Summer Scholars Program kicks off 34th year at School of Medicine

High school students in the 2013 UMKC School of Medicine Summer Scholars Program take part in an experience in a cadaver lab.
High school students in the 2013 UMKC School of Medicine Summer Scholars Program take part in an experience in a cadaver lab.

For more than three decades, the UMKC School of Medicine has been giving high school students a taste of life as a medical student and beyond through its Summer Scholars Program.

The program kicks off its 34th year on Friday, July 11, with an orientation session for a class of 50 minority and economically disadvantaged high school juniors and seniors from the Kansas City metropolitan area and from Tennessee, Oklahoma and Illinois. Students will participate in a three-week program that includes didactic teaching sessions and clinical rotations at Truman Medical Center Hospital Hill, Children’s Mercy Hospital and the Kansas City, Mo., Health Department as well as the School of Medicine.

Summer Scholars provides help in developing study, interpersonal and communication and interview skills that prepare students for successful careers in health care. To that end, 5 to 6 percent of those who participate in the Summer Scholars Program each year go on to be selected for entrance into the School of Medicine’s combined B.A./M.D. program, said program coordinator Kenneth Beene. A larger number of Summer Scholars go on to enter other health care fields elsewhere.

This year’s class includes 40 students in the regular Summer Scholars Program and 10 who are returning for a second-year in the Advanced Summer Scholars Program.

Students get daily instruction in anatomy/physiology, chemistry and language arts as well as other classroom experiences in areas such as ACT and standardized test taking, verbal reasoning, interviewing skills, medical terminology and understanding health disparities. Clinical rotations are provided in areas such as emergency services, intensive care services, outpatient services, rehabilitation services and experience in a cadaver lab.

This year, for the first time, Beene said, the Advanced Summer Scholars will also include a rotation in oral surgery and a research-writing course.

Summer Scholars was started in 1980 by Reaner Shannon, Ph.D., former School of Medicine assistant dean of minority affairs, as an exploratory experience for high school students to encourage those from underserved and minority backgrounds to consider health care fields.

The goal hasn’t changed and Beene said the program continues to work, generating interest and preparing high school students for rewarding futures in the health care professions.