Opening minds, opening doors in the health professions

The 2013 Health P.A.S.S. scholars represent the future of health care.

Karina Allen de Oliveira expected DMU to be in a cornfield. Brittany Thompson’s parents worried about Midwest tornadoes. Dionta Posey had never stepped foot in a medical school. These and nine other undergraduates gained a much different and deeper understanding of DMU, Iowa and their opportunities in health care by participating in the University’s three-week Health Professions Advanced Summer Scholars Program, or Health P.A.S.S.

“I didn’t have the resources to find out about the different health care professions. This program is helping me learn about my options,” said Health P.A.S.S. scholar Nisha Rani Malik, a biology major at Mount Holyoke College.

The program gives insights on health professions and advantages in applying to graduate school to promising undergraduates, with preference given to those from under-represented populations in medicine and health care. DMU covers the full costs of the program, including students’ meals, housing and activities on campus and around Des Moines. More than 20 DMU students helped as mentors, discussion leaders, lab/research guides and chaper ones.

Health P.A.S.S. participants get hands-on in a casting lab.
Health P.A.S.S. participants get hands-on in a casting lab.

“I like the way people at DMU take inclusiveness as a value seriously. Students treat us like fellow students,” said Christian Rodriguez, a biology major at McPherson College. “Our student mentors are so helpful in preparing for interviews. It’s been a good experience in hearing from someone who’s been through it.”

Kevin Ehlers, a student in DMU’s master of science in biomedical sciences program, became a program mentor to show his gratitude for mentors he’s had. He says he and the undergraduate he mentored “came from very different backgrounds,” which made their conversations come slowly at first but created benefits in the end.

“In hindsight, I feel our differing backgrounds strengthened the experience for both of us. We both came to further understand that the diverse world we live in requires inclusiveness for fruitful relationships to prosper,” Ehlers adds.

Health P.A.S.S. participants, who came this summer from South Carolina, New York, Washington, the Virgin Islands and points in between, learned about osteopathic medicine, podiatric medicine, physical therapy and physician assistant studies and had hands-on experiences in DMU’s simulation center and labs. They shadowed providers in the DMU Clinic. They also gained real-world lessons in preparing for and applying to medical school.

“Our mock interviews have been most eye-opening in getting ready for medical school, to manage the jangling of nerves,” said Benjamin Hodges, a biology and pre-medicine major at Augustana College.

“The program has been a vote of confidence,” added Paulette Saldana, a biology major at Loyola University. “It’s great getting all this experience and knowledge prior to attending medical school.”

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