djamel Joachin was inspired to join the medical field in the chaotic aftermath of Haiti’s earthquake. The then-engineering major traveled from Gainesville to Haiti to translate for doctors, but suddenly found himself drawing blood from patients.
“It was then that I realized that medicine was something I’m able to do,” said the 25-year-old who’s now earning his graduate degree in biomedical sciences at Barry University. “There’s a feeling that I get after helping someone.”
Attending this year’s Miami Model diversity program, coordinated by the Miller School’s Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs and the Coral Gables Campus Office of Academic Enhancement, puts Joachin closer to his dreams. UM and the University of Florida, his alma mater, are his top choices for medical school.
The seven-week intensive summer program, which kicked off for college students on June 2, aims to build diversity in the health 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.
Rising high school seniors from local schools began a seven-week program on June 16 and are attending science classes and seminars on community diversity and cultural issues related to healthcare.
Now in its 34th year, Miami Model is organized by Nanette Vega, Executive Director for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs and the Office of Academic Enhancement, with Assistant Deans for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs Stefanie Brown, M.D., and Stephen Symes, M.D., and Marie Denise Gervais, M.D., Assistant Dean for Admissions and Diversity — who provide extensive guidance, including one-on-one mentoring.
Designed to be a mini first-semester medical education experience, the program exposes the 50 college participants to both clinical and classroom settings where they dissect cadavers in anatomy lab and shadow physicians on clinical rotations. Participants are grouped into the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) Preparation Program or the Minority Students in Health Careers Motivation Program, which work to develop the skills necessary to compete for medical school admissions.
“The road to becoming a physician is a marathon, not a sprint,” Brown told the group at orientation. “At the end of the day, it’s a success or failure and the success is really up to you.”
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.
“Diversity and inclusion have long been a part of our organization,” said Vega. “These programs enhance the organization’s responsiveness to an increasingly diverse world of students, staff, administrators and residents.”
Having doctors from diverse backgrounds involved in the program let’s students know that others like them have gone through the same process and succeeded.
“It think the University of Miami’s Miller School is involved in a phenomenal, life-changing experience for these young minds of underrepresented minorities,” said Gervais, who shared her personal journey in pursuing medical school and the bumps she encountered along the road. “The feedback I have received from some of the students is that they could not dream of such an opportunity. Not only do these programs expose them to the career of medicine, they also help them be more competitive and prepared for when the time comes to submit their application to medical schools.”
Symes told students that their relationships with their doctors likely piqued their interest in medicine. This was true for recent University of Miami graduate Kaytrina Johnson, who decided in her teens to practice medicine, after enduring a paralyzing complication from a tonsillectomy. “I just formed a bond with my doctors. From that caring experience and the bond I formed with them, it inspired me,” said Johnson, who’s weighing dermatology and surgery as potential specialties.
“A lot of students come in not sure of whether or not this is the path they want to pursue, if they have the skills and the confidence to do so,” said Vega. “You see them evolve over the seven-week period and that’s the beauty of the program. They really take full advantage of the resources between the office staff, teaching assistants, assistant deans, presenters and admissions representatives.”