Medical EducationOriginal Article

Motivating High School Students From Rural Areas to Attend College and Pursue Careers as Osteopathic Physicians

Samuel Kadavakollu, PhD, MSc; Rajaa S. Shindi, PhD; Holly R. Nummerdor, OMS IV; Vijay K. Singh, OMS III; Savin B. Pillai, OMS III; Steven J. Ontiveros, PhD; and Boris Boyanovsky, MD, PhD
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: June 10, 2020

Accepted: June 16, 2020

Published: October 13, 2020

J Am Osteopath Assoc; 120(12): 877-887

Context: One potential way to address critical current and future projected health care workforce shortages is through comprehensive programs that could potentially inspire high school students to pursue osteopathic medical careers in underserved areas.

Objectives: To determine whether a comprehensive, 5-week enrichment program could promote interest among rural high-school students in careers osteopathic medicine.

Methods: In May 2018, 116 high school students with a grade point average of 2.8 or higher from rural areas, including New Mexico and its surrounding rural areas in the US-Mexico border region, enrolled in а 5-week program offering American College Testing (ACT) preparation and biomedical sciences enrichment at Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine (BCOM). During the program, students were offered more than 150 hours of interactive in-class lectures and hands-on activities with laboratories focusing on college preparedness, health sciences, and motivating students to pursue osteopathic medical career and practice medicine in rural areas. Clinically-oriented sessions covering osteopathic philosophy and osteopathic manipulative medicine were included. After completion, a voluntary and anonymous survey was sent to students who completed the program students through QualtricsXM©. Blinded ACT scores were collected from participants’ schools, along with college enrollment status information.

Results: Of 116 enrolled students, 106 (91.4%) completed the program successfully. In their postcompletion survey responses, students reported that they had gained a realistic perception of the field of medicine and were motivated to attend college (mean [standard error, SE] score on 5-point Likert scale over 2 questions, 4.8 [0.06]) and osteopathic medical school (mean [SE], 4.7 [0.1]). Participants also felt more informed about physician shortage in rural areas (mean [SE], 4.7 [0.07]) and appeared to be inspired to practice medicine in rural areas (mean [SE], 4.6 [0.09]). Students also reported feeling better prepared to take the ACT after finishing this program (mean [SE], 4.9 [0.04]). Finally, we were able to collect the ACT scores of 51 participants (48.1%) who completed the program; the mean ACT score was 24.3, compared with a reported national mean of 20.7 on a scoring scale of 1-36. We also performed a follow-up inquiry showing that 78 of the 81 participating students (96%) who had graduated from high school were enrolled in college or university and 59 (73%) had elected in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, or health majors.

Conclusions: Rural high school pipeline programs could be a tool to motivate high school students to attend college and ultimately to develop physicians who are interested to practice in medically underserved areas.

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