June 3, 2021 – Three academic and mentoring programs aimed at building a pipeline to the health professions for pre-health profession students in either high school or college continue this summer at UF Health.
The goal of such programs is to help encourage young, pre-professional students underrepresented in medicine or with limited access to health care take the first steps toward a career in the health care field.
“It is crucial to show students at an early age that there is a whole world of possibilities out there for them — that they can dream bigger,” said Donna Parker, M.D., associate dean for diversity and health equity at the UF College of Medicine.
New to UF Health this year is the Keys 2 Success, a UF Health-wide program that launched in March and is funded by a grant through the UF Racial Justice Fund, which was established last year by the UF Office of Research and the chief diversity officer. The fund supports research and scholarship that will inform understanding of the Black experience, racial justice, diversity, equity and inclusion on campus and beyond.
Black pre-health profession students at UF selected for the Keys 2 Success program are paired with a mentor who is either a faculty member or student in one of the health professions. The inaugural cohort includes 22 students, referred to as “scholars.” In addition to the mentoring opportunities, the scholars meet once a month and are exposed to programming prepared by one of UF’s six health profession colleges. Currently, all meetings are held virtually, but program leaders hope to begin gathering in person in the fall.
A unique component of the Keys 2 Success program is the involvement of a research subcommittee that will study the impact of the program, evaluate outcomes and track success, Parker said.
The first cohort of students will complete the program in spring 2022, but according to Parker, scholars will continue communicating with their mentors after the spring.
The Health Care Summer Institute, an academic program designed to cultivate interest in the health professions among disadvantaged high school students, will be held virtually June 21 through July 16. The College of Medicine-funded program immerses rising junior and senior high school students — many from ethnic minority groups or rural backgrounds — in health-related fields such as nursing, pharmacy, occupational and physical therapy, dentistry and medicine. The College of Medicine Office for Diversity and Health Equity works with Area Health Education Centers, or AHEC, to recruit students from the area as well as northwest to the Panhandle, east to Jacksonville and south to Volusia County.
“Before the Health Care Summer Institute at UF, I was under the impression that people who looked like me were not in the medical field,” said Annalese Williams, M.D., who participated in the program as an undergraduate and served as a mentor while a medical student. A 2019 graduate of the UF College of Medicine, Williams is currently completing a residency in OB-GYN at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra University.
The Summer Health Professions Education Program, or SHPEP, is a free summer enrichment program focused on improving access to information and resources for college students interested in the health professions. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded immersive program is designed to strengthen the academic proficiency and career development of students underrepresented in medicine and the health professions and prepare them for a successful application and matriculation to health profession schools.
“This program put me into contact with people who I wouldn’t be able to have contact with otherwise,” said Banokle Kinfeosioluwa, a first-year medical student at UF and graduate of the program. “Football player Fred Taylor says ‘exposure leads to expansion,’ and that is what this program is all about.”
Normally, the six-week program takes place on the UF campus, where participants are provided on-campus room and board throughout the informative experience. However, the 2021 UF SHPEP, which began in May, is entirely online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.