According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, U.S. medical schools received 580,304 applications from 42,742 applicants in 2010 – 47.3 percent were women. Spelman College provided 61 of those applicants. That is the fourth largest number of Blacks from any undergraduate institution supplying applicants to U.S. medical schools. The success of these numbers can be attributed to the College’s legacy, but specifically to its Health Careers Program, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.
Founded in 1971 to create a pipeline of qualified young women to advance into professional health fields, the Health Careers Program serves as a repository of information, and a training ground of development and mentoring opportunities for students.
“We are a standalone program not connected to any one department at the College, so our reach and efforts to seek out students to participate in the Health Careers Program are interdisciplinary and holistic,” said Barbara Bell, Ph.D., director of the Health Careers Program and assistant professor of biology. “Our goal in the program is to make each and every one of our students competitive in the market.”
Of the approximately 2,000 students currently enrolled at Spelman, 364 are registered in the Health Careers Program. Through a blitzkrieg of campus marketing, health career brochures in admissions packets and visiting recruiters, students are regularly exposed to the infinite possibilities of the health profession.
“I knew I wanted to go into health care, but I just was not sure about what and how,” said biology major Breanna Gray, C’2010. “After seeing all the events and the resources of the Health Careers office, I became part of the program as a sophomore.”
Now in her first year of medical school at Morehouse School of Medicine, Gray plans to become a primary care physician and open her own practice. Spelman junior Jazmyn McCloud, also a biology major, will be off to Boston University School of Medicine after she graduates from Spelman to pursue her dreams of becoming a pediatric oncologist. Aundrea Vereen, C’2007, who plans to graduate from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in May, became involved in the Health Careers Program in her freshman year at Spelman.
“As a freshman student, I learned of an internship opportunity through the Office of Health Careers. It was at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine,” said Vereen, who will further her study specializing in prosthodonitis after Tufts. “At Case, I had the chance to be exposed to both medicine and dentistry and wanted to continue the pursuit.”
To celebrate its 40 years of success, Dr. Bell has planned a yearlong slew of events. On Feb. 24, Dr. Evelyn Lewis, C’78, a retired navy family physician, will serve as convocation speaker. In March, Health Careers will co-host Rajib Dasgupta, a Fulbright Senior Research Fellow and visiting associate professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. On Feb. 16, a recruitment fair and nursing roundtable are also planned, as well as a fall panel for health professionals in staffing to discuss what they look for in candidates.
In addition, Dr. Bell has two upcoming trips to take students to the Medical University of South Carolina and the Cleveland Clinic. “We want every student who is interested in a health career to be exposed to as much of the industry as possible,” said Dr. Bell, who joined the Health Careers Program in 1992 and is a 28-year veteran at Spelman.
“I feel this program is very relevant and necessary for African-American young women who are interested in pursuing careers in medicine and health,” said Dana Pride Jones, former program coordinator for the Health Careers Program and current program coordinator for the Women’s Research & Resource Center. “It transforms the premed/pre-health students, helps them to find themselves, and allows them to move successfully beyond the gates of Spelman to pursue their chosen career path.” – Renita Mathis is director of Interactive Communications in the Office of Communications.