For student volunteers, Mini Medical School a chance to share opportunity
If you ask second-year medical student Yanick Tade, more diversity in medicine doesn’t just create a better work environment. It creates better health care.
“From a patient perspective, it’s more comforting to see someone who looks like you and be in engagement with someone who maybe shares similar experiences or backgrounds,” he says. “From a clinical perspective, understanding how disease processes affect different people is important as well.”
This year, Tade will join a group of his peers in the Creighton School of Medicine in volunteering for the Mini Medical School, a series of community events aimed at attracting students from backgrounds underrepresented in medicine to careers in health care.
This year’s program, which consists of several events for 4th-12th graders between October and January, includes sessions geared toward elementary, middle and high school students, young women and Spanish-speaking students.
The program, says Ronn Johnson, PhD, professor and senior associate dean for diversity, inclusion and belonging with the medical school, aligns with the School of Medicine’s broader commitment to creating more diverse health care, both within the University and outside of the University.
The School of Medicine’s Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging offers full tuition scholarships to first-generation, historically marginalized and rural student groups.
“The School of Medicine places a high premium on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging,” Johnson says. “The medical school functions as a permanent academic medical fixture in diverse communities across several states.”
Sparking an Interest in Science, Health Care
At the Mini Medical School, students from first-generation families, rural or underrepresented backgrounds participate in a variety of events meant to spark an interest in science and health care. Meanwhile, parents and families attend presentations and panel discussions to learn more about college admissions, finances and other important information to support their students’ success.
Families are also matched with “mentors,” current Creighton medical students who answer questions and provide resources about medical education.
“I love this program for (all that it does), but it also kind of hits home for me on a personal note,” says Marissa Mielke, another volunteer and current medical student. “I could have benefitted a lot from something like it.”
Mielke, a first-generation medical student who grew up in a low-income family, says students from similar backgrounds may not have all the information they need to create a well-rounded CV and increase their chances of getting accepted into medical school.
There are also the connections, she says – the opportunities to chat and meet with physicians and health care authorities that are often few and far between for students from low-income, first-generation and underrepresented backgrounds.
The medical school volunteers, Johnson says, reflect another key mission of the School of Medicine: Service.
“The selection of medical students oriented to service is a high priority for the Creighton School of Medicine,” he says. “Consistent with our Jesuit values, service to others is aligned with our mission to serve historically marginalized groups.”
Tade, Mielke and their fellow volunteers hope to spark the notion of opportunity for the students who attend the Mini Medical School.
It’s something Johnson has seen firsthand: “One of our elementary students once told me, ‘I didn’t know I could come to medical school until I came here today to Creighton. Thank you.’”