Vanderbilt University’s Short Pipeline Program Aims to Increase Medical School Diversity

The Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville operates what it calls the “short pipeline” program to encourage college students from underrepresented groups to pursue a career in medicine. Under an agreement with three historically Black colleges and universities – Fisk University, Spelman College, and Morehouse College – as well as Berea College in Kentucky, a sophomore student from each educational institution spends the summer at the medical school conducting research and preparing for the Medical College Admission Test.

The students spent two hours every morning in the classroom studying biology and chemistry. They then spend the rest of their time working on research with a faculty or medical student mentor. The mentors remain available to the students in the program when they return to their undergraduate institutions.

Students who successfully complete the summer program, score at a stipulated level on the MCAT, and maintain a certain level grade point average, will automatically be admitted to the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine when they graduate with a bachelor’s degree.

André Churchwell. the chief diversity officer for the Vanderbilt University Medical Center and senior associate dean for diversity affairs at the School of Medicine, notes that “the short-pipeline program is one of many activities at VUSM that reflect our commitment to the principle of social mission. The Association of American Medical Colleges leadership and our HBCU colleagues both at the college and medical school levels have highlighted the declining number of African-American students finishing STEM majors and going on to medical school. We feel that given our national leadership roles in curriculum development and diversity, it is important for us to address this problem.”

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