Attendees participated in hands-on rotations in UVM’s Clinical Simulation Laboratory. Activities included interactive simulations to practice colonoscopy and laparoscopic skills and point-of-care ultrasound techniques, care for a newborn baby, treat a child in respiratory distress, understand vital signs, and perform lumbar puncture. During a health advocacy panel session, pediatrics faculty and medical students shared their personal career journeys.
The daylong program also included a "Clinical Mystery Case” session led by Lewis First, M.D., M.S., professor and chair of pediatrics. In addition to fiscal and faculty support for UPP, the department offers Pathways in Pediatric Education, a year-long preceptorship for interested pre-medical students from backgrounds underrepresented in medicine 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,” First said. “Many of these students stay in touch with people they met from our department, potentially helping to build a diverse pipeline of future pediatricians and child health professionals.”
Heredia created URiM Pathway to Pediatrics in 2022 with an aim to increase workforce diversity and support students historically underrepresented in medicine who feel doubtful about their ability to succeed. It was Heredia’s idea to target pre-medical students in the first years of their undergraduate experience based on the apprehension she felt at that stage of her education.
“Through intentional efforts to uplift the pillars of diversity, equity, and inclusion in medicine, UPP inspires an emerging health care workforce that reflects and serves the diverse needs of our communities,” said Heredia. “This year, we saw how transformative an experience like UPP can be, not only for the undergraduate students, but also for the medical student mentors and faculty."
Pre- and post-event surveys affirm the program’s value: Prior to participating in UPP, only 68 percent of respondents reported they “see themselves as future health care professionals.” That measure jumped to 100 percent after attendance at UPP, with 84 percent indicating interest in pediatrics careers.
“Pediatrics isn’t always on people’s radar when they enter medical school as they may not have had any exposure to it as a career option," said Faricy. "It is a career path that aligns very well with why people are often drawn to medicine in the first place — the desire to help people and cure or prevent illness through an understanding of science and human biology."
Taylor Galgay, a disabled woman studying neuroscience at Saint Michael’s College in Vermont, reflected on the experience: “I feel more encouraged than ever. I know I have a place within medicine, not only as the patient but as a physician."