Summer Medical and Dental Education Program

Dates of the Program: 1987–2014

“I often refer to [the program] as 'academic boot camp,' but it exposes students to much more than the academic rigors of health care careers. This program exposes students to the possibilities, and it gives them the tools they need to succeed.”—Andrea Daitz, MA, RWJF program associate with lead responsibility for the program

Description: Racial and ethnic minorities have long been underrepresented in medicine and dentistry. Non-minorities from disadvantaged circumstances also face special challenges to entering the medical and dental professions.

The Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP), formerly known as Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP) is a free six-week academic enrichment summer program to help qualified undergraduate students from minority and disadvantaged backgrounds compete successfully for medical and dental school admission.

The program is open to incoming sophomores, juniors and, in rare instances, academically advanced rising freshmen.

Each of 12 participating universities enrolls 80 students a summer and provides instruction in the basic sciences and math, help with writing and oral presentations and with developing learning and study skills, exposure to health policy issues, assistance in financial planning and a clinical experience.

"This is the message that the students take with them when they leave: 'Someone believes in me, and I have what it takes'. They suddenly realize they can make it to the MD-Promised Land."—Moses K. Woode, PhD, professor emeritus at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, summer program adviser and former long-time director of the university's summer program.

"I don't think anyone has a clear idea of medical school before they get there. But this program represented the closest thing that I could ever experience."—Cecil Webster, MD

Key Results

  • From 1987 through 2012, there were 21,340 students who participated in the program. The vast majority—14,659—participated during 1989–2005 when the program was for pre-med students only. Some 41.7 percent of them (6118) entered medical school and 75.8 percent (5410) graduated.

  • From 2006, when the program began accepting pre-dental students, through the 2012 cohort, there were 6,681 participants; 81 percent (5,409) as pre-medical students and 19 percent (1,644) as pre-dental students. Data from primarily the classes of 2006–2009 (who have completed their undergraduate studies) indicate that, to date, some 19.9 percent of the pre-med students have been accepted in medical school; and some 25.2 percent of the pre-dental students have been accepted to dental school.

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Program helps 21,340 minority/disadvantaged college students compete for medical/dental school admission