Ignite Magazine | Fall 2021

Page 18

FEATURE

MELANIE FERNANDEZ:

Ponte las pilas! I grew up in a suburban Hispanic community, just minutes away from the vastly developing city of Miami. As Cuban immigrants, my family raised me with certain cultural values, which placed a high importance in helping each other the most we could. They also instilled the importance of working hard. They would always tell me “Ponte las pilas!” which meant to focus and finish my work. I followed their guidance, and along the way I found my love for the sciences. Coming from a low SES (socioeconomic status) minority background, there were no mentors or opportunities given to explore being a professional, let alone being a doctor. I did study very hard to become the first college graduate in my family and started my career as a speech-language-pathology assistant (SLPA) instead. It was during my time as an SLPA, while interacting with patients of different ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds, that I realized that I wanted to be a doctor. I chose NEOMED because it strives for diversity and inclusion, which is very much needed in the medical field. Before matriculating, I had the impression that the faculty and staff would make their students feel like they are part of a family and that their concerns are important. That is exactly what I have observed firsthand while attending NEOMED. I believe this program will best train me to become a well-rounded doctor who demonstrates cultural sensitivity and improves the overall well-being of the community.

way that trust and health outcomes are optimized when care providers reflect their patients, such is the case with students seeking medical school — trust and matriculation are much better. Of course, much more needed to take place: Honest conversations among employees and with prospective students. Diverse admission teams. And a better model for predicting the success of prospective students.

THE ADMISSIONS SCIENTISTS “In his first year, which was soon inter-

18 C R E AT I N G

T R A N S F O R M AT I O N A L L E A D E R S

rupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, our University President (John Langell) presented me with two main objectives — increase the enrollment of URM students and make data-informed decisions to optimize quality and success. And he wanted the positive change to occur now,” notes James Barrett, NEOMED’s director of admissions and senior executive director for new student enrollment initiatives. “Our URM enrollment in the M.D. program was about 7% (fewer than a dozen students in each academic year). The College of Medicine admissions committee

chair, Dr. Doug Moses, and I concluded that we needed to challenge the medical school admissions model,” adds Barrett. AAMC data showed large numbers of qualified URM applicants – students that the academy’s own data suggested were likely to be successful! – were not being admitted to medical schools nationwide. It didn’t make sense to Barrett. “At first, we figured that qualified underrepresented minority student applicants were being overlooked and that if effective DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] efforts, such as pipeline programs, were in place, we’d see higher acceptance rates. But that wasn’t enough,” says Barrett. As he and other University officials analyzed the data further, they began to wonder if the MCAT was overvalued in the admission process, viewed as it was without sufficient context. The admissions team decided to identify other variables in addition to MCAT scores, such as performance in science courses that could correlate to a medical student’s success. Over the summer of 2020, College admissions committee members worked swiftly to review data and consider options for a new admissions process. Without going into all the details, Barrett reveals that the College data team studied 1,000 transcripts covering eight years; established a local database; and used regression analysis models to develop success scores for candidates. Ultimately, the college admissions committee arrived at what they call the Human Development Systems Score Metric: a way to mitigate the predictive value of the MCAT by combining it with other metrics. This evidence-based holistic process balanced MCAT scores with experiences and other attributes that predicted student success over the long term (that is, through graduation). The committees also eliminated group decisions that may have been more subjective than evidence-based. It’s