Program Opens Doors for Underrepresented Groups

Date: Thursday, June 1, 2017

As an undergraduate at Seattle Pacific University, Denise Martinez, MD (’11 R), didn't believe she had what it took to get into medical school—until she was chosen for a summer enrichment program that prepares students from underrepresented groups for careers in health care.

“It gave me a ton of hope and confidence,” says Martinez, assistant dean of cultural affairs and diversity initiatives at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. She now directs a similar program the UI will host this summer with a $415,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP)—which also takes place at 12 other universities across the nation—aims to strengthen the academic proficiency and career development of students underrepresented in health care to prepare them for success in a broad array of health professions schools. Each program site accepts 80 students for six weeks of free academic and career experiences. Medicine, dentistry, public health, and pharmacy will spearhead the program on the UI campus.

Students who can participate in the program include, but are not limited to, individuals who identify as African American/Black, American Indian and Alaska Native, and Hispanic/ Latino, and who are from communities of socioeconomic and educational disadvantage.

“Through this program, students can learn so much. They gain networking experiences and have opportunities to strengthen their academic profile,” says Martinez, clinical associate professor of family medicine. “This can open some big doors and provide opportunities to so many people who wouldn't necessarily have those opportunities, inspiring them to become health professionals.”

Among the options available to SHPEP participants at the UI will be basic science courses to help them prepare for future studies, or a chance to shadow providers at UI Hospitals and Clinics or the UI Mobile Clinic, which treats underserved populations.