Oct 2 2012
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Motivating the Next Generation of Minority Physicians

Alden M. Landry, MD, MPH and Kameron Leigh Matthews, MD, JD are  co-directors of Tour for Diversity in Medicine, a grassroots effort to educate, inspire, and cultivate future minority physicians. Landry, 31, is an emergency medicine physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and Matthews, 33, and is the medical director for a Chicago-based family health clinic. Landry is an alumnus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP), formerly the Minority Medical Education Program.

Alden Landry reflects on the second Tour for Diversity which ended last week:

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Dr Matthews and I created the Tour for Diversity in Medicine (T4D) to reach out to students in their comfort zones and show them that they could be successful and become health care providers. We enlisted the help of our friends and colleagues to come along with us on the tour as Mentors, to lead lectures, workshops and interactive sessions and motivate the next generation of minority physicians. The Mentors range from pre-health advisors to medical and dental students as well as physicians and dentists in practice. More importantly, they share their personal stories with students. We’ve found this to be one of the most valuable parts of the tour—giving a human face to what can sometimes seem like an unattainable profession.

The tour was different than our earlier, February tour because we had a broader mix of host institutions. Host institutions ranged from small historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to larger institutions. We visited schools in rural settings as well as large cities. Each institution was as unique as were the students who attended and the stories we heard.

There wasn't just one stop that was memorable. All of the stops were filled with amazing groups of students hungry for more knowledge about careers in medicine and dentistry.

Each stop seemed to have its own theme. Some days students had more questions and concerns about entrance exams, on other days they asked about gap years and post baccalaureate programs, while still other days were geared toward freshmen and sophomores on the traditional matriculation timeline. One stop, the University of Michigan–Dearborn, stands out in my mind because it was the alma mater of one of our mentors, Dr Tyree Winters. He petitioned us to go to his school because he wanted to give back. A few of our other mentors had Detroit ties, making it special for them as well.

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Students wanted to know our stories. They wanted to hear how we dealt with exams (the MCAT or DAT). They wanted to know how we overcame the complex prerequisite courses or found physicians to shadow. We were fortunate to have 12 mentors who were willing to tell their personal stories in addition to presenting the facts and figures.

The tour is definitely a dream come true. It's an amazing feeling to come up with an idea and develop it over time into a successful project. More importantly, it’s great to know that we are reaching out to students and giving them additional support that will hopefully help them overcome obstacles and achieve their dream of medicine or dentistry.

Our tour next February is going to be amazing. We are going to Texas, which is my home state. We are going to visit places I have lived either as a child (El Paso) or places I have visited. We are going to visit Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) as well as HBCUs. The stop I am most excited about is going back to my alma mater, Prairie View A&M University. It will be my homecoming and a chance to give back to a school that has given me so much.

Read more about the Tour for Diversity.

Tags: Diversity, Health Care Education and Training, Health Care Workforce, Summer Medical and Dental Education Program, Voices from the Field