Early Intervention Benefits Diversity in Medicine

A study examines the benefits of mentoring high schoolers to address racial disparity in medical education.

Although many initiatives have been designed to create a more diverse medical professional community at the university and medical school levels, a study in Education for Health proposes that mentorship for these underrepresented groups should start years before.

“The pool of students [underrepresented in medicine] (URiM) that are competitive applicants to medical school is often limited early on by educational inequalities in primary and secondary schooling,” write the study authors. “A growing body of evidence recognizing the importance of diversifying health professions advances the need for medical schools to develop outreach collaborations with primary and secondary schools to attract URiMs.”

The study describes a medical student-led, action-oriented program, Doctors of Tomorrow, which connects University of Michigan Medical School faculty and medical students with 9th-grade students at Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Mich.

In addition to a core curriculum that includes hands-on experiential learning, development, and the presentation of a capstone project, medical students also mentored and guided the 9th graders.

Feedback of the program was collected from medical students through monthly meeting minutes from the Doctors of Tomorrow leadership.

A challenge noted from this feedback included the lack of structure in curriculum after the first year of the program.

Resulting themes from Cass Technical High School students showed the perceived effect of personal identity on goal achievement and the positive effect of direct mentorship and engagement with current healthcare providers through the Doctors of Tomorrow program.

“The authors propose that development of outreach pipeline programs that are context specific, culturally relevant, and established in collaboration with community partners have the potential to provide underrepresented students with opportunities and skills early in their formative education to be competitive applicants to college and ultimately to medical school,” according to the study.

Reference:

Derck J, Zahn K, Finks JF, Mand S, Sandhu G. Doctors of tomorrow: An innovative curriculum connecting underrepresented minority high school students to medical school. Educ Health (Abingdon). 2016;29(3):259-265.