Summer Pipeline Programs Survive and Thrive Online
This summer, the leaders of three Einstein pipeline programs—the Summer Undergraduate Mentorship Program (SUMP), the Diversity Student Summer Research Program (DSSROP), and the Einstein Enrichment Program Extension (EEPx)—had to rethink the experiences they offer undergraduate students from groups underrepresented in medicine, healthcare, and science. While previously, the foundation of these programs has focused on immersing young hopefuls in the healthcare or research fields and providing them with mentors, the COVID-19 pandemic made it clear that applicants to these pipeline programs could not come to campus.
“Pipeline programs are a vital avenue through which our participants gain invaluable experiences within science and medicine. We knew our students needed summer enrichment opportunities, and that a loss of such could reduce their future opportunities,” said Dr. Cara Stephenson-Hunter, program co-leader, director of Bronx HOPE, and assistant professor of family and social medicine.
Since 2002, Bronx HOPE has served as an educational partnership linking the Montefiore/Einstein pipeline programs with community pipeline programs. When their respective leaders realized that their programs were threatened, they came together to collaborate on a solution. They folded the separate programs into one and named it the Bronx HOPE Virtual Summer Program.
Dr. Nerys Benfield, senior associate dean for diversity and inclusion, was instrumental in pulling the pipeline program leaders together to coordinate a virtual offering that would still allow students to have a meaningful experience. The group also reached out to Monte-HOP (the Montefiore Health Opportunities Program), which was similarly threatened.
A Resounding Success
Judging from feedback offered by the 46 student participants, the summer’s online lectures, forums, mentor sessions, and projects exceeded all expectations.
“Bronx HOPE is the first time I saw so many minority physicians in one place,” said Juanita Gomez, a biology and sociology major at St. Joseph’s College who graduated in 2018. “It was life changing. It showed us that it’s not crazy to dream of becoming a physician or of walking in the halls of Congress as a policy maker.”
Jessica Luis, a pre-med/psychology senior at Bucknell University, responded to the program’s emphasis on healthcare disparities. “It’s my dream to become a physician in internal medicine,” she said. “I want to address disparities that are prevalent in our medical care system, especially in immigrant health.”
For Ufuoma Thaddeus, a junior in biology at Cornell University, “This program answered all my doubts.”
“A Shot in the Arm”
The closing ceremony was ably emceed via Zoom by program coordinator Stacey Franco, a pre-med graduate of SUMP who is poised to enter the new Einstein/City College post bac program. During the two-hour ceremony, students shared impressive presentations on topics ranging from healthcare disparities to sickle cell anemia.
Keynote speaker Angela Fernandez, executive director and supervising attorney of the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, validated the students: “You come from communities where you understand what it means to be marginalized,” she said. “And that’s an advantage over people without that experience.”
The professional support and personal warmth of the six-week experience shone through as program leaders dispensed final wisdom. Abel Infante, one of more than a dozen Einstein MSTP (Medical Scientist Training Program) student mentors/group leaders advised, “Never lose faith in your abilities—you’d be surprised what can happen if you put your head down, keep working, and surround yourself with people who are invested in you.”
“You have a voice to not only make change by being someone who provides expert care and creates relevant science but because you’re a trusted member of the community and understand the challenges,” added Dr. Benfield, who also is associate professor of obstetrics & gynecology and women's health (OB-GYN) at Einstein and fellowship program director for OB-GYN family planning at Montefiore.
Juan Robles, M.D., assistant professor of family and social medicine, who spoke to students and their families about his own career path, noted: “It takes a village to raise a healthcare provider. This is a village we have developed, and you have become a part of it.” An Einstein alumnus from the class of 2011 and attending physician in family and social medicine at Montefiore, Dr. Robles is co-founder of the pre-health pipeline program Bronx Community Health Leaders, which received a $1 million grant from the Health Resources and Service Administration to support Bronx students pursuing healthcare careers and create a more inclusive workforce dedicated to underserved communities.
Inspired by the student presentations during the online ceremony, Dr. Nelly Maseda, clinical assistant professor of pediatrics and co-director of SUMP at Einstein and an attending physician in pediatrics at Montefiore, observed, “It’s a shot in the arm to see the next generation ready to get it done!”
At the ceremony’s conclusion Dr. Stephenson-Hunter reminded the students, “This is not farewell. We hope you continue to reach out to us. And we look forward to seeing where you go from here.”
Posted on: Wednesday, September 23, 2020