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Students in a program sponsored by the Office for Diversity working with a Mayo Clinic faculty member

January 10, 2022

By Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science staff

Mayo Clinic is making it possible for people from underrepresented communities to pursue careers in medicine, research and science, technology, engineering, and math, often referred to as STEM, through a number of programs. The Office for Education Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion has designed 24 pathway programs for students from diverse backgrounds to explore and prepare for clinical and nonclinical health care careers.

Mayo Clinic's Office for Education Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion offers people from under-resourced school districts and rural communities opportunities to learn more about what's available to them in health care careers.

These programs provide learners with a greater understanding of those careers, clinical skills, and research experience. They also help them build networks, mentorship relationships, confidence, and the resilience to persist through the challenges of medical education and their future careers in health care.

The Office for Education Diversity, Education and Inclusion works with community programs, organizations, and schools across the country to reach learners from high school through college, residency, and beyond.

Programs for high school and college students

Pathway programs early in a learner's academic trajectory can become the catalyst for them to persist and succeed as they navigate a challenging educational journey. Mayo Clinic CARES (Career Advancement Research and Education Summer) is a summer intensive program in Arizona that serves high school students from under-resourced communities, first-generation college students and those with an interest in health equity. Students explore a wide breadth of clinical and nonclinical careers in medicine and science through the program. They are then paired with a Mayo Clinic professional in their area of interest for ongoing mentorship. Over 70 Mayo Clinic staff, faculty, scientists, and physicians who are passionate about youth development come together to make this program a success.

Matthew Ramiro Fernandez, a student at the University of Arizona studying physiology and medical sciences, is a graduate of the first Mayo Clinic CARES Class of 2019.

"The Mayo Clinic CARES program was a great experience for me, not only as a pre-med student but also as a person who wants to become a leader in my community," Fernandez says. "Everyone in the Mayo Clinic CARES program showed an interest in education and creating future leaders in the health care field."

2019 CAFES program student group
Group of students in the 2019 CARES program

In 2021, Mayo Clinic piloted a medical pathway program specially designed for American Indian and Alaska Native high school students. Many Native American children and youth in rural communities grow up lacking physician role models who reflect their cultural identities. In addition, limited access to health care and educational resources can create even greater barriers for them. To address these disparities and continue building relationships with the American Indian and Alaska Native communities, Mayo Clinic's Native American Pathway Program serves high school seniors and incoming college freshmen interested in pursuing health care careers.

The two-week summer program provides students an opportunity to develop skills and strategies for college preparation and success through presentations by subject matter experts and American Indian and Alaska Native professionals. The interactive nature of the program weaves culturally tailored resilience and cohort-building activities throughout the curriculum, helping to make it relevant and meaningful to its participants.

Programs for undergraduates

The Office for Education Diversity, Equity and Inclusion has several programs designed to help undergraduate students — one being assistance with the medical school admission and preparation process.

Underrepresented minorities historically have lacked access to guidance on the medical school application process and support for the Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT, prep. The lack of guidance creates barriers for a talented group of students capable of succeeding in medical school.

Mayo Clinic's Undergraduate Plummer Scholars Program aims to address these disparities. The program provides talented undergraduate students underrepresented in medicine an opportunity for medical career exploration, MCAT preparation and support in preparing for medical school applications and interviews. In addition, the Undergraduate Plummer Scholars+ track is specially designed for pre-medical college sophomores who are at the top of their class and show great promise for medical school acceptance. The program offers mentorship with Mayo Clinic medical students, clinical shadowing, and academic and professional development workshops.

Other programs like the four-week Native American Pathway Program for undergraduates allow Native American students to have conversations with American Indian and Alaska Native mentors and faculty role models. It also provides MCAT prep, clinical simulations and case studies illustrating health disparities.

"The Native American Pathway Program was an amazing experience that I highly recommend as it helped give me the confidence and experience that I felt I needed to pursue medicine," says Justin Henson, a Stanford University student who graduated from the program in 2020.

"I learned a lot about how I, as a first-generation college student, am able and allowed to be both a student and an Indigenous person in medicine," says Henson, who is of Dine and Keetoowah Cherokee heritage. "The Native American Pathway Program helped me lay my path towards becoming a physician that works for his community. I am thankful to this cohort and those who were able to mentor us during this program."

Programs for post-graduate students

Mayo Clinic's Post-baccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) provides minority students who are interested in research mentorship in basic and translational research to strengthen their Ph.D. and M.D.-Ph.D. program applications.

Delaney Liskey graduated from the program in 2021 and is now a Ph.D. student at Mayo Clinic's Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

"I would tell a prospective student that becoming a PREP scholar at Mayo Clinic was one of the greatest decisions that I have made in my career," Liskey says. "I have enjoyed every moment in the program, achieved my personal goals and developed invaluable skillsets that I will be able to further develop in graduate school. I am learning the skills to be a successful mentor to undergraduate students and how to effectively communicate my research."

Students in the PREP program
Group of students in the PREP program

The Initiative for Maximizing Student Development at Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences seeks to increase the number of researchers underrepresented in biomedical research, as well as those interested in research topics related to underrepresented populations. The two-year fellowship program provides a supportive learning environment where students are mentored and learn many aspects of research, from basic laboratory studies to clinical trials.

Pathway programs for medical students

The Alfred Uihlein Family Professor in Neurologic Surgery Program matches medical students nationwide with Mayo Clinic's neurosurgeons and scientists for an eight-week fellowship program in research. Students learn about the full range of clinical research methods, and they shadow clinical and research faculty.

"I loved the immersive component of the best summer neurosurgery research internship in the country," says Nehemiah Wilson, a student at Howard University College of Medicine. "We hit the ground running from Day One with hands-on clinical, surgical and research exposure. Being part of patient outcomes as well as brainstorming with the world's best researchers was a breathtaking experience that I would not trade for anything."

Programs for residents and fellows

The transition from medical school education to residency training is another hurdle for underrepresented minorities who may lack the mentorship to prepare for residency. Several years ago, Mayo Clinic's Office for Education Equity, Diversity and Inclusion launched the Wilson Scholars Program, named after Louis Wilson, M.D., a pathologist and leader at Mayo Clinic nearly a century ago. Dr. Wilson was instrumental in establishing Mayo Clinic's residency programs. This graduate medical education pathway program aims to increase the diversity of residency applicants at Mayo Clinic and support medical students who are committed to addressing issues of diversity and health equity. The Wilson Scholars Program assigns medical students a mentor for career advisement and connects them to college leaders who can provide guidance on residency training at Mayo Clinic School of Graduate Medical Education.

"I have a belief that anyone with the right circumstances and support can become a physician, and with more differences in circumstances, you need more support," says Justen Ahmad, a Wilson Scholar and medical student at Howard University College of Medicine. "My set of circumstances are not the norm as I am the first college graduate in my family, a father of two, and an older learner, to name a few components of my identity. The Wilson Scholars Program was there for the extra support I needed to succeed as a student doctor. It provided a direct line to a seasoned physician mentor to call upon anytime I had an unclear path in my career, academics or life, and a diverse group of scholars that bring a myriad of experience to medicine that will greatly benefit their communities."

Mayo Clinic Wilson Scholars
Group of students in the Wilson Scholars program