LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Growing up in Marietta, Ga., Evelena Cousin-Peterson knew she wanted to become a doctor, but didn’t know what it would take to make her dream come true. A program at the University of Louisville helped provide her a way. In the past four years, the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP) has helped more than 300 undergraduate students from rural or disadvantaged backgrounds explore medical or dental careers as an option.
Now, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has awarded nearly $600,000 over two years to bring another 160 students to the University of Louisville for the six-week summer program. The organization provided more than $1 million in 2005 to implement SMDEP at UofL, one of 12 academic sites.
“There aren’t any physicians in my family and I had no one to help me understand what I needed to do to gain admission to medical school,” said Cousin-Peterson, now a first-year medical student at UofL. “Medicine is a serious time commitment, and this program helped me make sure it was the career for me.”
Summer program applicants may come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, racial and ethnic groups that historically have been underrepresented in medicine and dentistry, or parts of the country (such as rural areas) where residents historically have been underrepresented in medicine and dentistry.
The goal of SMDEP is to help students gain acceptance to medical or dental school and to succeed once admitted. To date, at least 50 students from UofL’s SMDEP program have reported successful matriculation into dental or medical school.
Student participants work in teams focused on integrated problem solving in areas of science, math and cross-cultural communication related to medicine and dentistry. UofL faculty and staff help each student develop a customized goal and career plan.
There is no cost to students, who receive three hours of academic credit, room, board, a small stipend and transportation assistance. Rising college sophomores and juniors may apply to the program. Online applications are being accepted through March 1, 2010 at www.smdep.org/apply.htm .