Kyle Castaneda knows the value of mentors and connections for applying to medical school. A University of Louisville senior majoring in biochemistry, he credits the networking and advice he gained at events such as the Minority Pre-Health Symposium with helping him achieve admission to the UofL School of Medicine, where he will enroll this fall.
“I was from a very rural county. I was not prepared when I got to college to become a successful applicant for medical school,” Castaneda said. “I didn’t know a lot about when to shadow, when to volunteer or when to apply to medical school.”
High school and undergraduate students interested in health professions visited the UofL Health Sciences Center campus Feb. 10 to learn about career and educational opportunities, tour the Schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing and Public Health & Information Sciences, and meet with advisers and potential mentors. Representatives from the four HSC schools were on hand to discuss with students the skills needed to navigate the road to higher education in the health sciences.
Hannah Granholm, a high school sophomore from Louisville, attended the symposium to learn more about becoming a nurse practitioner. “I learned that a nurse practitioner does more than just give people shots and medicine. They do a lot more, and it takes a lot of work to do it,” Granholm said.
Glenda Granholm, Hannah’s mother, encouraged Hannah to attend. “I thought she could get exposure to different fields and could talk to people who know the field. That way she’ll be more comfortable asking questions.”
Vivian Doyle, a second-year UofL medical student, took a group of the students on a tour of the School of Medicine. She said a mentor provides essential support for students aspiring to careers in medicine, dentistry or graduate studies.
“It’s definitely important to find mentors – a physician, a medical student or an upper classman. That way, if you do get nervous or you have your doubts, you can go to your mentor and ask advice,” Doyle said.
Barbara Ekeh, another second-year medical student, said the event also provided an opportunity to learn about the lesser-known careers in health care, such as public health, graduate studies or dentistry.
“There are so many avenues in medicine and some are more visible than others. One student was asking, ‘What is public health?’ I didn’t know what that was until I was in college. Sometimes it can be a little overwhelming.” Ekeh said. “This is an avenue where they can meet other students to try and figure out what they are interested in doing.”
The event also allowed the students to connect with advisers and faculty members who could help them along in the process. Ashley O’Neil, a program coordinator in the UofL HSC Office of Diversity and Inclusion, helps students determine the best fit and guides them through the application process.
“There are people like me who will help you figure out your path and what it is going to take for you to succeed. I’m here to help in your journey with shadowing, clinical work, understanding the MCAT and its whole process, and the application itself,” O’Neil said.
Alona Pack, MSN, MA, RN, assistant professor in the UofL School of Nursing, said student organizations also can be important resources for the students.
“We have support systems for minority students here, particularly the Black Student Nurses Association. They provide mentorship and academic support to the students. They also do community outreach and develop leadership skills. It’s a good network for the students.”
The Student National Medical Association, Student National Dental Association, Health and Social Justice Scholars, Black Student Nurses Association, and the UofL Health Sciences Center Office of Diversity and Inclusion hosted the program, attended by 85 high school and undergraduate college students. The event was funded by the UofL Student Government Association Club Programming Committee and the UofL Commission of Diversity and Racial Equality.
Castaneda said events such as the symposium can help students connect with other programs and student organizations, which he found helpful. Castaneda attended the Professional Education Preparation Program prior to college, and joined the Multicultural Association of Pre-Medical Students once he arrived on campus.
“PEPP particularly got me up to speed and it made me feel a lot more comfortable when I got to college. I just kept doing the programs. They give you more exposure to the field. They let you meet great people and they help you along the process.”
See the photo gallery from the event here. For more information on mentoring programs, visit the UofL HSC Office of Diversity and Inclusion website.