A new partnership between the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and Miami Dade College (MDC) will further expand opportunities for underrepresented students who are interested in becoming physicians.
The cooperative agreement will allocate guaranteed positions in the Miller School’s Medical Scholars Program, a summer program that helps minority students prepare for and apply to medical school, to qualifying MDC students.
“In taking these steps, we better serve and reflect the fabric of our own community, allowing those who might not think they have the foundation to pursue a career in the medical field to now dare to dream and realize a vibrant future serving others,” said University of Miami President Julio Frenk, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D.
The partnership was formalized with a memorandum of understanding signed by President Frenk and Madeline Pumariega, president of MDC, on September 8.
“This program is having intention, passion, and purpose in how we help students navigate what seems for many a difficult road — to say, ‘I’m going to be a doctor,’” Pumariega said. “What a noble profession, cause, and program we are creating to help students get on their pathways to success and to the American dream.”
Administered by the Miller School’s Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement, the Medical Scholars Program is free to participants and includes MCAT preparation, individual mentoring, portfolio review and development, mock interviews, clinical shadowing, and more. Students who attend in person also receive housing, meal, and transportation stipends.
“Support is crucial in the challenging journey to becoming a physician,” said Henri Ford, M.D., M.H.A., dean and chief academic officer of the Miller School. “It is even more vital for underrepresented minority students, who face countless barriers to entering the world of medicine. While so much of what we do at the Miller School serves people all over the world, this program helps students in our own community and changes the lives of many here in South Florida.”
The U.S. physician workforce continues to be predominantly white — currently 56%. Hispanic and Black ethnicities are the least represented among physicians, at 5.8% and 5% respectively, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Diversity, or the lack of it, among medical professionals affects care delivery, clinical decision making, and participation in clinical trials. Most importantly, it impacts patient outcomes.
The Miller School is committed to developing a physician workforce representative of the broader population. Of the 204 students in the school’s Class of 2026 cohort, 112 are women, 108 are minorities, and 54 are minorities underrepresented in medicine.
Creating pathways for increased representation will help not only to diversify medicine, but to bridge health disparities. Studies have shown that Black and Hispanic physicians are more likely to serve minority communities after graduation, and to treat Medicaid-eligible and uninsured patients.
Changing Students’ Trajectories
Miguel Escanelle, M.D., an alumnus of both the Miller School and MDC, was one student who participated in the Medical Scholars Program. When he was 15, he and his mother emigrated from Cuba to Miami. Dr. Escanelle did not speak English and was uncertain about his future. While working full time to support his family, he heard about the Medical Scholars Program and decided to apply. The summer he spent in the program changed his life.
“When I look back, MDC and the Miller School prepared me for what was to come,” Dr. Escanelle said. “There was a lot of hard work, but also a lot of people willing to help you.”
Dr. Escanelle is now an anesthesiology resident at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital, and he was recently accepted into a highly competitive cardiac anesthesiology program. Each summer, he returns to the Medical Scholars Program to mentor and share reflections on his journey with students, in the hope that it will help them to see similar paths as attainable.
“I want these kids to know that they deserve it,” he said, “There are ups and downs in the field, but what’s important is that you are willing to put in the work and remember why you’re doing it. It is a process that you are going to look back upon when you’re a doctor, and it’s going to give you a lot of strength and true motivation to continue on.”