An effective doctor needs to have a good bedside manner as well as a head for science. Getting into medical school requires a mix of hard and soft skills, too. All too often, students from disadvantaged communities miss out on crucial mentoring and learning opportunities that their peers take for granted.
Rebecca Massey, a sophomore majoring in biology in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences with plans to go to medical school, discovered that disparity during her freshman year. In an Honors English course that same year, she came up with a solution: Pre-Med Partners. The idea was to pair local high schoolers with UAB students who could share their time, as well as tips and skills. At the 2016 UAB Spring Expo, a showcase of undergraduate research and service, Massey will share lessons learned in the program’s first year.
“When I came to UAB as a pre-med student, I remember feeling overwhelmed,” Massey said. “I met many wonderful students who had extensive shadowing or research experience in high school, and as someone who grew up with no family members or friends in the medical field, I felt I was behind. I decided that, if I felt this unprepared, how must students with real disadvantages feel when they come to college?”
Massey submitted her proposal to the international Clinton Global Initiative University program in 2015, and it was accepted. For the past year, she and 9 other UAB student volunteers have been working with 11 juniors and seniors from the Health Sciences Academy at Birmingham’s Carver High School. “Their director, Kristie Williams, is amazing about trying to give these students all of the resources they need to be prepared for pre-med in college,” Massey said.
On the first day, the mentors introduced themselves and talked about their backgrounds and interests. “Then the mentees were able to choose their first and second choices of mentor,” Massey said. “Somehow, each student related best to a different mentor, and they were all paired up with their first choice. The mentor/mentee pairs formed some really great relationships, since each mentee was able to be paired with the mentor that they felt they related to most and could learn from most.”
"As someone who grew up with no family members or friends in the medical field, I felt I was behind. I decided that, if I felt this unprepared, how must students with real disadvantages feel when they come to college?"
Plans to expand
Meetings included workshops on applying for financial aid and the differences between studying in high school and studying in college. The mentors worked one-on-one with the students, helping them analyze their current study habits and areas where they could improve. These hands-on workshops were particularly successful, said Massey. She plans to add more workshops and fewer lectures as the program continues, and hopes to expand to other area schools soon.
Massey, who is a member of the Science and Technology Honors Program in the UAB Honors College, says her SciTech classmates rallied behind the project and have been an invaluable part of its success. Dylana Moore and Payal Patel, who are vice presidents of Pre-Med Partners, helped to produce the organization’s manual from scratch. Massey said she has also received vital advice and encouragement through her participation in the Clinton Global Initiative University Summit conference the past two years. “It has really encouraged me to always keep going forward,” she said, “and to find new ways to better the program and to expand so that we have the opportunity to impact even more students.”
See the future of research
Rebecca Massey is one of more than 400 students who will present at the UAB Spring Expo.
The event, now in its ninth year, showcases research, scholarship and other academic endeavors by UAB undergraduates. This year, with a record number of entries, the Expo is a two-day affair for the first time. It runs from 1-5 p.m. on April 14 and 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on April 15.
UAB alumnus Josh Carpenter, the university's second Rhodes Scholar, will deliver the keynote address on Friday, April 15, at 11 a.m. in the UAB Hill Student Center Alumni Theatre.