Many racial and ethnic communities are often underrepresented in the medical profession. IU School of Medicine is committed to closing the gap by offering focused programs aligned with three foundational pillars: representational diversity, inclusive working and learning environment, and cultural competence.
The Cancer in the Under-Privileged, Indigent or Disadvantaged Summer Translational Oncology Program, known as Project CUPID, is an eight or 10-week research experience designed to introduce second-year medical students to oncology. The program was developed 17 years ago by Richard Zellars, MD at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. He expanded the program in 2016, jointly administering it through three different locations: John Hopkins University School of Medicine, The Ohio State University College of Medicine and Indiana University School of Medicine.
“You can bring equality into medical care through oncology. You get to develop some of the longest, most personable relationships with patients. It’s the bonds I get to develop that keep me coming back to work in oncology every day,” said Zellars, chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at IU School of Medicine and associated director of IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Project CUPID promotes oncology among underrepresented medical students through clinical rotations, didactic lecture series and laboratory cancer research. Sacrificing their only summer vacation before starting their second year of medical school, many medical students’ career paths have been shaped through this program.
“Overall, the program was a wonderful way to spend my last summer vacation because it empowered me to feel like I had the power to advocate for change and also defined my goals for what I want my role as a doctor to encompass,” said Maria Kahn, CUPID Class of 2020.
Many medical students have gained new experiences within medically underserved communities. Janefrancis Egbosiuba and Justin Michael participated in the first CUPID cohort at IU School of Medicine in 2016. After completion, Egbousiuba went on to begin her residency training in internal medicine with a vision for a career in global health services. Michael went on to join the Pauletta and Denzel Washington Family Gifted Scholars Program in Neuroscience at Cedars-Sinai Department of Neurosurgery, a one-year fellowship, and was the only non-California resident accepted.
CUPID participants enter the program with a desire to serve and leave with an even stronger drive to give back to underserved communities.
Master of Science in Medical Science Program
The Master of Science in Medical Science (MSMS) program is designed for historically underrepresented students in medicine and students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Created in 1995 by George Rawls, MD, a pioneer for Black surgeons and assistant dean of student affairs and clinical professor of surgery at IU School of Medicine form 1994-1999, the MSMS pipeline program prepares its students to be successfully matriculate into medical school.
MSMS allows students who have earned undergraduate degrees to work at the graduate level to gain experience in didactic instruction, problem-based learning and research – boosting their confidence, knowledge and success before applying to medical school. Since its creation, 449 students have completed the program, and MSMS graduates have been accepted into 54 different medical schools with a 70 percent matriculation rate into MD programs.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of the MSMS program. I have gained mentors, friends, education and experiences that will follow me for a lifetime. Spending my time between obtaining my undergraduate degree and applying to medical school in the MSMS program was the best decision for my journey,” said Shachia R. Jackson, 2024 MD candidate.
As founding director, Rawls developed this program recognizing the need for equitable representation in medical education. One of the first Black surgeons to practice in Indianapolis, Rawls was a lifelong advocate for advancing minority representation in medicine. IU School of Medicine honored Rawls’ legacy with a portrait unveiling, on February 27, 2021, for his significant contributions in setting the standard for future directors and educators.
“IU School of Medicine is uniquely equipped to prepare the next generation of healers to transform health and wellness in the State of Indiana and beyond. Faculty and staff at IU School of Medicine are committed to enhancing the curricular design and support services to optimize the experience of all learners and to best prepare them for a successful career,” said Vicki Bonds, MS, MEd, director of MSMS and pre-doctoral programs.
The Program to Launch Underrepresented Minorities Success (PLUS) is designed to support the career development of faculty underrepresented in academic medicine. Initially created in 2010 as a diversity recruitment program, it was re-launched as a faculty development cohort program in 2018. PLUS helps retain and promote high-talent, underrepresented minority faculty who have the expertise and skills to enhance IU School of Medicine’s institutional mission.
“We decided to create a new program that focused on underrepresented
faculty retention. We aim both to increase the proportion of our underrepresented faculty who rise from the assistant to the associate professor rank and to accelerate the rate at which that happens,” said Brownsyne Tucker Edmonds, MD.
Academic medicine faces ongoing challenges in recruiting, retaining and advancing faculty from backgrounds underrepresented in medicine. For these reasons programs such as PLUS are vital.
PLUS is a two-year cohort program structured around two pillars, leadership and scholarship. During the course of the program, PLUS Scholars participate in connection events, career coaching, writing seminars and wellness programming which are designed to meet the needs of underrepresented faculty.
The success of the PLUS program is assessed by long-term measures, such as the rates of promotion and the time to promotion, as well as traditional scholarly products like papers, grants, posters, presentations and invited speakerships. The first cohort graduated in July 2020. The program administrators will remain a point of contact for the scholars, supporting them on their career journeys.
The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
Jordan Lapsley is a Communications Assistant for Indiana University School of Medicine’s Faculty Affairs, Professional Development, and Diversity.