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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.
DREAM recently held their closing ceremony at the Medical Sciences Building to mark the end of this year’s program.
“The USA College of Medicine is committed to promoting and supporting diversity and inclusion in health care,” said Dr. Jeffrey Sosnowski, assistant dean for curriculum integration and associate professor of medical education USA College of Medicine. “A diverse student body and future physician workforce benefits our perspective as learners and our compassion as clinicians. Toward this effort, we are excited to welcome highly motivated and academically driven students to apply to our DREAM program.”
The highly competitive eight-week medical school preparatory program is designed to provide a comprehensive learning experience for underrepresented premedical students during the first two summers prior to their junior and senior undergraduate years.
Scholars participating in the DREAM program receive assistance from top medical educators in preparation for the MCAT and are appointed a USA College of Medicine faculty, resident or student mentor. Scholars also receive pre-health professional advising, participate in leadership and professional development, and earn a seat in the USA College of Medicine first year class upon successfully meeting admission criteria.
“I heard about the DREAM program my senior year of high school and thought it would be a good idea to keep my mind fresh during the summer,” said Aliyah Kennedy, a 2017 graduate of USA. She recently completed the DREAM program and is now a first-year medical student at the USA College of Medicine.
“The DREAM program prepared me for the MCAT through a rigorous review of materials that the test would cover,” she said. “It also built upon the knowledge I already had and gave me more details about topics such as biochemistry and physics.”
Each summer, 12 students are selected from around the state of Alabama and its contiguous states to participate in the program. Participants are taught by rising second-year students at the USA College of Medicine under the supervision of a medical faculty course director.
Within the program, students gain knowledge through daily instruction and review of the basic sciences and topics that make up the MCAT. The students receive grades for both phases and need an average of 70 percent to pass.
According to Kennedy, Phase I consisted of more intense course work and MCAT preparation. “Phase II focused on large concepts and how to apply them to the real world through assignments and case studies,” she said. “We also shadowed doctors and went through brief lessons at the simulation lab.”
Kennedy said the program not only prepared her for the MCAT, but it also gave her an idea of what to expect as she begins medical school. “We would often be in class from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., and then go home to continue studying more material,” she said. “This tough course work is similar to how medical school truly is.”
Kennedy said she recommends undergraduate students to participate in the program, as it is very beneficial for aspiring physicians. “It may be difficult, but the rewards far outweigh the hardship,” she said. “This program prepares future doctors for the MCAT and the difficulty of medical school, while exposing students to the clinical setting.”
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).
Applications for the DREAM program are scrupulously reviewed with the applicant’s demonstrated career interest, efforts, commitment and qualifications considered. Qualified Alabama residents are given priority for acceptance. 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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