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Yale Summer Enrichment Medical Academy Equips Pre-Med Students in Immersive Experience

September 01, 2023
by Jasree Peralta

This past summer, twenty-two undergraduate students spanning across Connecticut community colleges, Hispanic serving institutions, and historically Black colleges and universities participated in the Yale Summer Enrichment Medical Academy (YSEMA), an immersive, six week program at Yale School of Medicine. The program, now in its fifth cohort, is designed to improve success in upper-division science courses that are required for pre-med students. The courses include introduction to biology, genetics, organic chemistry, introduction to research, and writing and communication. The students also receive clinical and lab exposure. Today, the YSEMA curriculum continues to expand, offering a series of workshops covering topics such as the application process to medical school, and how to effectively network.

In a post-program survey, one hundred percent of respondents planned to apply to medical school, a stark contrast from thirty-five percent feeling confident they would be able to pursue a career in medicine at the beginning of the program. Seventy-five percent of respondents plan to apply to YSM. One hundred percent of respondents were more confident in their ability to do well in the pre-med science courses upon return to their institutions after taking introduction to biology, genetics, and organic chemistry during YSEMA. Many noted in their commentary that the ability to do clinical shadowing and their exposure to research labs contributed to their enhanced desire to pursue medicine as a career.

Below, six students reflect on their experiences this past summer.

Zyon Hardnett, Rising Junior, Alabama A&M University

What did you enjoy the most about your time in the program?

I can't say enough positive things about my experience with YSEMA. It was an incredible journey that helped me grow in ways I never thought possible. I was surrounded by a community of like-minded individuals who were all striving to be their best selves,

and I felt inspired and motivated every day by the progress I saw in myself and others. I learned new skills, gained valuable experience, and made lifelong connections with people who I know will be my friends for years to come. But perhaps the most valuable thing I gained from my experience with YSEMA was a newfound sense of confidence in myself and my abilities. I realized that I can achieve more than I ever thought possible, and that there are no limits to what I can accomplish if I put my mind to it. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be part of such an amazing program, and I would encourage anyone who is considering participating to take the leap and see where it takes them. I promise you won't regret it!

What would you tell someone who was considering participating in YSEMA to expect?

I would tell them to expect to be challenged in ways they never thought possible. They will be pushed out of their comfort zone and forced to confront their weaknesses head-on. But I would also tell them that this is where the real growth happens. They will be part of a community of people who are all striving to be their best selves, and they will be inspired and motivated by the progress they see in themselves and others. It won't be easy, and there will be times when they feel like giving up, but if they stick with it, they will come out the other side stronger, more resilient, and more confident in their abilities. They will learn new skills, gain valuable experience, and make lifelong connections with like-minded individuals. In short, I would tell them to expect a life-changing experience that will help them become the best version of themselves.

Fariha Haider, Rising Junior, The City College of New York

What did you enjoy the most about your time in the program?

It's hard to choose just one, but I have to say the clinical experiences were very enjoyable. They took place on Fridays, something to look forward to every week. After seeing how fascinated we were by the collection of brains and skeletons at the Cushing Center, our student coordinator, Morgan Brinker, gauged our interest to study anatomy using cadavers and Microsoft HoloLens. We also learned how to conduct medical interviews, ultrasounds, and take vital signs, toured the community health van and discussed its importance in promoting harm reduction for the health of people living with addictions and sex workers. We also received CPR, cognitive function, and Narcan administration training.

Your biggest takeaway from YSEMA?

One of our first discussions with Dr. Latimore was on imposter syndrome, felt especially by minoritized students in predominately white and affluent spaces. My biggest takeaway was that I shouldn't undermine my achievements or doubt my abilities to pursue medicine, that I do belong and deserve to be here, and that coming from an underrepresented community is what will make me a great physician.

Landon Hale, Rising Junior, Alabama State University

What surprised you the most of your time at YSEMA?

