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Miller School’s Medical Scholars Fellowship Program Promotes Diversity in Medicine

Dr. Miguel Escanelle is a first-year anesthesiology resident at University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital. Ashlee Sealy wants to improve health care in the Caribbean. Christopher-Ahmad Moree is preparing for medical school, while Nareka Trewick just completed her first year at the Miller School of Medicine.

Participants in the 2019 Medical Scholars Fellowship Program.
Participants in the 2019 Medical Scholars Fellowship Program.

The 2019 Medical Scholars Fellowship Program is a summer initiative offered by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion that provides academic enrichment and career exploration for highly motivated underrepresented minority students who are preparing for a career in the health professions. The goal of the program is to ensure that the physician population is more representative of the diverse communities the Miller School serves.

“The Medical Scholars Fellowship Program plays a major role in ensuring that diversity in medicine is a real priority in health care,” said Nanette Vega, executive director of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the Miller School of Medicine. “We need to support underrepresented students and make sure they are well represented in medical schools as our future physician leaders.”

Altogether, 75 students were selected from hundreds of applicants for the fellowship program, which runs from June 2 to July 26. “This year, we incorporated restorative justice practices to create community and explore challenging topics with our students,” Vega said.

Fully funded by the Miller School, the fellowship program has four components:

  • Summer Training in Research Program (STIR) for premedical students interested in research careers.
  • Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) Preparation Program, which helps undergraduates prepare for medical school.
  • Health Professions Motivation Program, a mini first-semester medical school experience for undergraduates.
  • High School Careers in Medicine Workshop for Miami-Dade County Public School students who have completed their junior year.

For Dr. Escanelle, the Medical Scholars Fellowship Program was a life-changing experience. Born in Cuba, Dr. Escanelle enjoyed science, but had no medical role models in his family. As an undergraduate at Florida International University, he participated in the Health Care Professionals Motivation Program in 2013, and discovered a passion for medicine. He returned the following year to participate in the MCAT program. He earned his medical degree from the Miller School this spring.

Now a first-year anesthesiology resident at Jackson, Dr. Escanelle served as an MCAT teaching assistant, helping other students prepare to follow in his footsteps. “I feel a lot of high school and college students have the potential to be great doctors, but don’t know how to start a career,” he said. “I feel very fortunate to be able to give back to this terrific program.”

For Sealy, a UM sophomore who plans to major in biochemistry, the summer STIR program is advancing her goal of conducting cancer research as well as preparing for a clinical career. “My two aunts in the Caribbean were both diagnosed with breast cancer, and my mom struggled to help them get the care they needed here in South Florida,” she said. “It was an experience that had a huge impact on our entire family.”

In her summer laboratory work, Sealy is studying the structure of a kinase protein whose expression is reduced in cancer cells. “This research will help me understand what compounds can interact with the kinase and hopefully prevent the proliferation of cancer cells. It’s one aspect of my commitment to change the practice of health care in the Caribbean for the better.”

Other summer students also appreciate the learning opportunities and the support they receive from the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. “The MCAT Preparation Program has been valuable in many ways,” said Moree, a Bahamas native who is now a UM junior majoring in biochemistry, and considering a career in surgery. “I’ve been able to shadow physicians in the hospital, prepare for the MCAT, and the ethical situations facing health care professionals in their daily practices.”

Trewick participated in the MCAT program in 2016, and is now a second-year Miller School student serving as a teaching assistant this summer. “The support I received from the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion helped me make it through my first year of medical school,” she said. “I volunteered as a TA to provide information and give undergraduates the benefit of my own experience, but I’ve already learned so much myself, while building my communication and leadership skills.”

For more information, please visit the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion website at http://www.diversity.med.miami.edu/.

Tags: Diversity and Inclusion, Medical Scholars Fellowship Program, Miller School of Medicine, Nanette Vega