Schweitzer Fellow Spotlight: Scholars de Salud Mentoring Program Empowers Students to Pursue Health Careers – Health & Medicine Policy Research Group

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Schweitzer Fellow Spotlight: Scholars de Salud Mentoring Program Empowers Students to Pursue Health Careers

July 2, 2019

Nicole Paprocki, National Health Service Corps Scholar, Medical Student at the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine, and Schweitzer Fellow For Life

(FFL) from the 2016-17 cohort, received a second FFL Seed Grant last year in order to sustain the three-year Scholars de Salud Mentoring Program. The program was designed and implemented in order to increase interest and access to careers in healthcare and science among low-income urban Chicago high school students through enrichment activities and mentorship. The program also aims to empower high school-aged youth to be advocates for health in their community, and increase the cultural competency of physicians-in-training through a sustainable partnership with a diverse community. In surveying some of the 21 students who completed the program this year, 73.5% of scholars stated they could identify one professional health mentor they feel comfortable contacting to ask questions, 80% of students reported an increase in their confidence in professional situations, and 100% reported an increased knowledge of health information.

A total of 14 sessions with students, and additional planning meetings and exchanges with mentors, speakers, and community partners, have allowed for a long-term interdisciplinary approach to addressing health education access in low-income communities. One example of interdisciplinary collaboration is a partnership with the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA). Dr. Ankeeta Mehta, a general surgeon, invited participants of the program to the LMSA Conference, where they met with various medical students from many backgrounds and medical schools, as well as other healthcare professionals. Many Scholars de Salud said it was inspirational for them because they saw people who looked like them and had similar experiences (ie. being undocumented) who were achieving their dreams in medicine.

One student who was part of the Scholars de Salud program, Maria, will be attending the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. The program aided her in her success by: 1) helping her develop leadership skills by providing an opportunity to help run the program each week, 2) giving support for college and scholarship applications, and 3) providing an opportunity to be a leader in medicine, which has opened up other opportunities like internship programs at Rush and Lurie. Maria will start in the fall at U of I, and is drawing on the expertise of program mentors who attended the school and are currently giving her advice on what housing to apply for, what organizations on campus are helpful for Latinx students, and how to get involved with research and teaching assistant opportunities that will prepare her for her medical school application.

Through the program supported by the Schweitzer Fellowship Program and FFL Seed Grant, Paprocki has been able to nurture sustained mentorship relationships with students, recruiting them at the end of 9th grade and seeing them graduate and move on to college to pursue pre-med and nursing tracks.