Page Content
High school students learn about health sciences careers at Mayo Clinic's Career Immersion Program

July 18, 2023

By Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science staff

Summertime is ideal for exploring possible life paths. During the summer, Mayo Clinic offers multiple pathway programs for high school and college students interested in various types of careers in biomedical research, medicine, and health sciences.

Read more about a few of our summer programs and the experiences of high school and college students who have engaged these opportunities firsthand.

Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program

For undergraduate students joining Mayo’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program, the summer experience is sometimes the first step toward a career in biomedical research and medicine. 

The 2023 class of SURF students — 164 undergraduates who were selected from more than 1,800 applicants — have begun projects in research labs on Mayo’s campuses in Arizona, Florida, and Minnesota.

The program was pivotal in former SURF student Eran Maina's quest to become a physician-scientist. His goal took shape following his mother’s treatment for breast cancer at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.

"Fortunately, my mom is doing very well today," Maina says. "Her experiences at Mayo Clinic are what inspired me to become more interested in biomedical research and also medicine."

After his sophomore year in college, Maina joined Mayo’s SURF program. He began a research project studying ovarian cancer in the lab of cancer biologist Evette Radisky, Ph.D. The 10-week program made an impression on him and on the lab.

Graduate Research Education Program (GREP)

After Maina completed his undergraduate degree, he continued at Mayo in another pre-career research program, Graduate Research Education Program (GREP), .

GREP is a post-baccalaureate program for participants with an interest in biomedical research. Students gain research experience to help them decide on and obtain opportunities in their chosen career path related to biomedical research.

"When I look forward to the type of physician and scientist I’d like to be, I’d really like to join those Mayo physicians and scientists who are looking forward to the future and are trying to develop new ways of giving patients hope throughout their treatment," Maina says.

Undergraduate Plummer Scholars Program

The Undergraduate Plummer Scholars (UPS) Program is a summer program that introduces undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds to careers in medicine through immersive experiences.

High school and undergraduate students recently gathered for a week of exploration and hands-on learning through the Undergraduate Plummer Scholars Plus (UPS+) Program at Mayo Clinic in Arizona. The program is a component of the 9-month virtual Undergraduate Plummer Scholars program where students interested in pursuing medical school learn about the ins and outs of the process, including preparing for the MCAT exams.

Students attend sessions for a week in person, followed by four weeks of virtual sessions, where they learn more about specialties they were introduced to during their in-person visits.

More than 180 students across the U.S. have participated in the Undergraduate Plummer Scholars Program since it was launched by Mayo's Office for Education Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in 2018. The summer component has drawn more than 51 students.

Graduates from the program are now medical students and graduate students at academic institutions such as Meharry Medical College, Baylor, Howard University College of Medicine, Charles Drew University/UCLA, Emory University School of Medicine, and the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago.

Career Immersion Program

Mayo's Career Immersion Program offers high school juniors and seniors an opportunity to gain hands-on experience with experts in some of the most sought-after healthcare fields.

Faduma Farah was headed to her junior year at Rochester STEM Academy in 2019 when she learned about and applied to be part of the Career Immersion Program at Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences.

Her experience in the program helped solidify her plans for the future — of becoming a phlebotomist first and then setting her sights on medical school.

Farah graduated from high school in 2021 and went on to complete the phlebotomy program at Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences. Soon after, she joined the phlebotomy technician team at Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

She's now applying to medical schools, including Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine, and hopes to become a primary care physician working in underserved communities.

Farah is one of many Minnesota-area high school students who have benefited from the Career Immersion Program. The program offers high school juniors and seniors an opportunity to gain hands-on experience with experts in some of the most sought-after healthcare fields. In the program's seven years, more than 220 students have come to Mayo Clinic to explore careers, with many continuing on to careers in healthcare, including at Mayo.

Among students who participate, many go on to pursue healthcare and health science careers:

  • 12% of former Career Immersion Program students are now employed at Mayo Clinic.
  • 16% of students later enroll in a Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences program.
  • 6% have completed other types of Mayo Clinic training programs, such as nursing internships.

"The Career Immersion Program has proven to be a great on-ramp for high school juniors and seniors who are keenly interested in health science and medical careers," says Martha-Gracia Knuttinen, M.D., Ph.D., associate dean for Admissions, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences.