SHPEP Alumni Testimonials

Samari Blair

My name is Samari Blair and I am currently a senior at the University of South Florida pursuing a dual degree in Biomedical Sciences and Public Health. I did SMDEP the summer leading into my junior/senior year and I can attest that it was truly the most life-changing experience I have had within the span of 6 weeks! Being at SMDEP made me confident in my decision to pursue the medical school track. Being surrounded by other aspiring pre-med/pre-dental minority students, as well as the TA's and faculty at CUIMC allowed me to gain a new perspective of what it means to be a minority student in a field primarily dominated by Caucasian males, and how to overcome adversities and use my talents to bring about positive social change in underserved communities. SMDEP will forever play a significant impact on my life and I encourage all minority students to take advantage of the rigorous curriculum and one in a lifetime experience the program has to offer.

Samari Blair | University of South Florida- Class of 2017

Amari Cartwright

My experience at the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program is unforgettable. I had the honor of being a part of the last cohort of SMDEP, now SHPEP. The people that I got the chance to meet have made a lasting impression on me, from the fellow members of my cohort to the prestigious physicians that I got to shadow. I got to participate in five phenomenal clinical shadowing experiences in the specialties of Internal Medicine, Neonatology, Pulmonary Medicine, Pediatric Otolaryngology, and Surgery. I will never forget the electric feeling that I got when I saw the inside of a human body or the intriguing emotions that I felt during a demonstration and performance of the neonatal physical exam. The medical and dental student leaders of my cohort were so inviting and enriching and brought joy throughout the journey of the 6-week program. I will forever be in gratitude to the program, and will definitely put it in the books as the best summer so far.

Amari Cartwright | Morgan State University- Class of 2019

Jemima Constanza

In the summer of 2016, I was a part of the SMDEP, now SHPEP, at Columbia University, School of Surgeons and Physicians. In this six week program, I was living as a student and doctor because I was constantly learning about different aspects of medicine, and putting them to practice. The SMDEP students and I were received by celebrating a White Coat ceremony during the first week of the program. This event was breathtaking because I felt like I was entering medical school. Outside the classroom, clinical rotations on Fridays was the first thing that changed my life because before the program, I’ve never shadowed a doctor. Seeing real-life experiences with patients within the different specialties in a hospital was amazing. The different conferences from doctors and faculty members from the university and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital were informative. This program emphasized the importance of being diverse and unique in a hospital setting. I met many college students with similar interests, characteristics, and work ethic as I. I was also given the opportunity of meeting people from different backgrounds and geographic locations in the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Hawaii. From the initial start of the program, our time management and organizational skills were challenged due to the workload that was expected to be completed by us in such short time period. I enjoyed having TAs(medical and dental school students) with us during the day because they spoke about their experience of transitioning from college into medical and dental school. My classroom experience at the SMDEP program was composed of Organic Chemistry and Physics. I now take the same courses at SUNY Old Westbury, and because of the SMDEP program, I have an advantage when learning new concepts and new information provided during class by the professor. This program has been the best combination of fun and academics I’ve ever had because it has prepared me to think about my career in medicine.

Jemima Constanza | SUNY College at Old Westbury- Class of 2019

Estelita Estay

I have recently finished fall semester of my sophomore year and wanted to express how grateful I am for the SMDEP program. Over the summer, one of the classes I took was Chemistry and when I entered my University, I was more than prepared for the coursework assigned. I was able to review all the notes I had from the program and that greatly assisted me. I also used a few tips I learned during summer such as talking to a wall as if I was presenting and breaking down my course load when it comes to studying. Some highlights from the semester include receiving a 100 on a Chemistry and Biology Exam and being a tutor for math up to Calculus 2. However, the greatest highlight is receiving a 4.0 while taking 7 courses which I am so blessed to have done. I am so thankful again for the amazing opportunities I had while at Columbia and I am still sticking true to delaying gratification.

Estelita Estay | Chaminade University of Honolulu- Class of 2019

Mykal Gerald

Before my experience with SMDEP, now SHPEP, at Columbia University, I was feeling very discouraged about the possibility of attending medical school. There was a lot of negative commentary about my future, my grades and my ability to compete with the medical school application pool. From the moment that I stepped on Columbia’s campus until the time I left, I was thoroughly encouraged, uplifted and motivated to continue on this path to medicine. The faculty, staff, and students of VP&S, as well as my cohorts, continuously gave me courage, optimism and support during the program which has even extended past the end of the program. I am forever grateful to this program for fostering such remarkable confidence, an insurmountable amount of inspiration and encouragement I needed to continue on this path to medicine. Thank you, Columbia and SMDEP!

Mykal Gerald | Villanova University- Class of 2018

Lauren Harris

I was a recent participate of SMDEP, now SHPEP, at Columbia in 2016! I can honestly say that this was definitely the best time of my life. Being apart of such a great community was the encouragement that I needed to feel adequate to pursue on with my medical aspirations. The classes that we took here during the program really prepared us for the classes we would be taking at our home institutions. I know some of my friends have told me that they received a 100% on their first home university Organic Chemistry exam because of what we learned in SMDEP!! I must say that the Chemistry class I took during the program really solidified the skills that I had previously acquired at Berkeley. Aside from learning more about Chemistry I learned some useful skills when it comes to studying effectively and being organized. SMDEP not only helped prepare us to thrive academically but professionally and personally. The opportunities to network throughout the program has helped me develop professional skills that I am using currently. I am still in contact with the many resources/ contacts I got during the program. I have also grown personally because I have been affirmed and pushed in so many ways while being at Columbia that I am now navigating Berkeley knowing that I am capable of thriving through this horrific track of pre-med at Cal. I tell my self that I know that I am able of doing this because I know that I have an entire Columbia Cohort that says I am and truly supports and loves me. If you are interested in participating in this program apply to SHPEP, I truly recommend it! It will change your life!!!

Lauren Harris | University of California, Berkeley- Class of 2018

Jacqueline Lima

This past summer at SMDEP at Columbia was unparalleled to any of my previous summer experiences or rather, any opportunity that ever came knocking in my life. The plethora of opportunities, learning experiences, connections, and bonds were unprecedented in terms of the remarkable impact SMDEP had on my much-loved cohort and me. Concomitantly, completing the program I am even more gratified because taken what I learned, I am able to apply it in my life holistically, and saliently able to apply it to my journey in becoming a health care professional. Reflecting back on my summer experience, there were two key lessons I took. One, in becoming a doctor, it is imperative to go back to work in areas where you come from and especially help the disadvantaged community who suffer from many injustices because after caring for them, one could care for anyone truly. Second, find a moral support group because it is an incredible feeling to know that non-family members care so much for you and will vouch for you. My peers, TAs, instructors, and faculty at SMDEP were and still are rooting for me as I journey throughout my pre-health career.

Jacqueline Lima | Villanova University- Class of 2019

Kebret Loza

MDEP was such an intellectually exciting experience. From the daily classwork we pushed through to the discussions on ethnicity in medicine, I can truthfully say that this was one of the most educational programs I've been lucky enough to be a part of. Not only did I come back to school ready to take on the pre-med course load yet again, but I had a newfound mindset on how to learn. The skills I gained during this time have been invaluable. Thank you SMDEP!

Loza Kebret | Standford University- Class of 2018

Jose Soto

This past summer I spent at Columbia participating in SMDEP I would have to say has been one of the most, if not the most transformational experience ever. I was surrounded by a great group of young, excited, and diverse undergrads that are eager to learn about what it takes to be successful in the fields of both medicine and dentistry. Everyone I encountered was open to trying new things, and eager to learn more about me. I met and still keep in contact with so many people that are interested in my success and our success as future medical and dental professionals. Overall I have to say this experience has impacted my future and its something I will never forget. All the TA’s, lecturers, and professionals were outstanding. I honestly couldn’t have made a better decision than Columbia.

Jose Soto | Ohio State University- Class of 2019

Aviana Duca

My name is Aviana Duca and I am a senior at Johns Hopkins University. In the summer of 2015 I was selected to participated in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP). This is a 6-week program that prepares highly committed, hard-working students underrepresented in the health professions for a career in dentistry. During this program, I received intensive clinical exposure and hands-on dental lab experience. I chose to take courses in Physics and Biochemistry in addition to the require course load consisting of Histopathology, Narrative Medicine and Pre-Clinic. This program was amazing in that it not only prepared me for the fundamental science curriculum courses, but also helped me to realize what’s important to know for dental school. I received important information about the dental application process and what an admissions officers are looking for in an applicant. This was invaluable in preparing me to apply to dental school straight out of college. The knowledge I gained about medical education and dental school preparation from both the current dental students at Columbia University and guest speakers gave me a better understanding of what it takes to be a successful and effective member of the healthcare profession. The SHPEP program solidified my commitment to the field of dentistry. It was the closest experience to what dental school will be like and what the dental profession has to offer from a career perspective. I am forever grateful for having been a part of this program and would highly recommend the SHPEP program at Columbia University to anyone who is interested in the dental or medical field. In addition, the experience I had in New York City was one that I will cherish forever. I made lifelong friends who have inspired and motivated me long after the program ended. 

Aviana Duca | John Hopkins University- Class of 2017

Learn more about SHPEP (formerly SMDEP).