Health & Medicine

University of Kentucky works to increase medical school minority enrollment

Jim Hoskins, information technology director at the UK medical school,  demonstrated a Maryland  dissector for students visiting the school.
Jim Hoskins, information technology director at the UK medical school, demonstrated a Maryland dissector for students visiting the school. Herald-Leader

Undergraduates stepped into the shoes of medical students Monday, part of a University of Kentucky program to bring underrepresented minority juniors and seniors to the UK College of Medicine.

Minority Education Development for Prospective Medical Students, known as UK MED, hosts a two-day program every year to recruit self-identified minority students for the medical profession. On Monday, 33 pre-medical students visited the UK Chandler Medical Center, hearing lectures by physicians and participating in hands-on activities.

The program is in its fourth year.

"Most people don't get this until you come for an interview at medical school," said Nana Mensah, UK MED co-director and second-year medical student.

Some of the activities included visiting an emergency room, getting information on the admissions process, hearing a student panel with current minority students and practice working with patients. Students also toured campus and participated in labs.

"It's like you get to experience medical school," said Divine-Favour Anene, a University of Louisville senior studying biology.

He said he has been surprised with what they have learned in just two days. It has made him feel more confident in applying and interviewing for medical school.

"If these people can do this, I think I can get through this," Anene said.

Mensah said it can be difficult to navigate the admission process without knowing someone familiar with the system. The program introduces students to faculty and familiarizes them with what they need to do.

"We try to get them to understand we made it here," said Joyce Achenjan, UK MED co-director. As a UK undergraduate, Achenjan participated in the program three years ago.

About 10 UK MED students have enrolled in the College of Medicine, said Carol Elam, associate dean for admissions and instructional advancement for the UK College of Medicine. Not all program participants end up applying, she said.

UK MED classes usually have about 19 students a year, but this year there were more because of recruitment throughout the year, Elam said. Though the majority of students came from Kentucky universities, students from Maryland, Michigan and Georgia also attended.

The program generally defines minority as students who are black, Hispanic or Middle Eastern, as well as first-generation college students or those from rural Appalachia or an underserved rural community, she said. Of the 136 students in the 2013 class of medical students, 32 are considered minority, she said.

Elam said the program is valuable because it opens the door to medical school for underserved populations.

"Students learn from each other," she said. "And if they come from different backgrounds, we think it really enriches their educational experience and it gives them more perspective."