Diverse undergraduates soak up experience at Summer Enrichment Program

Pre-med students complete four-week immersion for groups underrepresented in health care

By Sandra Gray

UMass Medical School Communications

June 25, 2019
Ashley Streeter (left) and Andrea Shehaj are members of the UMass Medical School Summer Enrichment Program Class of 2019.

A diverse group of 22 college students came together at UMass Medical School to participate in the 2019 Summer Enrichment Program for students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and backgrounds underrepresented in medicine. UMass Dartmouth junior Ashley Street and UMass Lowell junior Andrea Shehaj were among the group bonded by their interest in pursuing careers in health care.

Street’s interest in medicine developed while living through the aftermath of a category 4 hurricane and a communicable disease epidemic in her native Grenada.

“After seeing the important work to be done in communities who experience inadequate and insufficient health care, I made a decision to leave my home to further my education,” said Street of the decision to move to Worcester at age 16, where she graduated from Burncoat High School. “I wanted to pursue a career in medicine in order to be of some help in the future.”

Shehaj moved with his family from Albania to Massachusetts when he was 10. He excelled in high school when he found his passion for health care and scientific research, which he has pursued diligently in college.

“I was surprised by the sheer amount of work medical school will require,” said Shehaj, who learned that the intense pace of the summer program is what to expect throughout medical school. “The best thing I got out of the program was being pushed to read more. Coming from a science background, I didn’t do much reading except for academic journals for my research, so being thrown into other reading translates to every single area in your life as well as pre-medical studies.” He plans to take more English courses at UMass Lowell.

The Summer Enrichment Program is one of several educational opportunities UMass Medical School hosts each summer.

The program is a tuition-free, residential, educational immersion that helps the participants improve their qualifications and competitive standing for admission to professional or graduate school. Students are immersed in challenging academics, community and cultural health seminars, and real-world shadowing experiences.

Street said she appreciated the contemporary and cultural health issues presented by the guest speakers. “We learned about cultural competency and got to meet several faculty and residents,” she said. “Some had similar backgrounds to me, so it was great to hear their stories.”

Another favorite for both was shadowing medical residents at UMass Memorial Medical Center’s Level 1 trauma center and emergency department in the university campus.

Shehaj found the experience took him beyond his volunteer work as a patient observer at Lowell Memorial Hospital. “I now want to go into emergency medicine, and am happy the program provided that insight,” he said.

“Being in the emergency room was my first, exciting clinical exposure,” said Street. “I got to follow patients from triage to admission and could envision myself as part of that team.”

The 2019 Summer Enrichment Program concluded on June 21 with a graduation ceremony attended by participants’ families and program leaders; each participant received a certificate of achievement and several won awards. The proceedings featured presentations of the top three health disparity group research projects, which were evaluated in a judged competition.

Street’s project placed second and Shehaj’s group placed first. Shehaj and fellow UMass Lowell classmates Daryle Lamonica and Dominick Taveras chose health disparities for Latinos with HIV as their topic, explaining that it is a problem they have seen firsthand and want to address in the communities where they live and go to school.

Summer Enrichment Program Class of 2019

Keith Ameyaw, UMass Boston ’21
Maame Amoah-Dankwah, Quinsig. C.C. ’19
Madak Basnet, UMass Dartmouth ’20
Priyanka Bhakhri, UMass Amherst ’21
Darshana Blaise, UMass Amherst ’21
Eva Chege, UMass Amherst ’21
Maya Dennis, UMass Amherst ’21
Rachel Dumond, Curry College ’21
Renata Franca, UMass Amherst ‘21
Isabella Izidoro, UMass Amherst ’21
Daryle Lamonica, UMass Lowell ’21

Maxim Mastyugin, UMass Boston ’21
Edward Mejia, UMass Boston ‘20
Bernice Mensah, Worcester State ‘21
Princess Paul, ‘21 UMass Lowell
Camilla Prata, ‘21 UMass Amherst
Andrea Shehaj, UMass Lowell ’21
Ashley Street, UMass Dartmouth ’21
Israa El Saudi, UMass Boston ’21
Dominick Taveras, UMass Lowell ’21
Hoang Vo, Worcester State ’21
Stacey Wainaina, UMass Amherst ’20