July 02, 2015

SHEP, HCOP programs give students a sneak peek into medical professions

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shepPictured are undergraduate students participating in the 2015 Summer Health Enrichment Program.The School of Medicine’s Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs hosts the Summer Health Enrichment Program (SHEP) and Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP) pipeline programs,  focused on providing middle-school, high-school and undergraduate students from underserved backgrounds with the tools necessary to gain a deeper understanding of working in medicine.

The SHEP program is a six-week program that seeks to provide undergraduates around the state with the tools to become competitive in the medical school process. This year there are 50 students who participate in classes that prepare them for professional exams, interviews and general academics, while shadowing medical professionals in different specialties.

 “I like that there’s variety in what we’re doing,” said Joselyn Miller, a junior at Alabama State University. “We’re not limited to one specialty. We’re able to see what we really like or don’t like.”

Despite having an open mind, Miller’s shadowing experience affirmed her aspirations for the specialty she wants to pursue.

“Trauma is what I want to do with my life, so that was exciting. Going to the trauma ward was like everything I ever imagined.”

Jonathan Trinh, a junior at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, said he also enjoys the variety of shadowing experience.

“Surprisingly, my favorite clinical experience was shadowing in the pediatric emergency room,” he said.

Not surprisingly, students who participate in the SHEP program gain an edge when applying for professional schools, said Tamara Eason, program manager for the SHEP and HCOP programs. She said two students participating in SHEP last year were accepted to the UAB School of Dentistry.

The HCOP program—which also offers a “behind the scenes” experience”— is a group effort from the School of Medicine, the UAB Schools of Dentistry, Optometry, Public Health and Health Professions, along with the University of Alabama, Birmingham City Schools, Alabama Health Department and Birmingham Young Men's Christian Association to provide disadvantaged youth with experience in healthcare. There are 50 middle school students and 50 high school students in grades 6 through 12 participating in the six-week HCOP program this summer.

The students attend lectures, shadow and acquire some hands-on experience in primary care. For most, the hands-on experience is the best part.

“Today, we got to touch a human heart,” Victoria Kindall, a 7th grade student at Phillips Academy, said of her experience last week. “It was really fun.” 

Victoria also enjoyed visiting the School of Dentistry because she liked learning the names of the different teeth.

“I’m not sure what I want to be when I grow up, but when I come here it opens up my eyes to different careers,” she said. “I like learning, but at HCOP it’s learning in a different way.”