This summer, the UVA School of Medicine’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion hosted 40 pre-med undergraduates for the Summer Medical Leadership Program (SMLP) from June 5 – July 14. SMLP is an intensive six-week residential summer program for undergraduate students from underrepresented groups and disadvantaged backgrounds who are interested in pursuing careers in medicine.
“Our students come from many different backgrounds, but a common thread that links them are the significant challenges they’ve overcome to get to where they are. The main goal for SMLP is to show our students they are capable of achieving their dream of becoming physician leaders,” states Taison D. Bell, MD, MBA, an associate professor of medicine in UVA’s Divisions of Infectious Disease and Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, who leads the program along with Ashley Woodard in the School of Medicine’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
The SMLP student scholars came to UVA from across the country to immerse themselves in a medical environment and learn more about becoming a physician. During their program, they attended MCAT preparation, spoke with healthcare leaders and administrators about their career journeys, and shadowed physicians. Additionally, the scholars had the opportunity to spend time with our School of Medicine Dean Melina Kibbe, MD, who shared her educational and career journey to becoming a physician scientist. They also attended a reception at UVA President Ryan’s residence Carr’s Hill, and had a conversation with Taylor Harris, author of This Boy We Made: A Memoir of Motherhood, Genetics, and Facing the Unknown.
The students were thrilled with their SMLP experience this year. Here is what some of the students had to say about their time at the School of Medicine.
“The SMLP helped me to reassure me that medicine is my passion. The interactions with the doctors, patients, and students who want to pursue medicine helped me to see the doctor that I want to be. This program not only helped me to prepare for the MCAT, but for interviews, how to get letters of recommendation and how to write a personal statement. Something that impressed me about this program was the help they offered and the connections I made, and I know that they would never end.” — Alanis Hernández Arce, undergraduate student at University of Puerto Rico Humacao
“SMLP, largely, is a program that teaches you that connections and care are most important in becoming a physician. The route to this “MD promises land” can either be twisted or straight, but never the same as anyone else’s. The program offers many valuable opportunities such as MCAT prep, clinical experience, and physician contacts. In my experience, shadowing was the most valuable aspect for me because it broadened my understanding of what a physician’s life looked like. Above all, SMLP leaves you with invaluable skills, friends, and memories— it’s not possible to leave the program the same.” — Brendan Gamor, undergraduate student at the University of Virginia
“My experience as an SMLP participant in one word was enlightening. It showed me the diversity of the medical world through various shadowing experiences and seminars. I learned about many specialties in the medical world and the various works that medical professionals combine with their medical life, for some it is research, administration, and some education. Many prestigious doctors and individuals came to talk to us and one thing that I learned from them collectively was that failure is almost inevitable in the medical field but after you fail you pick up yourself and try to move forward.” — Rejoice Obazee, undergraduate student at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise
Dr. Bell and Ms. Woodard would like to extend a special thank you to Moses Woode, PhD, and Richard W. Lindsay, MD, both emeritus professors at UVA, for supporting the program this summer. Planning is already underway for the SMLP 2024, with the application process opening on October 1, 2023. Learn more about the UVA School of Medicine’s SMLP here.