We proposed a small-scale qualitative project to explore the formal and informal pre-med experiences for underrepresented minority (URM) and first-generation in college students at the University of Michigan and how it influences persistence in the pre-med career path. We had two primary aims: (1) Explore URM and first-generation in college pre-med student perceptions about the value of experiences with: • Formal pre-health resources (courses, mentorship, advising, and research, clinical encounters) • Informal resources (peer mentorship, role models, mentors, pre-health organizations, volunteer experiences, and other contact with medical professions) for the purpose of understanding which factors facilitate or create barriers to pre-med career pursuits and (2) Explore URM and first-generation in college medical student reflections on formal and informal experiences during their undergraduate years in effort to understand factors that contributed to their success and learn ways to improve pre-medical preparation.
Our study aimed to contribute meaningfully to the literature by highlighting strategies that led to success among pre-med students vulnerable to attrition, rather than focusing on URM and first-generation in college students' deficits. We conducted 25 in-depth interviews with URM and first-generation in college pre-med students at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor and Dearborn campuses). We also conducted 5 interviews with current UM medical students from URM and first-generation in college backgrounds to compare successful strategies utilized by matriculating students. These interviews allowed us to elicit academic and non-academic strategies that have increased persistence in the pre-med pathways for UM students.
The preliminary results for our project have been disseminated at the Growing Stem Conference at the University of Michigan December 2016, which is an academic effort to increase collaboration and share strategies across campus to promote inclusion and retention of promising students interested in science, technology, engineering, and math careers. Our results were also presented at the Health Professions Education Day in June 2016. This is an annual medical education conference sponsored by the Division of Professional Education in the Department of Learning Health Sciences in the Medical School, along with the Michigan Center for Interprofessional Education that promotes discussions and sharing of ideas across the nine health science schools. We are currently preparing a manuscript for submission in the early fall.
Advice to your Colleagues:
We found that targeting underrepresented minorities and first-generation in college pre-med students was more challenging to reach that anticipated. We had an undergraduate student and former UM undergraduates on our research team, and utilized their personal connections to students and awareness of student groups to connect with students in a more direct manner (i.e.,personal email, face-to-face, in class recruitment, Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives summer programs, pre-med organizations that served URM or first-generation college students). We also encouraged interviewees to refer peers to our project. We also changed our strategy from organizing focus groups to one-on-one interviews given the difficulty in reaching this population of undergraduate students. We also changed the incentive from food during the focus group to a gift card.