College of Medicine launches LEAP to increase diversity in medical education

Faculty at the College of Medicine created LEAP to introduce high school students of color to a career in medicine.

With its new Learning and Engagement Program for Physician Aspirants (LEAP), the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center College of Medicine aims to train a more diverse group of physicians in the future.

In March, 35 high school students participated in the inaugural one-day event designed to encourage underrepresented students to pursue careers in medicine. Hosted by the College of Medicine Admissions Office, the program provided students with insight into the field of medicine through panel discussions and simulation exercises at the Center for Healthcare Improvement and Patient Simulation (CHIPS) on campus. UTHSC Memphis. Student Ambassadors from the College of Medicine served as volunteers, assisting participants throughout the day. The cohort for the first event was made up of high school students from the Memphis Challenge, which provides leadership and professional development coaching to high-achieving students of color.

The students were welcomed to campus by Scott Strome, MD, Executive Dean of the College of Medicine. “We are excited to launch the LEAP pathway to open doors for students, traditionally underrepresented in healthcare, enabling and encouraging them to pursue a career in medicine. Effective medical care must be delivered by an exceptionally skilled, compassionate and diverse workforce. The LEAP program takes us one step closer to achieving this goal.

LEAP attendees got a general overview of medical school, including lab time at the Center for Healthcare Improvement and Patient Simulation.

The morning panel, “Practicing Medicine in the Memphis Community,” provided insight into various disciplines, including internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, and pediatrics. The panel was moderated by Claudette Shephard, MD, Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion. Members of the community physician panel presented:

  • Cynthia Cross, MD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Division Chief of Pediatric Hospital Medicine, Medical Director of Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital
  • Christopher Jackson, MD, Assistant Professor Department of Medicine, Division of Medicine General Internal Medicine
  • Mario Ray, MD, Associate Professor Department of Medicine, Medical Director of Impatient Rehabilitation, Regional One Health
  • Jessica Ruffin, MD, Adams and Patterson Physician Gynecology and Obstetrics
  • LaTonya Washington, MD, Chief Medical Officer of Methodist North Hospital, President of Bluff City Medical Society
LEAP students learned CPR in the CHIPS lab as part of their visit to UTHSC.

Dustin Fulton, EdD, Associate Dean for Medical School Admissions, moderated the “Medical School Admissions” panel, which focused on the path to medical school and the overall admissions process .

“We strive to inspire the next generation of physicians by providing access and opportunity. This is especially true with respect to the College of Medicine’s goal of increasing the number of learners who might identify as underrepresented in medicine because of their race or ethnicity,” said the Dr Fulton. The panel included Alexander Feliz, MD, Crystal Pourciau, MD, and fourth-year medical student Alexus Rias, all of whom have experience advising prospective medical students.

“As we strive to have a more diverse student population, we understand that the benefits are enormous. Not only does greater participation of underrepresented students in medical education improve the overall learning experience for all students, but it also helps to increase the diversity of the medical workforce,” said the Dr Fulton. “Engaging students earlier is paramount to these goals. We have the ability to remove barriers to access and look forward to continuing our work with route programming locally and throughout the State of Tennessee.

The simulation experiments were led by a group of UTHSC medical residents and fellows, which included Brittany Brown, MD, Eva Ingram, MD, and David Jones, MD. Students had the opportunity to participate in CPR and airway classes, as well as an ultrasound lab.

LEAP is part of a larger effort by the UTHSC College of Medicine to increase diversity in medical education.

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