It started with a White Coat Ceremony in May and ended with a Pinning Ceremony in June, and the six weeks in between offered life-altering experiences and unprecedented access to educational resources at the University of Florida for 80 underrepresented and minority undergraduate college students from California to Vermont, Minnesota to Texas, and New York to Puerto Rico.
While everyone is created equal, a variety of factors can prevent equal access and exposure to academic resources for young adults from communities and families of social, economic and educational disadvantage — including those interested in health professions education.
Enter the University of Florida Summer Health Professions Education Program, or UF SHPEP, which made its pilot debut on the UF academic health center campus this summer. Funded by a $415,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, or RWJF, plus in-kind donations from the six health colleges, the free residential program focused on improving access to health professions information and resources for freshmen and sophomores from 54 colleges and universities across the country.
Formerly the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program, SHPEP expanded in 2016 to include a broader array of health professions, and now has 13 program sites nationwide.
SHPEP at UF features four main career pathways: dentistry, medicine, pharmacy, and public health and health professions, along with closer-look segments in nursing, physician assistant studies and veterinary medicine. The big-picture emphasis of the program is interprofessional education and an understanding of how each profession fits into the health care field globally.
The UF College of Nursing was the first UF Health academic unit to host the SHPEP cohort for a closer look into nursing. The 80 students met Dean Anna McDaniel, Ph.D., R.N., FAAN, and heard a presentation from Michael Bumbach, Ph.D., ARNP, about his career path and why he chose nursing.
Gator Nurse scientist and chair of the Department of Family, Community and Health System Science Versie Johnson-Mallard, Ph.D., ARNP, FAAN, discussed her research, education path and much more regarding the field of nursing with the students.
“The hands-on part of the nursing closer look was my favorite,” said Koree Walton, a student at Bethune- Cookman University. “I had also heard about Dr. Johnson-Mallard, so when I was able to put a face to the name it was amazing. She is a great person. Not only does she have a lot of experience, but she’s really relatable. We are young, and we’re trying to figure out what to do; to hear from someone who was in our same place: young, a minority, interested in so many different fields; it was nice to have that connection.”
The cohort soaked up the opportunity to interact with manikins in the college’s Nursing Resource Center, then completed a culturally competent care exercise with Associate Dean for Student Affairs Kim Curry, Ph.D., ARNP, FAANP, and Paula Delpech, Ph.D., R.N., ARNP.
“I learned a lot, I had great experiences,” Walton added. “I learned so much about myself and about potential health professions. Even some of the fields I’m not interested in, it’s important to recognize that health professions work together as a team. It’s nice to be around people who are like-minded. Nursing was not originally something I wanted to look into … until I got here. Now, I might go into nursing.”
Patty Probert, Ph.D., assistant dean for the Office of Student Advocacy & Inclusion in the UF College of Dentistry, was the principal investigator on the RWJF grant, and led a diverse group of around 20 faculty and staff members representing all six UF Health colleges that formed in October 2016 after UF received the grant.
In addition to Curry, College of Nursing academic advisors Wanda Washington and Kenneth Wynn played integral roles on the faculty and staff committee. The team spent many hours developing the admissions process, the curriculum components, programming, operational details and much more.
With a total operating budget of $905,000, the UF SHPEP program covered travel, transportation, food and on-campus room and board for all participants, who were selected by the faculty and staff admissions subcommittee through an application process in spring 2017.
Mock admissions interviews and essays, modules in career and study skill development, leadership and communication skills, health policy education, financial literacy and civil rights segments were all a part of the program. Florida also became the first SHPEP site to incorporate a mass casualty exercise into the curriculum. The drill emphasized objectives related to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Stop the Bleed campaign, like pressure on wounds, tourniquets and immobilization.
Most importantly, the program provided all students a voice for themselves and the confidence to advocate for their needs, a multitude of tools and resources for successful application to and matriculation into health professions education.
Six weeks set up the potential for a lifetime of success.
“These students have the world at their fingertips,” Curry said. “SHPEP provides an invaluable opportunity in terms of access to resources, relatable students and faculty. Many of these students have not seen someone that looks like them in their field of interest. We’re proud to showcase our diverse, interprofessional collaboration efforts at the University of Florida, and to play a role in the professional and academic development of these bright, professional, intrigued and engaged students.”