Health Team

Duke summer program provides STEM experience for minorities

Posted July 15

In science, technology, engineering and math—or STEM fields—women and minorities are under-represented.

To change that, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation began a grant program 16 years ago to match students from those groups with 12 sites across the country that specialize in STEM education. The six weeks of long days listening and taking notes, though, can make some students feel overwhelmed.

Duke University is in its 16th year offering their Summer Medical and Dental Education Program. Based on their interest in science fields, 80 students, including University of Maryland sophomore Michael Chidueme, were invited to jump in.

"I came here in order to prepare me for medical school and get a feel for what I was really getting myself into," Chidueme said.

Watching doctors in Memphis take care of his brother's heart problems inspired Vanderbilt student Daniel Rose to aim for a similar career.

"I saw the hospital as a place where good changes can occur," Rose said.

Each student is aware of health disparities among minorities and underserved populations. They also know they could be part of the solution.

"One of the factors that we know can reduce disparities in health outcomes is to diversify the provider population," said Maureen Cullins, director of Duke's School of Medicine's multicultural resource center.

In Dr. Haywood Brown's lecture, students get a taste of what being an OB/GYN might be like, or it could steer them in a different direction.

"Everybody in that room is not going to become a doctor," Brown said. "We have people who can do almost anything in sciences. We have people who will ultimately become teachers."

Those students could also become or dentists or researchers.

Program participant Stephanie Cruz believes the group can accomplish great things.

"Bringing in students who have the ability to make it through medical school and become strong physicians and leaders in their community," Cruz said.

Organizers say among the 634 alumni of the summer program, 220 applied for medical school and 69 percent were accepted. A few currently work at the Duke University Medical Center.


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