Summer Program Helps Aspiring Physicians
by Symone Young
Young (pictured below) spent the summer as an intern in the Dean’s Office at the Feinberg School of Medicine.
If you’ve ever wondered what life is like being a medical student or physician—or going into medicine has always been your primary interest—then the Summer Medical Education Program (SMEP) is just the program for you. It’s an opportunity to follow your dreams by walking in the shoes of a medical student.
As a premed student majoring in community health at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I’m enthusiastic about the SMEP. This intense six-week enrichment program, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, aims to attract a diverse group of students to medicine, increase their matriculation into medical school, help ensure their academic success, expose them to real-life issues and concepts, and give them great learning experiences. The program is offered at 11 sites nationwide.
In the Chicago program, which was held June 13âJuly 22 and jointly sponsored by Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, and Rush University Medical Center, SMEP students got an accurate glimpse of the medical school experience by attending lectures by some of the best medical school faculty members from the three schools. Many of the lecturers were minority faculty members who provided important mentoring and served as role models for the diverse group of students. The Feinberg School’s John E. Franklin, MD, associate dean for minority and cultural affairs and associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and Nicole Woods, MSc, director of minority and cultural affairs, served as co-principal investigators for the grant.
SMEP students learned about the cardiovascular, reproductive, and neurological systems including the specifics of anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pathology, and more—just like medical students. In preparation for the verbal reasoning part of the MCAT exam, they were given plenty of reading material. They also observed physicians in their area of interest during clinical rotations, listened to special guest lecturers, and lived in the dorms at the U of C.
After attending some of the SMEP lectures and seminars, I talked to a few participants. They seemed to be really enjoying themselves despite all the hard work they did. According to Katie Muhammad, a junior majoring in biology at Texas Southern University in Houston, SMEP is “intense and inspiring.” Katie mentioned that she aspires to be an obstetrician-gynecologist. She loved the clinical experiences in which she observed a physician performing Pap smears and biopsies.
Jonathan Lassiter, a Georgia native who is a senior at Georgia College and State University majoring in psychology, enjoyed his first trip to Chicago. He liked the fact that SMEP is taught just like medical school with an emphasis on organ-based learning and was impressed with the participating medical schools.
By the completion of the program, Jonathan hoped to have gained insight to what it takes to be a competent medical student and an outstanding physician, which he has planned to be since first grade. He’s very interested in mental health in minority populations and wants to go into psychiatry.
The Chicago SMEP program provided many benefits for the participants such as free room and board, access to three of Chicago’s renowned medical schools, and a small stipend. On weekends participants explored the wonderful city of Chicago including the beautiful downtown attractions and shopping malls. Other weekend activities included trips to Taste of Chicago and Great America, bowling, skating, and salsa dancing. That’s what I call fun and exciting, especially for students visiting Chicago for the first time. Participants found a great balance between studying, listening to lectures, and having fun.
Unfortunately, this was SMEP’s last year in Chicago. The grant has ended for the Chicago SMEP program, but the Feinberg School is exploring the development of a similar program for next year. This will continue the legacy of helping students prepare to achieve their dreams, goals, and ambitions.
SMEP, which has existed for more than 10 years, has served as an invaluable resource for aspiring premedical college students. I can’t think of a better way to spend your summer.