By Tyree M.S. Winters, DO
I had the pleasure last week of joining a diverse team of physicians, dentists, and medical students who served as Mentors on the second Tour for Diversity in Medicine bus trip. Our group visited six campuses to promote medicine and dentistry to undergraduate students of racial and ethnic minorities underrepresented in medicine: Georgia State University, Fisk University, Kentucky State University, Indiana University–Bloomington, Central State University, and University of Michigan–Dearborn.
During the visits, we held sessions on premedical academic achievement, the application process, and other skills necessary for success in the medical and dental fields, meeting several hundred students during the six-day event. They asked interesting and relevant questions about our successes and failures during the application process and our medical or dental training. Students are concerned about competition among their peers, how to choose a major, what to include on their resumes, and how to balance the work–life dynamic. As Mentors, we purposefully share our personal stories in an effort to provide examples and motivation. Local and remote medical schools, medical preparatory programs, and the U.S. Army also sent representatives to recruit potential students and provide information on funding their future careers.
As an academic pediatrician, I was drawn to the Tour of Diversity in Medicine by observing firsthand the low number of minority students in medical and dental schools, and the increasing health care disparities that plague minority communities. After noticing the few minority students and residents, especially minority males, while lecturing or holding rounds, I became passionate about recruiting minorities to enter careers in the health professions. I serve the Student National Medical Association as a Chapter Advisor and have developed networking sessions between minority male attending physicians and medical students/residents at my own medical center. One concern that I myself have felt and that students voiced last week is the lack of available role models for advice and emulation. We are proud that this Tour provided six young African-American and Latino Mentors for our students to meet, question, and foster future relationships. We hope to continue to connect other students with other professionals around the nation as the Tour’s programming expands.
We educate our students on the existence of racial and ethnic health care disparities in order to assure their understanding of the need for diversification in the workforce. Encouraging and empowering pre-professional health care students can ultimately help combat these inequities in the nation’s health care system; it is well known that minority health care providers typically return to their communities to provide care.
Although the fall Tour has come to a close, I am delighted and honored to continue the mission set by the Tour for Diversity in Medicine by serving as a mentor to several students. I look forward to the day when I can welcome them as colleagues in the health care field.
—Tyree M.S. Winters, DO, is Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.