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YSEMA Program Creates Pipeline for Greater Diversity in Medicine

August 10, 2022
by Isabella Backman

Sheymi Garcia wants to be a pediatrician. She is a recent graduate of Gateway Community College in New Haven with an associate’s degree in liberal arts and sciences, and she is looking forward to transferring to Albertus Magnus College in the fall. She also works with autistic children as a registered behavior technician.

The son of Haitian immigrants, Dodlee Mosilme is the first in his family to go to college and pursue medicine. He’s majoring in biology with a concentration in pre medicine at Florida Atlantic University, with a long-term goal of becoming a surgeon. Outside of the classroom, he plays a handful of instruments, but is best at the saxophone. He hopes to integrate his passion for music into his future career.

Autumn Ross grew up in Houston, Texas with her two sisters and three brothers. Her love of science brought her to Dillard University in New Orleans, where she is a first-year biology honors student. She’s not sure what kind of doctor she wants to be yet, but she has interests in pediatrics and obstetrics and gynecology.

Program Diversifies Medical School Applicant Pool

Applying for medical school can be a daunting task, especially for students traditionally underrepresented in medicine. And for many smart and capable students, attending an elite institution like Yale may seem like an unreachable goal. The Yale Summer Enrichment Medical Academy (YSEMA) is helping undergraduate students prepare to confidently tackle the application process and increasing the pipeline of diverse candidates going into healthcare.

“The mission of the YSEMA program is to expose students who may not have equitable access to Ivy League schools to that environment so that they may see themselves as just as worthy to be there,” says Darin Latimore, MD, deputy dean and chief diversity officer.

YSEMA began in 2017 as a commuter program for local community college students interested in any health profession. Now, for the first time this year, it has blossomed into a residential program that is additionally accepting freshmen and sophomores from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and from Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs), with a primary focus of helping these students prepare to get into medical school. This summer, the program welcomed 23 students to campus.

Students accepted into the program receive a stipend, housing, funds for their travel, and a Yale meal card. During their six-week experience, they learn more about some of the pre-medical courses they need to take, including chemistry, organic chemistry, and biology. They also take a writing course where they begin drafting their personal statement. Another course, “Pathways to Medicine,” introduces the students to and lets them engage individuals who look like them in healthcare

“If we’re going to have more diverse pools of people applying to medical school, we need to have programs like this to actually create that pathway for them,” says Latimore. “An unspoken part of the curriculum is a significant increase in the confidence of the participants from day one to the final day. They really are standing taller. We want to change the mindset of young minds and help them realize their dreams are obtainable.”

“It was cool to see people who came from similar places as I do and were still successful,” says Ross. “That’s something everyone should experience.”

Building Diversity and Community

One of Mosilme’s favorite parts of the program was the community. From movie nights to walks on campus, he is grateful for the Diversity, Inclusion, Community Engagement, and Equity (DICE) office for its enthusiastic support in planning group activities. “How close our cohort got in such a short time puts me in awe,” he says.

And the connections made at YSEMA don’t end when the program does. “The students have my phone number, Dean Latimore’s phone number, and everyone else’s phone number who was involved in the program,” says Linda Jackson, associate director of the Yale School of Medicine diversity office. “We let them know that although the program is just six weeks, our relationship with them is for a lifetime.”

A product of a similar program, Latimore himself has experienced firsthand the benefits YSEMA strives to offer. “A lot of young talent in our country don’t reach their potential, and it’s not because they aren’t smart enough,” he says. “We as a society have not invested enough to give these youth the tools they need to be successful.”

In the future, Latimore and Jackson hope to enroll as many as 60 to 80 students. They also would like to eventually offer a “second summer,” in which students return to campus and learn to prepare for the MCAT. “We want to become a nationally known program as hopefully we grow and are able to fund more students,” says Jackson.

“I would definitely recommend this program to everyone interested in going to medical school,” says Garcia. “I feel prepared to take the next steps and have a clear path now.”

More information on the YSEMA program can be found on the DICE website.

YSEMA was made possible in 2022 with support from the Tremonti Family Fund for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and from Sophie W. Cole, MD ’86, and Diane M. Barnes, MD ’77.

Submitted by Isabella Backman on August 10, 2022