Enrichment Collaboration Gives UMass Boston Students a Push Toward Medical, Research Careers
2020 Was Eighth Year of TUSM/UMass Boston Enrichment Program
“ When we were ... trying to plan … I don’t think any of us imagined in a short period of time the program would be as successful. ”
Each year, thousands of applicants aspiring to pursue medical careers apply to Tufts University School of Medicine (TUSM) and its sister professional schools. About three percent of them stand the chance of getting accepted. Among them are the TUSM/UMass Boston Enrichment Program alumni who are pursuing careers in medical, dental, physician’s assistant, and research programs.
Since its inception, each January, about 25 premedical and pre-PhD research students from UMass Boston spend three weeks at Tufts University School of Medicine, participating in seminars, shadowing clinicians, and gaining exposure to a range of careers. To date, 208 students have participated and 145 have graduated from UMass Boston. Sixty-seven of the graduates are pursuing careers in various programs, including University of California, Caltech, New York University, State University of New York, UMass Medical School, Harvard, and Chicago medical schools.
At a reception last month honoring the eighth cohort, College of Science and Mathematics Dean Robin Côté said that since the program started, 10 UMass Boston students have been accepted and 8 students enrolled in the MD program at TUSM, 4 were accepted and enrolled at the dental school, and 3 are currently in other programs at Tufts.
“Twelve percent of the students who graduated from the [enrichment] program have been admitted to Tufts University. If you think about that, 12 percent is better than the success rate of people sending grants to the [National Science Foundation],” Côté said.
Emal Lesha ’15 is a fourth-year medical student at Tufts. He will be graduating this spring and is preparing for his residency in neurosurgery. He was part of the first cohort in 2013. Participating gave him a professional emersion experience working with Tufts Medical School clinicians.
“I was in the hospital with med students, with physicians, and all the studying I was doing as a pre-med had meaning now. I wasn’t just reading a book in biology just to do it,” Lesha said. “That gave me the push that I needed.”
Originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Baby Lenga Kalemba is an exercise and health sciences major minoring in biology at UMass Boston. She was part of the 2020 cohort that took part in the Pathway to Clinical and Health Careers.
“It was exciting, mostly because I got to work alongside medical students and the faculty,” Kalemba said. “It made me more confident in myself as I learned how people can have different backgrounds. I don’t have to be afraid.”
The TUSM/UMass Boston Enrichment Program began in 2013 as a collaboration between Joyce Sackey, dean for multicultural affairs and global health at the Tufts University School of Medicine; Gerard Gaughan, clinical professor of medicine at the Tufts University School of Medicine and member of UMass Boston’s Board of Visitors; and Andrew Grosovsky, former dean of the College of Sciences and Mathematics and current professor of biology.
“When we were sitting around trying to plan this program … I don’t think any of us imagined in a short period of time the program would be as successful. The other aspect of the success of the program is the number of medical students who have taught in the program—PhD students who have come to me and said, ‘As a result of this experience, I want to get into academia,’” Sackey said.
Interim Chancellor Katherine Newman concluded her remarks by thanking Gaughan and his late wife, Jane, for funding the pipeline program.
“With 13,000 people competing for those 400 special letters in the mail, the odds of any one person going to succeed are infinitesimal, but it makes a very big difference if an intentional pathway has been built to make it possible for this kind of talent to surface and be recognized. And that’s really what Jerry and his late wife, Jane, have made possible,” Newman said.
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