Mini Med School opens career pathways for more youth

Sometimes seeing and doing is believing. That’s the premise behind the Mini Med School.

The OHSU School of Medicine’s Global Health and Urban Underserved College (GHUU) invites high school students and undergraduates, who are interested in the biomedical sciences and identify with groups underrepresented in those fields, for a day of career mentorship, financial planning and hands-on activities.

The hallmark: More than 70 OHSU health professions students, many of whom also identify with underrepresented groups, are on hand to share their experiences and model what is possible. Launched in 2016, the Mini Med School event, held this year on Nov. 9 at Robertson Life Sciences Building, now draws nearly 200 students.

For M.D. students in the Global Health and Urban Underserved College, Mini Med School directly ties to the program goal of attracting and preparing physicians to serve international and domestic underserved communities.

Research shows that health care providers from underserved communities are often not only motivated to serve those communities but also achieve better patient outcomes because of their empathy and community wisdom, making them crucial players in addressing health disparities. By providing diverse and urban underserved students with an inside look at medical school, Mini Med School creates a pathway for the next generation of health researchers and clinicians at OHSU and across Oregon.

Ramin Amirsoltani, M.P.H., a second-year M.D. student in the GHUU College, developed a passion for working with youth while teaching CPR classes as an emergency medical technician.  He wants to continue that work with urban underserved communities as a physician.

“We can really make a difference in engaging young people if we start early,” said Amirsoltani, lead organizer of the fair this year.

Amirsoltani explained the value of Mini Med School for current students: “This event is especially rewarding for M.D. students, because it gives us an opportunity to pay-it-forward in the communities we hope to serve. The journey to a career in health care is a rigorous path and often requires early mentorship. If this event inspires even one student to become a physician, it’s a great success in our minds.”

The Mini Med School is open to all Portland metro students, but program organizers focus recruitment on schools with high proportion of underserved students.

The event on Nov. 9 opened with a panel led by five current OHSU M.D. students and two OHSU faculty, who shared their experiences and advice on what it takes to get into — and succeed — in medical school. The panelists spoke on how they navigated challenges: from finding time to study for the MCAT while working full-time to overcoming financial constraints to succeeding in fast-paced medical school classes.

Several speakers, including Rahel Nardos, M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, OHSU School of Medicine, stressed that students do not have to take a traditional path moving directly from college to medical school. In fact, Dr. Nardos advised, “Taking the time to do work you are passionate about will create experiences that will make you an attractive (medical school) candidate.”

The majority of panelists had taken time between graduating from college to teach, research or overcome barriers such as attaining residency sponsorship.  Both the physicians and physicians in training offered their stories of challenge and achievement as evidence that any student who is motivated, committed and willing to seek out resources, can succeed in medical school.

The morning concluded with a nuts and bolts presentation on financial aid to show prospective students how to afford medical education.

In the afternoon participants and M.D. students mingled at a pizza lunch before a fun, hands-on career fair. At the fair M.D. student volunteers hosted tables with demonstrations and involved the prospective student in activities from CPR to suturing to conducting a practice patient exam. Working side by side on activities gave prospective students the opportunity to ask questions and for M.D. students to share their perspective on the rigors and rewards of medical school.

M.D. and prospective students practiced inserting an IUD using a papaya, which is about the size and shape of the human uterus during the health career fair.

During a discussion session, a college sophomore shared that she loved science, but never thought med school would be possible because of the cost. She said the financial aid tools presented gave her a “whole new perspective on affordability” that made the day “worthwhile—even before the pizza.”

Portland area students visit OHSU to learn about medical school from M.D. students