Did a Summer Health Careers Program Have an Impact?

    • December 18, 2012

Dates of Project: 2009–2012

Field of Work: Measuring the impact of a summer medical and dental school preparatory program

Problem Synopsis: No long-term follow-up of minority students who enrolled in such programs had ever been conducted, according to the researchers.

Synopsis of the Work: Harvard Medical School researchers used the Internet and public records to search for career and contact information on the 887 students who participated in the Harvard summer program, which ran from 1969 to 1977. They found that information for 525 of those students—of whom 151 responded to an online or mail survey. The researchers also conducted in-depth telephone interviews with 30 former students.

Key Findings

  • Of the 525 former students whose careers the researchers tracked, 375 went on to complete a medical or dental degree, and 329 continued to practice in those professions as of 2012.
  • Most of the 151 former students surveyed attested that their road to success rested on academic and personal confidence, which they built by proving themselves in a competitive atmosphere at a respected institution.
  • The researchers identified a number of best practices for summer preparatory programs for medical and dental schools, including the importance of enabling and encouraging prep students to mix with other summer school students.

According to a participating pediatrician, the program "woke me up academically; it was like I was reborn ... I got to the point where I was never going to take no for an answer when I wanted to pursue anything."

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Minorities in summer premed programs gain confidence by proving themselves in a competitive atmosphere.