Program aimed at strengthening diversity in health professions to graduate first eight docs
Eight health sciences students graduating May 12 — four dentists and four physicians — are achieving a milestone that has special meaning because they all came from rural, minority or disadvantaged backgrounds.
They are the University of Louisville’s first group to complete the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP), a health sciences program aimed at creating a more diverse medical and dental workforce.
Funded by grants totaling more than $2 million from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and matched by the UofL Foundation and individual donors, SMDEP began at UofL in 2005.
SMDEP gives undergraduate students exposure to the academic realities of medical or dental education through participation in an intensive six-week summer program that offers academic credit, books and supplies, a stipend, housing and meals. Each summer, UofL accepts 80 potential medical or dental students to the program.
One of the first program participants, Osarumen “Nicole” Nomamiukor, knew early in life she wanted to become a physician. During her undergraduate education, Nomamiukor researched addiction and decided she wanted to help people who face such problems through a career in psychiatry.
“SMDEP exposed me to the possibility of a medical career. The aspiration to become a physician was no longer a dream, but a vision with a plan,” Nomamiukor said. “I still continue relationships with people I met through the program — we’ve helped each other not only with school experiences but life experiences.”
Nomamiukor will go on to complete a residency in psychiatry at Harvard Longwood-Boston.
“This program helps freshman and sophomore undergraduate students understand how math and science are integrated and applied in medical and dental school studies and careers,” said Mary Joshua, SMDEP director, Office of Minority and Rural Affairs. “Our goal is to produce a more competitive and highly motivated pool of medical and dental applicants from underrepresented and disadvantaged populations.”
Devin Hall, a School of Dentistry graduate from Calvert City, Ky., said he was looking for a program that could help prepare him for dental school.
“SMDEP was my first exposure to UofL,” Hall said. “The program gave me a strong connection to the School of Dentistry and made me feel comfortable before becoming a student.”
UofL is one of 12 medical and dental institutions nationwide that participate in SMDEP. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) administer the program.
(Pictured top: 2012 dental graduate Devin Hall, wearing red carnation, stands with other former SMDEP participants who are in dental school. L-R, they are Brittany French, Dustin Clevidence, Monique Trice and Vinita Patel. Bottom: 2012 graduates Tiffany Garrison-Jeter, dentistry, and Reaford Blackburn Jr., Tiya Johnson and Nicole Nomamiukor, medicine. Graduating former SMDEP participants not pictured: Laura Spragens and Emma Arterburn, dentistry, and Carmen Young, medicine.)