COLUMBIA — With a plan to expand its reach, the MU School of Medicine has formed a national partnership with the Cristo Rey Network in order to promote diversity and encourage students across the nation to consider college.
The network is composed of 24 Catholic high schools that strive to provide a quality education to students in urban communities with limited educational opportunities, according to a news release from the MU School of Medicine.
A taste of college life
The School of Medicine has worked with Cristo Rey High School in Kansas City to provide summer programs for prospective college students for the past four summers, said Maureen Gregg, a nurse at the high school who has helped organize the program since the beginning.
Gregg said the summer program allows students from Cristo Rey Kansas City to visit MU, live in the dorms and eat in the dining halls to learn what college life is like.
She said the program also introduces students to fields they might not have thought about pursuing by offering hands-on activities. The program teaches skills to students, such as how to start IVs, how to use surgical instruments and what an ultrasound looks like.
In the past, the summer programs have hosted between 13 and 22 students, all from Cristo Rey Kansas City, said Kathleen Quinn, director of MU’s Area Health Education Center who also helped organize the program.
With the MU School of Medicine’s new partnership, there is an opportunity to interact with nearly 7,000 students from Cristo Rey both in Kansas City and beyond. The program hopes to have around 40 participants this upcoming summer, Quinn said.
With the expansion of the partnership, Gregg hopes students from other Cristo Rey high schools can experience the same opportunities and explore career options in the medical field.
“We’re going to need health care providers to be taking care of the next generation,” Gregg said. “I see so many passionate kinds here. They would be great in those roles.”
A necessary goal
One major reason the School of Medicine began the summer programs was to promote diversity, Quinn said. According to the Cristo Rey Network’s website, "students of color" make up 95 percent of the student body.
Quinn said adding diversity to the medical programs at MU will help students learn about people who are different from them. She said these lessons will help prepare all students to be a diverse health care provider because they will likely be helping a group of various people in their careers.
Diversity in the industry is also important in encouraging patients to take care of their health, Quinn said.
“If there’s more diverse health care professionals, patients are more likely to follow up with their care with someone from their same background,” Quinn said.
Ellis Ingram, a contributor to the project and the senior associate dean for Diversity and Inclusion, said in the news release that by encouraging students from the Cristo Rey program to pursue health care, the medical opportunities and conditions in struggling areas would likely improve.
“We hope the students who benefit from our outreach and development programs will ultimately become successful professionals who give back to the communities where they were raised,” Ingram, a medical doctor, said in the release. “When it comes to medicine, data proves that students from underserved urban or rural areas are much more likely to return to those areas as physicians.”