The underrepresentation of individuals from minority and low-income backgrounds is a pressing and persistent issue in medicine. High school biomedical pipeline programs offer a promising strategy to diversify the medical pipeline by supporting underrepresented students towards successful transition into college and health careers. One of the most established university-based pipeline programs is the Stanford Medical Youth Science Program (SMYSP). For over thirty years, SMYSP has fostered the potential of low-income and under-represented high school students interested in careers in health and medicine through a 5-week summer program. We partnered with SMYSP to qualitatively explore the impact of their high school biomedical pipeline program on alumni at different stages of their educational and professional careers.
We conducted a cross-sectional, qualitative study with alumni who participated in the SMYSP program from 1988-2019 who completed an online survey (n=83); a subset (n=21) who were working in or completing training in a clinical field were interviewed using a semi-structured, in-depth interview examining the perceived impact of SMYSP throughout different stages of their educational and professional careers. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and coded and thematic analysis was performed with input from SMYSP collaborators.
Eighty-three alumni completed the survey, 45% had completed or were enrolled in an undergraduate degree program and 40% had completed or were enrolled in a graduate degree program. Twenty-one alumni were interviewed (66% men; ages 17-46 year; 43% Latino; 29% Asian; 14% Black; 5% Native; 5% White; 5% Mixed). The following themes emerged: (1) clinical experiences (hospital internships, anatomy laboratory practicums) were often described as the most impactful program component, (2) inspiration was gained by meeting students and professional mentors that “looked like me” during the program, (3) participation in the program at a young age was important in developing self-confidence to pursue higher education and (4) many alumni felt a sense of belonging in their school, work, and community despite challenging academic and career journeys.
High school biomedical pipeline programs for underrepresented students can have a positive impact on alumni throughout different stages of their educational and professional careers. Established and evaluated programs like SMYSP should serve as a model to guide the development of future programs seeking to support under-represented students interested in health professions.
Sources of Support
Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Community Benefits Grant Stanford Pediatrics Resident Research Grant.
© 2022 Published by Elsevier Inc.