Participating in a Health Care Careers Enrichment Program is an excellent way to learn what it’s like to work in that field. It gives you invaluable experience and personal contacts—plus it can increase your chances of being accepted into the health professions program of your dreams.
Programs that enhance your academic record
Pre-health enrichment programs can provide an opportunity to strengthen skills necessary to perform well in health professions school. For example, the Student Medical Dental Education Program (SMDEP) is a free, six-week national program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation with direction and technical assistance provided by the Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Dental Education Association. The goal of SMDEP is to increase the number of highly qualified applicants to medical and dental school. SMDEP is only open to freshman and sophomore undergraduate students.
“It is critical to find a program that emphasizes academic enrichment,” says David Brunson, DDS, Associate Director, Center for Equity and Diversity at the American Dental Education Association, and Co-Deputy Director of the SMDEP program. “I have seen a number of admissions committees focus on how a student performs in a known rigorous summer experience and will consider that experience valuable when they become a health professions student.
Opportunities to conduct hands-on research
Research experience can set you apart when applying to college or health professions schools. There are two types of summer research programs: basic science and clinical research. Both research methodologies employ rigorous standards to ensure results are accurate, meaningful and reliable. Basic science research helps uncover new ways to diagnose, treat and prevent illness. Once a treatment undergoes testing in the basic science laboratory, it is tested on human subjects in clinical research.
During a summer research program, you may spend six to nine weeks in a basic science laboratory assisting scientists with the discovery of a new drug or treatment, or assist a physician in a clinical research trial. Look for research programs that offer the opportunity to create a poster presentation as this presentation may lead to future opportunities to publish or present your findings at a national scientific meeting. The National Institutes of Health offers a Summer Internship Program in Biomedical Research for high school, undergraduate, graduate school and professional school students.
A program focus that aligns with your core interests
If you have a specific interest – in cancer prevention, for example, or prenatal care – a pre-enrichment program can help deepen your passion and knowledge. Understanding health policy implications and their impact on the quality and access of health care encourages students to become actively involved in creating solutions to problems in the health care industry.
For example, each year, the Schweitzer Fellowship Program selects students from the nation’s top health and human service schools to design a year-long service project with a demonstrable impact on an unmet health need in a community. Partnering with community-based organizations, the fellows bring the project from idea to implementation and impact.
An academic and professional challenge
Remember, a pre-health enrichment program is not just a way to spend your summer. This is your opportunity to improve academically and learn about career opportunities. You’ll also make excellent contacts that can provide valuable references.
If you make a good impression, the associate dean or director (who often sit on the admissions committee for a particular institution) can advocate for you if you choose to apply to that institution. Some admissions committees guarantee an interview to students who participated in a rigorous enrichment program.