Barely out of high school but with their sights already set on medical school, several dozen University of Massachusetts freshmen began their journeys to become doctors when they came to UMass Medical School on Friday, April 13, to participate in the first UMass Five-Campus Bacc MD Pathway Symposium.
They are all members of the inaugural class of the UMass Bacc MD Pathway Program, which comprises students from all four UMass undergraduate campuses who have joined the pathway program in its first year. Accompanied by their campus’s pre-med and other academic advisors and deans, they came with eyes and ears open to learn what they need to accomplish, what they can expect and what to look forward to along the road to medical school and beyond.
UMass Boston student Ridge Solomon learned about the program at his freshman orientation last fall and signed on as a Pre-Medical Scholar, the first component of the two-part, four-year pathway that links the baccalaureate degree to the MD. “I wanted to join because I felt it was a way to begin college with resources, and to have a support group,” he said.
“I’m here today to get more information because you can never have too much information!” added UMass Boston classmate and fellow Pre-Medical Scholar Shabre Almeida.
Designed to increase the early identification and recruitment of qualified pre-medical students from the University’s undergraduate campuses who represent the cultural and economic diversity of the state’s population, the UMass Bacc MD Pathway was collaboratively created by leadership of the system’s five campuses. Becoming a Pre-Medical Scholar is the first phase of the pathway program, which continues throughout the four-year undergraduate experience, preparing its participants for application and entrance to any medical school. Students can be considered for progression to the second component after two years as Pre-Medical Scholars, at which time a selected number will be chosen as UMass Worcester Medical Scholars, eligible for conditional admission to the School of Medicine upon successful completion of all program components and all regular admission requirements. All Pre-Medical Scholars, even those who do not become UMass Worcester Medical Scholars, will benefit from the pathway’s structured curriculum, focused academic advisement and enrichment components.
Following a warm welcome from Chancellor Michael Collins, Marcellette Williams, PhD, the University’s senior vice president for academic affairs, student affairs and international relations, and Michel Pugnaire, MD, senior associate dean for medical education at UMMS, attendees delved into the essentials of successfully preparing for and getting into medical school, be it UMMS or any other one for which the Bacc MD Pathway will prepare them.
Students rotated among four roundtable discussions that addressed the questions:
UMMS community members led the roundtables, sharing personal as well as professional insights.
Students learned not only about what they need to accomplish, but how the UMass system will support them. After lunch, an opportunity fair hosted by UMMS faculty, staff and students, introduced many of the resources and programs available at UMMS.
Undergraduates also got a behind-the-scene glimpse of the medical school from current students who shared their experiences while leading tours of the Simulation Center, Lamar Soutter Library, Integrated Teaching and Learning Center and the anatomy laboratory.
“I found out medical school is much more human than public perception has it,” said UMass Dartmouth freshman and Oxford High School graduate Shaun Nystrom, who is interested in GSBS as well as the School of Medicine.
UMass faculty, as well as undergraduates, were impressed. “I’m excited about the Bacc MD program because it gives a group of students an opportunity to get a feel for UMass Worcester, and to begin the process of thinking about medical school a little earlier than many students do,” said David Eberiel, PhD, university health professions advisor at UMass Lowell. “It helps bring those students who are interested in medical school to me.”
The symposium closed on a celebratory note with an informal reception for participants. Representative of her peers was UMass Amherst Pre-Medical Scholar Karine Nakayassu, a Woburn High School graduate who has always dreamed of becoming a doctor. “It was good to meet the students, and seeing the Medical School makes it tangible,” said Nakayassu. “I feel more inspired to do the things I’ve been planning to do all along.”
This slideshow features Bacc to MD Pathway Symposium presenters and participants teaching and learning from each other during the symposium.