In the aspects of surprise, the connections made were phenomenal. I gained access to many notable esteemed physicians and staff to be able to have mentorship throughout my journey of becoming a physician.

During my time, I thoroughly enjoyed connecting with my peers who will also become leaders in the healthcare industry. This networking is vital and I look forward to seeing how all will make improvements to the next generation.

What was your biggest takeaway from YSEMA?

Throughout my time in the YSEMA program, the coursework was rigorous. It helped me to be a better student and created healthy habits to strive for throughout the program. I would definitely recommend participating in the YSEMA program if you are interested in the healthcare field. If you are not serious about being a healthcare professional, I can ensure you will after participating in the program. As long as you keep the faith and believe, anything is possible. I learned that there are individuals who truly do care about the success of future healthcare providers. I want to truly thank Ms.Jackson, Ms.Diggs, Reniyah Taylor, and Dean Latimore, for ensuring my summer was nothing less than transformational and eye-opening.

Fabienne Hughes, Rising Sophomore, Xavier University of Louisiana

What challenges did you face?

The biggest challenge I faced was being alone and on my own for the first time in my life. I attend college in my home city, and I commute from home to campus every day. To come to New Haven meant to travel 1,393 miles from home. A big jump from being one bedroom away from my family to being only a phone call away. I wasn’t sure how I would handle being on my own for the first time, but I honestly handled it like a champion. At times I did feel lonely in my dorm, but I adapted.

What was your biggest takeaway from your time spent at YSEMA?

My biggest takeaway from my time at YSEMA is to take every opportunity life hands you, no matter how far of a reach it may be. Go to new cities and explore. Enrich your mind by making new connections and taking a leap of faith from time to time. This experience has taught me that nothing is out of reach. Be confident in who you are and your capabilities. You belong and you deserve a seat at the table!

Nia Jerro, Rising Sophomore, Xavier University of Louisiana

What surprised you the most of your time at YSEMA?

I was most surprised by the environment at Yale School of Medicine. From the staff and faculty to the medical and graduate students, I really expected my encounters to be strictly serious and professional. However, they were all extremely welcoming and willing to help me prepare for med school applications.

What was your biggest takeaway from your time spent at YSEMA?

My biggest takeaway from this program is learning how to thrive in environments in which I am constantly being pushed outside of my comfort zone. I felt the rigorous academic curriculum, seminars, and clinical activities really helped me grow academically and professionally. Also, meeting many people from Yale and having ambitious peers helped me to start effectively networking and asking for advice, which is something I was always afraid to do.

Salma Hammam, Rising Junior, Hunter College CUNY

What surprised you the most about YSEMA?

I believe the town hall meetings and the activities that we participated in were the things that surprised me the most. The DICE office was genuinely committed in making the program a positive experience for all students, as seen by their many town hall meetings at which participants could voice their appreciation for particular events and suggestions for ways to improve.

I was very happy with all the extracurricular opportunities we had, such as medical mentorship, meetings with Yale New Haven Hospital residents from a wide range of specialties, field trips to other medical schools, and more. In my opinion, the Mentoring in Medicine session was quite remarkable. It truly covered everything there is to know about applying to medical school, including when you should be ready and other details.

Any other thoughts you’d like to share about your experience?

I was able to grow as a person because of this program. It assisted me in enhancing my critical thinking abilities and provided me with a deeper comprehension of the application process for medical school. By participating in all the activities, I remembered why I want to pursue medicine. During your time as an undergraduate student, you may often experience feelings of being overwhelmed. It's probable that you'll tell yourself things like "You're not cut out for medicine" or "You can't do this," to the point where you lose sight of the reason you want to become a doctor in the first place. I have a message for all of you students: Do not give in to the impostor syndrome. You are meant for this. You are destined for big accomplishments. I strongly encourage all students to apply to YSEMA!

Submitted by Jasree Peralta on September 01, 2023