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Several undergraduate students from across the region recently completed the University of South Alabama Diversity Recruitment and Enrichment for Admission into Medicine (DREAM) program, preparing them for the rigors of medical school. The highly competitive eight-week program provides a specially designed, comprehensive learning experience for underrepresented economically and educationally disadvantaged premedical students during the two summers prior to their junior and senior undergraduate years.
“The idea of the DREAM program is based on Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote ‘dare to dream,’” said Dr. Hattie Myles, assistant dean at the USA College of Medicine. “Many students do not think about the possibility that they could become physicians because of their environment, where they come from or their educational background. We provide the necessary encouragement, support, assistance and education enrichment for our students to dream and dream big. If they work hard those dreams can come true.”
Uriel Rose, a rising senior at Alabama State University (ASU), completed Phase II of the DREAM program this summer. Majoring in biology pre-health with a minor in chemistry, Rose moved to Montgomery in 2013 from Manchester, Jamaica, in search of new opportunities. “Since we are a third-world country we have our share of problems, one of which is finding employment after your studies,” Rose said. “I am here to try and achieve the American dream in order to support myself and my family back home.”
Rose credits an accident during his freshman year of high school for sparking his interest in medicine. “I was standing on a tree trunk holding on to a fence when I lost my balance," Rose said. "A wire pierced the palm of my hand to my middle finger." His friends panicked while he remained very calm, pondering how he was going to handle the situation. “I acquired a blade from a pencil sharpener and freed my hand,” he said. Prior to the incident, Rose said he wanted to become a pilot.
Years later, Dr. Myles visited ASU and introduced Rose to the DREAM program. Instantly, Rose said he became fascinated with the program and with USA. Rose also received advice about the program from his cousin, Duston Hamilton, an alumnus of the USA College of Medicine.
According to Rose, the DREAM program is not only beneficial for aspiring physicians to achieve their goals, but it also prepares students for upcoming undergraduate courses. “After completing phase I of the program last summer, physics was extremely easy for me at ASU,” he said. Rose plans to attend medical school to become a trauma or orthopaedic surgeon.
Fredrick Chambers, a senior at USA, also recently completed Phase II of the program. Majoring in health sciences, Chambers is a native of Mobile, Ala. Like Rose, Chambers accidentally discovered his love for the medical field because of an injury. “I tore my ACL in high school and was required to have surgery,” Chambers said. “Going through the entire process of X-rays, MRIs and surgery was very exciting to me, despite the fact that I was the one being operated on.”
According to Chambers, Phase I of the program consists of full MCAT prep courses with full-length practice exams, physician medical seminars and clinical case studies. Phase II offered the same aspects as phase I, while incorporating hands-on medical simulation with computerized mannequins and shadowing.
“I cannot emphasize enough how much of an honor and privilege it is to be accepted into this program,” Chambers said. “Ultimately, I want to pursue medicine here at South and become an orthopaedic surgeon.”
Chambers said he highly recommends the DREAM program to undergraduate students who are serious about becoming a physician. “There are only 12 spots so it is extremely necessary to keep your grades up throughout your undergraduate journey,” he said. “Getting accepted into this program is just as competitive as applying to the entering class of any medical school. The DREAM program is not a walk in the park and you will have to work hard to be invited back to Phase II.”
A native of Moundville, Ala., Savanna Wooley said the DREAM program was a life-changing experience. Wooley first became interested in a career in medicine when her aunt’s health problems caused her to frequently stay in the hospital. As she watched the doctors care for her aunt, Wooley said she quickly realized that she also wanted to help others.
“I knew I wanted to be a doctor - I just didn’t know how to reach that goal,” she said. Wooley’s adviser at the University of West Alabama in Livingston introduced her to the DREAM Program and urged her to apply. “I knew that I had nothing to lose with this program,” Wooley said. “I just didn’t know at the time how much I would gain.”
Ultimately, Wooley credits the DREAM Program for helping her make her dreams a reality. She said she plans to attend medical school at South, with the hopes of becoming a family medicine physician. “The DREAM Program helped me shape these plans because I have fallen in love with South, its campus and Mobile over the last two summers,” Wooley said.
The USA DREAM program was first developed in 1986 as the Biomedical Enrichment and Recruitment (BEAR) program. The major goal of the program was to introduce, expose and encourage disadvantaged and underrepresented students to consider careers in medicine. In 2008, the program became the DREAM program with a primary shift in focus from first-year medical school introduction to intense preparation for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).
Twelve students per year are selected from around the state of Alabama and its contiguous states to participate in the eight-week program over two consecutive summers with the ultimate opportunity to earn a seat in USA’s medical school class. Applications are scrupulously reviewed with the applicant’s demonstrated career interest, efforts, commitment and qualifications considered. Qualified Alabama residents are given priority for acceptance. Within the program, students gain knowledge through daily instruction and review of the basic sciences and topics that make up the MCAT. Team-based learning and clinical case seminar activities, weekly examinations, reading comprehension and critical thinking are utilized in homework and classroom assignments.
Learn more about the DREAM program here.
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