- From Underrepresented Minority High School Student to Medical School Faculty Member:How an Outreach Program Changed My Life
For over three decades, efforts have been made to increase numbers of medical students and physicians who come from racial and ethnic groups underrepresented in medicine.1 Currently Blacks and Latinos represent 28% of the U.S. population, yet they constitute only 15.2% of U.S. medical students and 7.2% of all medical faculty.2 Strangely enough, I [KMC] was not aware of this information as a Black high school student considering college to prepare for medical school. Growing up in a rural Florida panhandle town of about 5,000 people and a high school graduating class of about 120 students made attending a four-year undergraduate institution, let alone a medical or graduate school, seem unreal. I never saw my background as a disadvantage because I knew nothing different. My parents taught me I could have any career I wanted. They were the driving force behind my achievement and did all they could to provide opportunities to help me realize success. They took me to a science and math summer program for underrepresented minority (URM) students before I started college. My hard work in that program caught the eye of an instructor who would eventually serve as my pre-med outreach advisor—a mentor who assisted me in writing this very manuscript [TBA]. My life changed forever; as a student, I became a part of the Office of Outreach and Advising, and thus began my journey to becoming a faculty member.
I had no idea I would become a physician, much less a faculty member who would teach medical students and provide clinical care for an underserved population. Since URM physicians tend to practice in minority and economically disadvantaged communities,3 medical schools with more Black and Latino students produce more physicians [End Page 972] choosing to practice in health care shortage areas.4 I am happy to say that I became one of those physicians. However, admitting more URM students to medical school is much easier said than done. Minority students typically deal with challenges such as financial problems, lack of advisement and support, and colleges poorly structured for minority success, to name just a few.5 Racial and ethnic inequities in the public school system in the U.S. have led to the systematic underachievement of URM students.6
The advising that I received as a student increased my competitiveness for medical school. It provided direction for writing my personal statement, assistance with admissions test (MCAT) prep, and help with interviewing skills. It ensured my achievement through an environment of nurturing, support, and encouragement that we have found to be important for URM student success.7
This paper gives me the opportunity to write in detail about how the Office of Outreach and Advising is organized to engender URM student success in applying to medical school. The Office sponsors many programs, but the Science Students Together Reaching Instructional Diversity and Excellence (SSTRIDE) program did the most to further my journey to becoming a faculty member. The mission of SSTRIDE is to advise and to provide support and intervention to a diverse group of pre-college students in the areas of academic achievement, student development, and community involvement as a foundation for lifelong learning.
Sponsored by the Florida State University and the Big Bend Area Health Education Center (AHEC), the SSTRIDE program began in 1994, supported by grants from the Florida Department of Education Bureau of Instructional and Community Support and the Big Bend AHEC. By FSU-COM legislative mandate, money is allocated by the college for the continuation of the program. This mandate was became part of law because SSTRIDE demonstrated rigor in helping increase the diversity of applicants to medical school. The AHEC provided funds for SSTRIDE up until 2010, but due to funding cuts, support was discontinued. We are in the process of looking for additional granting opportunities.
The SSTRIDE program enriched my education and rewarded me as it put me in contact with students from varying backgrounds. Students...