Seventy-nine students learned medicine and dentistry during a six-week enhancement program for undergraduates.

The 2015 Summer Medical and Dental Education Program hosted 79 new faces throughout The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Dentistry and Medical School this year.

The six-week academic enhancement program serves undergraduate college students from minority groups, rural areas, and economically disadvantaged backgrounds who are interested in medicine, dentistry, or other health professions. This year, 59 pre-med and 20 pre-dental students were selected to participate out of 524 total applicants.

From May 26 through July 1, the SMDEP students lived in dormitories at Rice University, ate with Memorial Hermann Hospital meal tickets and traveled by foot or UT Shuttle to classes on the UTHealth campus in the Texas Medical Center. The students attended courses in science and math, as well as classes on personal finance, stress management and wellness, study skills and cultural competency.

The students also visited The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) for the”Art of Communication” course. For hands-on learning, the students spent time in clinical settings, shadowing physicians, dentists, and other health professionals at work.

Thanks to a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, aside from travel costs the program was free to the students, who received biweekly stipends during their stay.

Dr. Karen Novak of the School of Dentistry serves as the SMDEP principal investigator and program director. Dr. Philip Pierpont and Dr. Andrew Harper are co-directors of the program — Pierpont for the School of Dentistry and Harper for the Medical School.

For the School of Dentistry, Janis Smith served as the SMDEP coordinator, and Nicole Chapman served as support staff. For the Medical School, Dr. Latanya Love assisted with student affairs, and Dr. John Foringer and Marcelle Hamburger assisted with the Art of Communication course at MFAH.

UTHealth students who served as mentors and tutors included Alejandro Barrera, Roberto Benavides Jr., Tanya Sue Maestas and Ruby Pena, all  from the School of Dentistry; and Emmanuel Achilike, Sara Coverdale, Chigozie Dike, Michael Giglio and Jonathan Mondragon, all from the Medical School.  Mondragon was the 2015 lead tutor.

Martha Robertson of San Jacinto College served as the curriculum director. Courses were taught by Professor Susan Starr (anatomy and physiology), Professor Frank Richardson (microbiology), Dr. J.P. Anderson (statistics), Professor Christopher Wild (organic chemistry), and Dr. Walter Thompson (physics).

MFAH University Programs Specialist Dr. Kelley Magill and Public Programs Coordinator Jay Heuman also assisted with the Art of Communication course.

UTHealth’s SMDEP concluded July 1 with a graduation ceremony in The Denton A. Cooley, MD, and Ralph C. Cooley, DDS, University Life Center.  Before the ceremony, students gave presentations on various medical and dental objectives, including malpractice tort reform, team-based health care, and managing patient fear and anxiety. Many of the scholars’ families and friends were in attendance.

-Ke’ara Hunt, School of Dentistry