Addressing a diversity gap: Saint Luke’s College successfully “graduates” its inaugural cohort of Pathways to Health and Science Education Program students

Racial and ethnic minorities are highly underrepresented in the health professions. Students from minority backgrounds, including those from rural areas and first-generation college students, are particularity underrepresented in the fields of science and health. Undoubtedly, this gap poses an alarming problem not only to colleges and universities but also to the professions, the communities they serve and the country.
 
In 2016, Saint Luke’s College of Health Sciences, through the Office of the President, led the creation of the College’s Pathway to Health and Science Education Program. This program, exemplifying the College’s Vision 2020 Strategic Plan, is the institution’s first formal step in creating a bridge to instill interest in and intentionally transition diverse students into the College and to the health professions. The goals and objectives of this program are to a) instill in student participants an appreciation for basic science, health professions and research; and b) promote a pipeline of diverse students interested in pursuing careers in science and health.
 
Twelve students, six girls and six boys who are attending Missouri and Kansas high schools were in the first cohort of the program that started on September 9, 2017. Throughout the academic year, students attended seven academic workshops, where a variety of topics were explored, including the life of a scientist; public health, epidemiology and biostatistics; preventing and dealing with a heart attack; dental medicine, oral health and disease; motion analysis; public speaking; and viruses. Also during the program, the College offered three workshops designed to help parents understand and navigate a variety of aspects regarding college life of their children. Finally, the Pathways Program established a one-on-one mentorship program, where all participating students worked and interacted with an assigned mentor and experienced the excitement and challenges of solving a problem or question in any area of interest.
 
Ten students completed the academic program that closed on Saturday, May 19 with a Science Fest highlighting research poster presentations from all students. The result of the program was truly unprecedented. Here is what Pathway Program students had to say:
  • “This program was great."
  • "Extremely helpful and educational program."
  • "I loved the hands-on experiences.”
The comments from the parents of participating students illustrate the value of the Pathway Program to our College and most importantly, to the students:
  • “I appreciated that the program exposed the students to the real, hands-on experiences. I think that it’s critical giving them an opportunity to determine the path they want to take. The expertise and commitment from all involved was a genuine blessing.”
  • “The Program is a good example of student’s academic success. It helped to get great experience in the research atmosphere.”
  • “This is an awesome program – we are very thankful to the whole team. It provided and helped our kids with this great learning opportunity.”
  • “I think the noncurricular material was very beneficial to both the parents (prep for College) and the students.”
True to its commitment to address this diversity gap, the College is now accepting applications for its second cohort of students. The program will begin in September 2018, and detailed information is available at futurehealthsciencesstudent.org.