UMass Medical School to accept undergraduates as part of new program
Officials at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester are in the process of creating a program to help increase the enrollment of students from minority ethnic groups and underrepresented socioeconomic brackets. The Medical Scholars Pathway program, as it will be called, is part of the Medical School and the UMass system’s efforts to increase diversity on its campuses, and is tentatively slated to begin accepting students in the fall of 2011.
The Scholars Pathway program will give incoming undergraduate pre-med students at all four UMass campuses the opportunity for a combined learning experience, as the program will create a baccalaureate-MD program, allowing students to transition from undergraduate studies at a UMass campus to the Worcester Medical School.
UM Medical School officials hope the program will entice highly-coveted students to pursue their medical studies at the state school and then use their expertise to open medical practices in the Bay State, rather than being lured to private schools and out of the Commonwealth.
“The goal of the program is to increase the early identification and recruitment of qualified, diverse premedical students from our four undergraduate campuses, Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth and Lowell, who would then be admitted to the School of Medicine in Worcester,” said Michele P. Pugnaire, M.D., senior associate dean for educational affairs at UMass Medical School.
The spots, 12 in total out of the school’s 125 member incoming class, will go to a few undergraduate students from each UMass campus as they apply from high school with their sights set on medical school. Spots will be made available for members of what the school calls underrepresented groups, which include African-Americans, Hispanics, Cape Verdeans, Brazilians and other Portuguese speaking groups, and some groups of Southeast Asians.
Pugnaire said the school hopes attempting to reach talented students early will allow the school to retain more diverse medical students and keep more doctors in Massachusetts.
“This pipeline model, one which reaches out to potential students early in their undergraduate careers, allows us to attract and retain outstanding students of diverse backgrounds representing the full range of communities in Mass.,” said Pugnaire.
The program will attempt to increase diversity within the major by recognizing “students from a range of backgrounds including those who may be economically disadvantaged or from first-generation college families,” Pugnaire added.
In order to be as fair as possible, the program will use the same criteria for admission as the factors generally measured for admitting students into the medical school, along with other factors still in the process of being determined.
“The students we are targeting with this program represent some of the best and brightest in Massachusetts,” said Pugnaire. “These students, of course, will be held to the same high standards as all of their peers.”
Another goal of the program is to encourage highly-qualified students who wish to become doctors to stay in the Commonwealth upon graduation and practice medicine locally.
“Too often, they are competitively recruited by private schools, many of them outside of the state,” said Pugnaire. “In moving forward with this initiative, we can better serve the Commonwealth by retaining great minds and encouraging them to remain in and serve communities across the state.”
Student response to the Medical Scholars Pathway program has been mainly positive. Dan Jaworski, an alumnus of UMass Amherst who studied biology, believes it a positive effort. “If it promotes diversity, I’m totally for it,” said Jaworski.
According to UMass Medical media representative Allison M. Duffy, the Pathway Program still has some details about its specific logistics to be determined, but the school looks forward to putting those plans into place.
“There are some details that we still need to work on,” said Duffy.
The Medical school has not announced any official details so far, but Dr. Pugnaire says that they “are excited about this initiative, and expect to provide more information as the program is developed over the next year.”
The school also plans to offer a financial aid package to students participating in the Pathway Scholars program, though the specifics and amount of aid has not yet been determined, either.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, just five percent of doctors in Massachusetts are minorities, while 16 percent of the state’s population falls into the groups the new program hopes to target.
The UMass Medical School is one of the nation’s fastest growing medical schools, though it is still the smallest medical school in Massachusetts, with 419 M.D. students in the School of Medicine, 346 PhD students in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and about 90 students in the Graduate School of Nursing.
Manish Garg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.