Portrait of Dr. Demondes Haynes and Dr. Dan Coleman
Dr. Demondes Haynes, left, professor of medicine and associate dean for admissions in the School of Medicine, and Dr. Dan Coleman, director of outreach in the School of Medicine, are counting on PROMISE, an early assurance program, to encourage more under-represented students to apply to medical school at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
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School of Medicine makes good on PROMISE to foster more diversity

Published on Thursday, February 27, 2020

By: Gary Pettus, gpettus@umc.edu

College students under-represented in medicine have until March 15 to apply to a program designed to secure qualified hopefuls a place in the medical school at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

PROMISE – Promoting Recruitment Opportunities in Medicine with Individual Study Experiences – is the first early assurance program directly managed by the School of Medicine and fills what would have been a void left by the recent dissolution of a similar program.

Most of the students who have applied so far are college sophomores; upon meeting the academic requirements, they would enter the School of Medicine in 2022.

“It lessens the stress of those who complete the program because they will know by the time they are seniors if they are accepted to medical school,” said Dr. Dan Coleman, director of outreach in the School of Medicine.

The PROMISE plan is to reserve a certain number of spots each year for future physicians whose enrollment will enrich the diversity of the medical school’s student body and who may need support in piloting the waters of admissions requirements.

“A lot of these students don’t know what it takes to go through this process,” said Dr. Demondes Haynes, professor of medicine and associate dean for admissions in the School of Medicine.

“We help give them structure. We want to show them that it’s doable.”

Portrait of Dr. Loretta Jackson-williams

As Dr. Loretta Jackson-Williams put it: “If you want to commit to us, this allows us a way to commit to you.

“Meet all the criteria, and you have a spot in medical school here,” said Jackson-Williams, professor of emergency medicine and vice dean for medical education.

PROMISE walks students through the admissions steps and outlines for them the requirements for pre-med college coursework. It also helps them prep for the Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT.

“We will also offer various hands-on activities in the summer, such as suturing,” Coleman said.

Students must achieve a certain GPA and MCAT score. They are required to submit a formal application to the medical school and undergo an admissions interview.

Portrait of Dr. Louann Woodward

“Reaching back into the pipeline before application to medical school is one way to be sure we reach the best and brightest candidates,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, UMMC vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “This is especially true for those who are underrepresented in medicine, and the new PROMISE program helps us do that.”

Most medical schools have similar initiatives; many were created in response to the lack of African American males seeking a medical degree, Haynes said, and to meet a recommendation from the Association of American Medical Colleges to establish admissions standards that are more “holistic,” or inclusive.

“We want to have a broad outreach to make sure our medical students better reflect the population of our state,” Haynes said.

Academic advisors and instructors at the state’s colleges, community colleges and universities have been notified about PROMISE, Coleman said.

Among the students being sought are those who are those lacking in resources and who may be economically-disadvantaged, Jackson-Williams said.

“We want to reach out to all colleges and universities in the state,” Haynes said. “Those schools have career advisors, but some are more dedicated to pre-med than others and many have to wear several hats. We’re trying to lighten their load.”

Two other outreach efforts also reserve spots in the School of Medicine: the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program and the Professional Portal Program in the UMMC School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences, which nurtures students seeking careers in health care or biomedical science. The academic thresholds for admission are the same for all three programs.

PROMISE is a replacement for and an enhancement of MEDCORP-Direct, which was administered by the Office of Academic Affairs. “PROMISE was developed to continue its work,” Jackson-Williams said.

“The School of Medicine now has the opportunity to shape this work, as we do our curriculum.”

One PROMISE goal is to track those students who are accepted and decide to participate, Jackson-Williams said. “We want to see how many are successful.

“Even if a student doesn’t complete our program, I count it as a success if its impact has encouraged that student to enter any health care field. All of these students may not continue in medical school, but instead somewhere else in health care or even become a science teacher.

“They have been encouraged by this learning and supportive environment.”

PROMISE offers one more way to meet the Medical Center’s goal of creating a healthy Mississippi, Haynes said. “And doing so by growing our own to take care of our state.”

For details and an application form, go to the PROMISE website or contact Dan Coleman, jdcoleman@umc.edu.