Diversity Summer Outreach Programs Go Digital

By Spencer Watson

The programs, designed to cultivate an interest in health sciences among up-and-coming students from kindergarten to undergraduate levels, particularly underrepresented minority students, include the DDEI STEM Academy, the Academy of Pre-Health Scholars and the Pre-Medical Summer Scholar Program.

“These programs open a world of possibilities to students who often otherwise may never be introduced to a career path in health sciences,” said Brian Gittens, Ed.D., UAMS vice chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion. “Our mission is to serve them and thereby serve all of Arkansas by working to reduce disparities in health care attributed to underrepresentation.”

The programs traditionally involve inviting student participants onto the UAMS Little Rock campus during the summer months to both learn about science and careers in health care and to see research and educational facilities firsthand. However, access is limited across campus to encourage social distancing and reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“While we cannot have these bright young minds on campus this year, we also see this as an opportunity,” said Gittens. “Our programs have never been limited to applicants within the Little Rock area, but because of our programs’ lengths, geography has sometimes been a limiting factor. Going virtual presents us the opportunity to serve students where they live all across and even outside of Arkansas.”

For more program information, visit http://ddei.uams.edu/initiative/outreach-programs.

The STEM Academy program takes place over three sections, each designed to teach different grade levels from kindergarten to eighth grade. Each section is one week long and built around a specific theme. This year, the program is called “Community Science and Everyday Solutions” and will teach participants how they can contribute and learn in their everyday surroundings. It will include short, daily classes taught via Zoom and learning activities that students can do in their homes with commonly available household items like paper cups or tissue paper.

The Academy of Pre-Health Scholars program pairs high school students with health care leaders to learn about biomedical sciences, research and public health. It also introduces them to career pathways in health care and helps them prepare for the ACT college entrance exam. The five-week program includes daily instruction across a variety of online tools such as Google Classroom, Zoom and Periscope.

The Pre-Medical Summer Scholars program helps undergraduate students interested in medical school prepare for the MCAT entrance exam. The six-week program involves direct instruction as well as workshops to teach and reinforce knowledge in scientific fields and applied uses in critical thinking and writing. It will use online video software for instruction and mock interviews, as well as online tools for test preparation and practice.