Home  /  News  /  Medical Education  /  Diversity

Virtual Summer Programs Foster Education, Engagement for Underrepresented Students

The Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine aims to prepare the next generation of physicians through a one-of-a-kind summer experience for local high school and undergraduate students across the country.

For the second consecutive summer, the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement (ODICE) at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine virtually hosted more than 70 students who participated in the Medical Scholars Programs (MSP) — its annual summer pipeline programs.

Dr. Nanette Vega.

There are four programs under the MSP umbrella. Each serves a vital role in recruiting and retaining underrepresented students who have an interest in becoming a physician.

The programs — High School Careers in Medicine (HSCMW), dedicated to rising high school seniors; the Minority Students in Health Careers Motivation Program (MSHCMP) for students who intend to apply to medical school; the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) Preparation Program for students who are applying to medical school by spring; and Students Training in Research (STIR), which was not offered this summer but will resume in-person for summer 2022 — each offer unique, unforgettable summer experiences for local high school students and undergraduates across the country.

Nanette Vega, the Assistant Dean for Diversity at the Miller School of Medicine and a double alumna of the University, said it was important for her and the ODICE team to remain committed to providing the programs — no matter the circumstances.

Mitigating Opportunity Gaps

“We had to reimagine, and we had to adapt to a virtual platform,” Vega said. “The goal was to mitigate the widening opportunity gaps that are often exacerbated for underrepresented students. We had to remain committed because we felt it was necessary to continue what we have built.”

Two students who are on their way to a promising profession in medicine are Kamisha Charles and Ashlee Sealy. Both scholars participated in the pipeline program as an undergraduate and high school student, respectively. Both said it was a priority to give back to the programs that provided them with a foundation upon which to build their medical education.

Vega said she believes this speaks to the level of connection that is created within the programs.

Ashlee Sealy
Ashlee Sealy, a junior studying biochemistry and molecular biology, flourished in this summer’s Medical Scholars Programs.

Charles, a second-year medical student at the Miller School of Medicine, participated in the MCAT Prep Program when she was an undergraduate at the University of Miami. Today, she’s a teaching assistant for the same program.

“It was incredibly helpful for me,” said Charles, a first-generation Haitian American. “There were a lot of things that I thought I knew about the medical school application process that I didn’t. I really wanted to teach this program and give back. I think it’s informative and important, because a lot of students of color are the first person in their families who are navigating medical school applications for the first time. It can be a very daunting and confusing process.”

Asking Questions, Receiving Guidance

Charles said having a program where you can ask questions and be guided by trustworthy staff members in terms of your application process is beneficial. Her personal goal as a teaching assistant is to help students increase their competitiveness for medical school—something that was obtainable to her when she was in their shoes.

“I definitely would recommend the program,” Charles said. “You get to meet physicians; you get to meet other medical students and physician residents who look like you—which I think is really helpful when looking for potential mentors and someone who you can interact with and learn about their journeys. You really see that medicine is not one linear journey like you would think.”

Sealy, a junior studying biochemistry and molecular biology at the University, participated in the High School Careers in Medicine Workshop program. Her most memorable moment as a teaching assistant this summer, she said, was seeing students overcome timidity and “ask any and all questions they had.”

“I would highly recommend this program to any student who wants to push themselves intellectually and nurture their scientific and medical curiosities,” said Sealy, who is also a Ronald A. Hammond Scholar. “By taking advantage of this program, students from underrepresented and marginalized communities can be empowered to seize opportunities that they would not have been afforded otherwise.”

 MSP applications for next year’s cohorts will be made available in December 2021. For more information about the summer programs, visit the ODICE website.

Tags: Dr. Nanette Vega, Office of Diversity and Inclusion and Community Engagement