Group of people walking around campus


Student-led programs expand the pool of medical school applicants underrepresented in the profession. By Janet Essman Franz


Growing up in a majority Hispanic neighborhood in the Bronx, Aissata Samake saw no Lantinx or Black physicians, nor any who understood her ethnicity and traditions. Samake, a woman of color, intends to go to medical school, but she admits to past feelings of doubt about her career choice. Having mentors who look like her has fostered her decision, she says.

“A Black woman in medicine motivated me to keep proceeding on the path of medicine, even when I felt it was too hard,” Samake said, recalling an influential cell biology class professor. “It’s important that we have people of color supporting other, younger people of color, saying ‘you can do this, because I did it.’”

Samake was one of 28 people participating in the third annual Look at Larner event at the University of Vermont September 7–9, 2023. This medical student-led outreach program aims to serve aspiring medical students from populations underrepresented in the profession of medicine, to help them envision their experience in medical school. Participants are in various phases of the medical admissions cycle, from undergraduate pre-med coursework, to preparing for the Medical College Admissions Test, to submitting applications. They interact with current medical students who are from backgrounds underrepresented in medicine, meet medical faculty, attend classes, receive admissions advice, and explore living in the Burlington area. First- through third-year medical students open their homes to host attendees.

The event allows participants “to see themselves as part of our community, and practicing medicine in Vermont,” said Larner Class of 2026 medical student Shani Legore, one of three co-leaders of Look at Larner 2023 along with classmates Shrey Patel and Aina Rattu. Legore, who identifies as Afro-Caribbean, was a participant in the inaugural Look at Larner in 2021. At that time, she was in the process of applying to medical schools and “feeling frustrated with the cycle,” she said. Look at Larner offered support and direction she needed to complete the process and put her on the path to UVM: “I felt like I could see myself participating in active learning sessions, and I would be heard and seen. My vision of myself as a medical student became clearer.”

Look at Larner is one of several programs designed to strengthen the pathway of students attending medical school for students from populations underrepresented in the profession of medicine. The Association of American Medical Colleges defines Underrepresented in Medicine (URiM) as racial and ethnic populations that are underrepresented in the medical profession relative to their numbers in the general population. Larner College of Medicine expands this definition to include sexual and gender minorities, those identifying as transgender or non-binary, and individuals from financially disadvantaged backgrounds.

Potential student applicants learning from medical student.

Look at Larner participants shadowed medical students, participated in active learning sessions, and explored lecture halls and laboratories.

A similar program, URiM Pathway to Pediatrics, focuses on undergraduate students from underrepresented groups considering careers in pediatric medicine. Created by Class of 2024 medical students, this one-day event includes hands-on rotations in UVM’s Clinical Simulation Laboratory, with interactive simulations to practice colonoscopy, laparoscopy, and point-of-care ultrasound skills, care for a newborn baby, treat a child in respiratory distress, understand vital signs, and perform lumbar puncture. Current students guide participants through sessions, provide advice for pre-med coursework, and answer questions about applying to medical school.

“Participants gain so much from hearing stories from those who are just a few steps farther along on their journey and how they overcame various challenges to get where they are now,” said L. E. Faricy, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics, who serves as faculty organizer.

Pathways to Pediatrics also includes a “Clinical Mystery Case” session led by Lewis First, M.D., M.S., professor and chair of the Department of Pediatrics. The department offers Pathways in Pediatric Education, a year-long preceptorship for interested pre-medical students from URiM backgrounds to continue their engagement with pediatric faculty.

“Being able to introduce undergraduate college students who self-identify as under-represented to the field of child health is a meaningful experience for all involved. Many of these students stay in touch with people they met from our department, potentially helping to build a diverse pathway of future pediatricians and child health professionals,” First said.

College graduates from URiM populations may be eligible for the Dean’s Medical Scholarship, which annually supports two students to participate in a 30-credit master’s in medical science program, designed to foster aspiring medical students in becoming stronger applicants. These students have completed all medical school admissions requirements but may need personalized advising to ensure success. Participants take graduate-level courses that parallel the Foundations Level curriculum, with option to complete the 30-credit program in person or online. Scholarship recipients are guaranteed admission to Larner if they maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA.

“Being able to introduce undergraduate college students who self-identify as under-represented to the field of child health is a meaningful experience for all involved.”


The Visiting Scholars Student Elective Scholarship Program is a pathway to residency program providing scholarships for visiting fourth-year medical students from URiM backgrounds to attend a multi-week elective rotation at Larner and participate in a range of cases at UVM Medical Center, mentored by faculty. The $2,500 stipend supports scholars’ travel and housing. Currently offered to students interested in matching into emergency medicine or orthopedics, the scholarship aims to increase awareness of training opportunities in these fields and encourage students from diverse backgrounds to apply for residency at UVM Medical Center.

For Shani Legore, the personal connections she made during Look at Larner were the major reason she chose to attend UVM, and the experience inspired her to share her passions for mentorship as a Look at Larner leader.

“As someone who was pulled up, I want to help pull others up as well, especially those who are from underrepresented in medicine and minority backgrounds,” she said. “If I can help give opportunities to those who identify as such and help them get a foot in the door, I feel I will be doing my life’s work.” VM