Inside the frigid anatomy lab at the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine all eyes are on a two-inch crescent-shaped fleshy blob sitting in the middle of a metal table.
“I have no clue,” admits biology major Chabeli Alech. “I think it’s part of the intestine.” Nope, it’s an adrenal gland. At another table, a thigh bone (femur) gets confused for an arm bone (humerus), but a third table guesses correctly that a flat, triangular bone is a scapula (shoulder blade).
The anatomy guessing game is one of the popular highlights of the college of medicine’s Doctors of Tomorrow pipeline program. The annual summer program targets pre-med students from groups underrepresented in medicine: minorities (African American, Hispanic, Native American), first generation in college, and low socioeconomic status.
Alech is one of 27 pre-med students, including 13 FIU undergrads, taking part this year. She’s looking forward to learning tips on how to apply to medical school and how to study for the MCAT. “I want to be a pediatric oncologist,” she says.
The college of medicine created the program eight years ago to address the need for a diverse workforce in the medical field.
“Our population is very diverse and studies show that health care providers who are also from diverse backgrounds have a better understanding and relate better to their patients, “says Barbra Roller, assistant dean for Academic Affairs.
For a week, participants get to live on campus and get a feel for what it’s like to be a medical student by visiting the college’s anatomy, simulation and research labs. They also learn how to prepare for and navigate the complicated process of applying for medical school.
Josie Richard was in high school when her little brother was diagnosed with kidney cancer. She says seeing how the medical staff helped him inspired her to become a doctor. “It lit a fire under me to want to help someone else in the same situation.”
Richard, who just earned her associate’s degree in biology and starts at FIU in the fall, feels the Doctors of Tomorrow program will help make her a more competitive medical school applicant. “So far I have learned a lot. I have gained so much. This is an amazing program,” she says.
Funding for Doctors of Tomorrow is provided by Florida Blue.