For many individuals, pursuing a career in medicine is a life-long dream that begins in childhood. To fulfill it requires the building blocks of tenacity, dedication, time and knowledge – a combination that is most often regarded as challenging but achievable. Yet, despite having these blocks in abundance, many would-be doctors are still not able to realize their dreams because they don’t have access to a component largely overlooked – a foundation of opportunity.
To address this disparity, Kansas City University (KCU) student doctors launched JUMP-Start (Journey for Underrepresented Students in Medicine Program) last year. By addressing the needs of marginalized pre-med students – which includes pre-med students traditionally underrepresented in medicine (as defined by the American Association of Medical College), members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and students who identify as having a disability – JUMP-Start’s student doctors hope to increase diversity not only at KCU but within in the field of medicine as whole.
This year’s cohort was composed of 14 pre-med student participants from area undergraduate institutions including Rockhurst University, University of Central Oklahoma, University of Kansas, University of Missouri-Kansas City, University of Kansas and Washington University in St. Louis. Participants were provided with 25 total hours of opportunity – all curated by current med students to intentionally help fill the foundational gaps stemming from being marginalized – during the 2023 JUMP-Start program, from April 14-16 on the KCU-Kansas City campus.
During the three-day intensive program, participants experienced a medical school immersion that provided invaluable resources, networking and mentoring – all free of charge. During the program, pre-med students learned from KCU faculty and alumni during presentation sessions on topics ranging from academic lessons to clinical insights to messages of empowerment and advocacy. Other sessions included admissions overviews from KCU Admissions representatives, personal statement workshops led by KCU Graduate Medical Education staff, and MCAT prep from external consultants. Experiential learning was also a focus with hands-on suture clinics, anatomy labs and osteopathic manipulative medicine case presentations included in the curriculum.
However, the most impactful facet of JUMP-Start is how numerous opportunities for pre-med students to connect with current KCU medical students are woven into every aspect of the program – leading to new relationships that offer guidance, support, reassurance and inspiration to both sets of students.
During remarks at the graduation ceremony for this year’s program, 2023 program co-coordinators Maria Diaz Valdez, OMS II, and Charmaine LeBlanc, OMS II, left participants with a reminder that illustrates just how important both JUMP-Start and the relationships it forges are for the future of medicine. In closing, Diaz Valdez said, “As you’re doing your med school applications and you’re going through this process – which I know is hard, and it’s long, and it’s tiring… remember that we need you. Medicine needs you. And you belong with us.”