Norma Poll-Hunter, co-director of SMDEP, discusses the program's history.


SMDEP: Celebrating 25 Years

SMDEP’s roots go back 25 years, to 1989 when it accepted its first cohort of scholars. Experts had been documenting declines in medical school applicants from diverse backgrounds starting in 1977, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation initiated a study in 1984 to identify strategies to reverse those trends.  Findings contributed to the development of the Minority Medical Education Program (MMEP), which aimed to increase the acceptance rates of medical school applicants from racial and ethnic groups who were underrepresented in medicine—African Americans, Mexican Americans, mainland Puerto Ricans, and American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Over the years, MMEP’s intensive academic preparation program expanded to 11 medical school campuses. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) assumed the role of National Program Office in 1993.

In 2003, the program changed its name to the Summer Medical Education Program (SMEP), reflecting the inclusion of students representing a range of economic, cultural and geographic diversity. The program expanded to include dentistry in 2005, and was renamed the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP). Today, both the AAMC and the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) serve as the National Program Office, providing technical assistance and direction for the program.

Tyeese Gaines, DO, MMEP, Class of 1999

Tyeese Gaines, DO, MMEP, Class of 1999

“If I want to take care of this population, I need to be where they are.”

                      —Tyeese Gaines, DO


Medicine Without Walls     

Tyeese Gaines, DO, MMEP, Class of 1999

Physician. Journalist. Teacher. Broadcaster. Author. Wife. Mom. Tyeese Gaines’s life is a monument to multitasking.

Early on, she wanted to be a community doctor in the inner city, treating underserved parents and children and delivering babies. But in medical school, she saw that many of the people she wanted to care for weren’t making it to a doctor’s office. They were coming to the ER.

“I realized that if I want to take care of this population, I need to be where they are,” says Gaines.

These days, her definition of “where they are” has expanded to include emergency rooms at three New Jersey hospitals; MSNBC, where she appears as a health expert; and, where as health editor she oversees the site’s health coverage. She’s also a clinical instructor in the department of emergency medicine at the Yale School of Medicine, and serves on the Governing Council of the American Medical Association Minority Affairs Section.

If it sounds demanding, it is. But Dr. Ty, as she’s known, wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I love what I do every day,” she says—whether it’s in the ER, online, or on the air.

Learn more about Tyeese Gaines and her fellow SMDEP alumni.

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