Group of people in anatomy lab viewing specimen

Medical Students Host ‘Look at Larner’

Event offers aspiring students a glimpse of medical school.

September 22, 2023 by Janet Essman Franz

Growing up in the Bronx, New York, where the population is majority Hispanic,* Aissata Samake saw no Lantinx or Black physicians. 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 been vital to her decision, she says.

“As an undergrad [at Gettysburg College], when I was able to have a Black woman in medicine [mentor], she 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” 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 what their experience in medical school might look like. Participants meet with and hear from current medical students who are from backgrounds underrepresented in medicine. They also interact with medical faculty, participate in classes, receive admissions advice, find social support, and explore living in the Burlington area. First- through third-year medical students open their homes to host attendees.

Three people enjoy hands-on learning in the lab

During hands-on rotations in the UVM Clinical Simulation Laboratory, Look at Larner participants practiced ultrasound techniques and learned how to intubate patients. (Photo: David Seaver)

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, including those identifying as transgender or non-binary, and individuals from financially disadvantaged backgrounds.

Prospective students participate in an active learning session

In an upper limb anatomy lesson, participants learned about the network of nerves in the shoulder, arm and hand. (Photo: David Seaver)

“It’s important to see somebody like you doing the thing you want to do.” 

Keiran Kozlowski, aspiring UVM medical student

Look at Larner 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. “It’s a chance to interact with admissions officers, ask questions and get personalized feedback on their readiness and aptitude for medical school.”

Candidates for Look at Larner are in different phases of the medical admissions cycle, from undergraduate pre-med coursework, to preparing for the Medical College Admissions Test, to submitting applications. Larner offices of admissions, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and medical communications offices support the initiative. Larner students work to ensure Look at Larner continues annually.

Created two years ago by Larner class of 2024 medical students Mialovena Exume and Warrick Sahene, Look at Larner is an outreach program for rising college juniors and seniors, college graduates and career-changers with a strong interest in pursuing a medical degree. As students of color at Larner, Exume and Sahene felt a program like this was particularly important for the college.

“Larner has the capacity to really diversify the student population and attract more students of color to apply and matriculate,” Exume told the Larner Office of Medical Communications in 2021. “Obviously, with a more diverse group of people, you have the opportunity to learn in even greater ways.”


Full Immersion

Activities at Look at Larner 2023 included an upper limb anatomy lesson, clinical simulation laboratory rotations, and active class learning time with faculty in medical education classrooms.

“Being fully immersed, spending time in an anatomy lab and clinical simulation, and getting a real taste of what medical school is like, means a lot, especially for a person like me, with the color of my skin,” said college graduate Andrea Fluerant, who is Black.  “Opportunities like this give me a glimmer of hope that a career in medicine is possible, and that I could do this, and I am meant to be here.”

Table discussions and a “speed advisement” admissions forum deconstructed the medical school admissions process, and panel talks spotlighted the unique experiences of current students and faculty.

“As a queer person, I haven’t had tons of people in my professional history who have my life experience. It’s important to see somebody like you doing the thing you want to do,” said Keiran Kozlowski, a 30-year-old software engineer from Florida who is applying to medical schools. Participating in Look at Larner affirmed Kozlowski’s choice to apply to UVM. “It’s been good to meet students, professors, and doctors who have my similar background. A lot of them were nontraditional students like me.”

Attendees also met representatives from organizations that liaise with minority populations, including Larner Student Interest Groups, the Latino Medical Student Association, Area Health Education Centers, Student National Medical Association, and global health programs. Sharing these resources helps showcase that “Larner College of Medicine is not just a great community to learn in, but we have so many aspects that may not be apparent on the college website, such as opportunities to work with new Americans living in Vermont, global health, and research in public health and health policy,” said Legore.

'I Can Do This.'

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 more clear.”

Perhaps more importantly, Legore said, the personal connections and friendships she made during Look at Larner were the major reason she chose to attend Larner College of Medicine. She remains close with the people she met, including Exume and Sahene. That experience inspired Legore to become a co-leader of Look at Larner and share her passions for mentorship and health policy.

“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. “This feels like a full circle moment. … 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.”

For Gal Rocabado, a UVM public health sciences senior from Santiago, Chile, Look at Larner provided reinforcement that she is on the right career path. “Being an underrepresented student in pre-medicine, seeing people like me who are further along in the journey, is reassuring that I can do this, I can be here.”

U.S. Census Bureau 2022, Bronx County, NY

Group of people chat as they walk through Larner College of Medicine

Look at Larner participants shadowed medical students and explored classrooms, lecture halls, and laboratories. (Photo: David Seaver)

Health Equity Summit presentations

Medical students involved with Look at Larner gathered information for presentations they will make at the 2023 Health Equity Summit at UVM October 29-30. The summit, a joint effort presented by UVM Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Larner College of Medicine, College of Nursing and Health Sciences, and the UVM Health Network, showcases initiatives across UVM’s communities to advance health equity.

As part of a session titled “Addressing Health Inequities Through Future Health Care Providers,  Jasmine Bazinet-Phillips ’24 and Mialovena Exume ’25 will present “You Can Be What You See,” at which they will share videotaped interviews with Look at Larner participants, and Shani Legore ’25 will discuss the impact of Look at Larner on her medical journey. Warrick Sahene ’25 will present “Translating Mission-Aligned Holistic Admissions to Student-Led Change.”  View the full schedule.