The underrepresentation of African Americans in medicine and biomedical research professions means that for many students from health disparate communities, there are very few role models or mentors with similar backgrounds who can help guide them into careers in the medical professions. In an effort to address the problem, the USA Center for Healthy Communities Education Pipe-Line program was developed to provide opportunities for rising high school juniors from underrepresented communities to participate in an intensive summer training program. Consisting of two phases — Student Training for Academic Reinforcement in the Sciences (STARS for rising juniors) and Special Training to Raise Interest and Prepare for Entry into the Sciences (STRIPES for rising seniors) — the program engages students in team-based learning to increase their knowledge base in the sciences by developing critical reading, thinking, and analysis skills in preparation for college pre-health pursuits. Funded as a part of the NIMHD Center for Excellence, the Program activities have included:
- visits to college campuses
- medical career seminars
- ACT preparation
- development of a Family Health Tree
- research skills development
- advanced computer technology skills
STARS and STRIPES students also have the opportunity to develop their leadership skills while simultaneously working to improve their community by taking part in volunteer projects, service activities, health-focused run/walk events, and health fairs. Additionally, they build their public speaking skills by researching, preparing and making a presentation in a community setting on a pertinent health issue of concern to them and their fellow community members.
Over the years, graduates of the program have applied the knowledge they have gained as they work toward their educational and career goals. Jasmine Patterson, a graduate of Mattie T. Blount High School and the STARS and STRIPES program, is currently pursuing a degree in Biology and Radiological Sciences at the University of South Alabama. She describes her experiences as, “…an enriching program and I am glad I was accepted. Being in this program not only helped me enhance the skills that I needed help with, but it also prepared me for the upcoming academic year.”
Seven years after this Mobile, AL, native graduated at the top of her 2009 class at John L. LeFlore High School, and magna cum laude from Dillard University in New Orleans, LA, Alexandria Lynelle Broadnax, a second-year medical school student in the USA College of Medicine is steadily moving toward her dream of becoming a physician. A former pipeline participant, Alex began to focus on her goals by participating in the STARS. program. While an undergraduate at Dillard, she took part in the CHC Undergraduate Research summer experience and returned the following year to participate in the two phase D.R.E.A.M. (Diversity Recruitment and Enrichment for Admission into Medicine) Program. According to Alex, “…the (STARS.)program helped me have clearer and more realistic plans for after high school. I became a better-rounded individual as result of the numerous volunteer and academic activities I was involved in.”
Find more information about the STARS and STRIPES program.