Innovative High and Middle School Programs Can Increase Pipeline Diversity

By Marc Nivet, EdD, MBA, and Jennifer J. Salopek

As educational institutions seek to address the looming doctor shortage in the United States and to create a physician workforce that more closely resembles the patient population, programs that help to create diverse and inclusive environments—such as high and middle school pipeline programs—can help us to meet these goals. Medical students across the country have worked to create programs in their communities that open up the possibilities of careers in medicine. This work must be encouraged, promoted, and replicated.

In early 2014, AAMC launched ProjectMED (Motivate, Engage, and Develop) for the Future of Health Care. The competition challenged medical schools and teaching hospitals to engage community partners in increasing the diversity of future physicians and scientists. It called for teams of medical students, graduate students, residents, post-doctorate, faculty and staff, in partnership with community organizations, to create a brief video depicting innovative programs and initiatives targeting K-12 students in the public education system.

The challenge received an overwhelmingly positive response from AAMC member institutions and community partners; in total, 19 videos were submitted from institutions around the nation. The submissions illuminated the need for innovative programming and initiatives to increase access and diversity in the health care workforce. They also demonstrated the readiness of AAMC members to answer the varied challenges facing aspiring physicians and scientists. An online voting audience awarded first, second, and third place. The winners received monetary awards to enhance or implement their programs.

Cooper Medical School of Rowan University took first place with“Science on Saturdays: Teaching an Enrichment Science Laboratory Class to Camden High School Students.” This program, submitted by second-year medical student Darshan Patel, is a supplemental educational program for high school students in Camden, New Jersey. The program works with high-achieving English Language Learner students who are recommended by their teachers in the Camden school district, many of whom will be the first generation in their families to pursue higher education. The science component of Upward Bound of Rowan University is taught by Patel and two colleagues, all of whom are former high school teachers.

“We really wanted to continue teaching high school students, and these Saturday students are excited and motivated to be there,” says Patel. “A lot of the right things have fallen into place that allow us to offer an exciting curriculum.”

After surveying the high schoolers about their interests, Patel and his colleagues developed a hands-on investigative curriculum that introduces participants to such diverse topics as physics and genetics, as well as basic clinical skills.

Will the effort increase the size and diversity of the medical education pipeline?

“I want to be real about the exact impact,” says Patel. “We can certainly say that we’re bringing exciting science that may open doors.”

Second place was awarded to Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine for its program,“Northwestern Medical Scholars ‘Mentoring Families’ Initiative.”Submitted by Assistant Professor Erica Marsh, MD, the Northwestern Medicine Scholars Program is a unique partnership between Northwestern Medicine and George Westinghouse College Prep within Chicago Public Schools. The NM Scholars Program’s mission is to support high-achieving, racially and socioeconomically diverse high school students as they pursue careers in medicine and science. The initiative will pair NM Scholars with a Northwestern University FSM medical student and resident, in addition to their current faculty mentors,to serve as a cohesive support system throughout students’ progression along the biomedical sciences pipeline.

“It truly takes a village,” says Marsh. “This program provides Westinghouse students with a group of people who are rooting for them, ensuring that all of their needs are met. It is mentorship at every level.”

What is the program’s likely effect on the future physician workforce?

“We have no delusions that all of our Scholars will go into health care, but our goal is to inspire,” says Marsh. “If even one dons a white coat, then it’s all been worthwhile.”

Third place went to Medical College of Wisconsin for“Eyes on the Future,” submitted by second-year medical student Matthew Braza. This is an educational program designed to engage an under-represented minority group of middle school children to consider careers in medicine and science by exposing them to technology used in medicine and research. In partnership with Milwaukee’s Bruce-Guadalupe Community School, which serves Latino students in kindergarten through eighth grade, telemedicine will be used to screen for diabetic eye disease, common among Latinos.

“We wanted to find something that the kids would latch onto and focus on science, while holding their attention,” says Braza. The curriculum is currently under development, based on an existing teleopthalmology site at United Community Center, and will feature lessons on eye anatomy and the basics of vision as well as learning excursions; participating students will be paired with mentors in MCW’s Latino Medical Student Association.

“We want to start a true pipeline. Our community has a need for bilingual doctors,” Braza says.

The three finalists were chosen because of their programs’ high scalability to other communities and schools, the programs’ response to community needs, hands-on opportunities offered to students, and integration of technology in programming. All 19 of the ProjectMED video entries will soon be available on MedEDPORTAL’s iCollaborative for viewing.

MarcNivetColorJennifer-1990-webMarc Nivet is chief diversity officer at the Association of American Medical Colleges; he can be reached at mnivet@aamc.org. Jennifer Salopek is founding editor of Wing of Zock; she can be reached at jsalopek@aamc.org.

2 thoughts on “Innovative High and Middle School Programs Can Increase Pipeline Diversity

  1. I am a retired Deputy Superintendent working with a local middle and high school to help them create a curriculum that will serve a diverse population of students who do and can do well in school with a curriculum that is geared to their learning styles and interest areas. These students range in the high to low socio-economic stratas with varying academic achievement levels. I believe and have shown that all students can learn. We are surrounded by a world class medical university and colleges that can partner with us, given the right approach and willingness to make diversity and learning an achievable success.

  2. I am a retired Deputy Superintendent working with a local middle and high school to help them create a curriculum that will serve a diverse population of students who do and can do well in school with a curriculum that is geared to their learning styles and interest areas. These students range in the high to low socio-economic stratas with varying academic achievement levels. I believe and have shown that all students can learn. We are surrounded by a world class medical university and colleges that can partner with us, given the right approach and willingness to make diversity and learning an achievable success.

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