Jackson State University (JSU) College of Science, Engineering, and Technology hosted the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) for the inaugural Pre-Medicine Day on Wednesday, Nov. 16.
The event presents undergraduate and graduate students with an opportunity to explore the variety of programs and curriculums at UMMC.
Wilbur Walters, Jr. Ph.D., dean of the College of Sciences, Engineering, and Technology, welcomed the packed auditorium filled with over 200 students and urged them to embrace the unique opportunity to explore and network with individuals who once ventured the same journey as them.
“I believe events such as today signify the beginning of new relationships between JSU and UMMC, so I welcome you students to take a deep breath and learn as much as you possibly can today,” said Walters.
With this JSU/UMMC partnership, a large component of this outreach initiative centers on the importance of active physician retention within the state as well as diversifying physicians available to underserved communities.
Senior computer engineering major Jasmine Martin and Madison native highlighted the importance of representation within the healthcare industry and how facilitating events such as this creates possibilities and opportunities for students to envision themselves as capable of achieving careers in medicine.
“Our students deserve to see people who look like them in medicine—working in the spots that will one day be available for them. That’s the purpose of this event. Giving students everything they need in order to one day flourish in those positions,” Martin said.
Physician Loretta Jackson, Ph.D., vice dean for Medical Education at UMMC, opened her remarks with optimism for the future of the Mississippi healthcare industry, recognizing that the history of systematic and social change in medicine has always positioned bright, passionate students at the forefront of the movement.
“In order for the future of medicine to look different, we have to be a part of that. If we don’t talk to people about the wonderful time we experience in our career, how will we convince others to join?” she asked.
Jackson accentuated the need for the upcoming generation of aspiring medical practitioners to consider actively practicing medicine within the state of Mississippi in an effort to improve upon and retain the healthcare workforce.
According to a 2022 report from the American Medical Association Physician Masterfile, Mississippi was positioned as the second-lowest number of active physicians in the state per 100,000 residents. For context, “active physicians” is defined as those who are licensed by a state and working at least 20 hours weekly.
“The number of physicians per capita in accordance with the population in the state is still one of the lowest, and that’s part of our problem,” Jackson said. “One of the things we [UMMC] like to say is that we are creating an environment that makes students excited about practicing in the state as physicians as well as encouraging them to consider doing their residency in the state.”
Additionally, Jackson shared that current UMMC students, some of whom previously attended JSU, returned home feeling compelled to fill the gaps in mentorship to address knowledge barriers they have encountered and inform others on how to prepare effectively for the transition from undergraduate to healthcare studies.
JSU alum Jacori Daniels, a second-year UMMC Medical student, returned to his alma mater feeling the need to bestow timely wisdom to
students who carry the same aspiration to serve their greater community.
“Now that I’m out of school, I can give back, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be through money, but through knowledge,” Daniels said. “Knowledge is everything, and if we can leave you with something, then that’s enough to get you started on the journey.”
The schedule of events included four breakout sessions that sought to engage students in an array of topics to expose and groom their minds for the level of work ethic, soft skills, and critical thinking tactics required to perform efficiently in healthcare. The breakout session covered tips for preparing for the MCAT, research methods, understanding a patient’s medical history, and how to draw blood properly.
Dr. Demondes Haynes, a pulmonary and critical care physician and UMMC’s associate dean of Admissions, emphasized the JSU/UMMC partnership as a collaborative effort to not only address the lack of diversity within the healthcare industry but also shaping the new generation of medical students to invest back into Mississippi and strengthen the Black healthcare workforce in the state.
“We know the best way to diversify the healthcare workforce is by going into our HBCUs. We know we get a lot of students from majority schools, and we’re happy about that,” said Haynes, “But we still have so much to do to diversify the healthcare workforce, and this is one of our beginnings to create this partnership.”
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