Accelerating Aspirations

Published in Hopkins Medicine - Spring/Summer 2023

An important study published by JAMA Network Open this April confirmed: In communities with more Black physicians, Black patients live longer.

As Dr. Lisa Cooper, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Equity, told Stat, these findings are “groundbreaking.” Indeed, they indicate that greater diversity in medicine means better patient care.

Enrolling students historically underrepresented in medicine (URM) is a top priority at Johns Hopkins. We’re proud of the progress we’ve made recruiting diverse candidates to our M.D., residency and Ph.D. programs. In fact, between 2019 and 2022, we doubled the number of URM Ph.D. candidates. 

Still, we know there is much work to be done. And we recognize that a love of science and medicine begins early in education. As part of our ongoing work to increase diversity in medicine, we’re excited to welcome Baltimore City students to Johns Hopkins this summer for a series of internships and academic research programs. 

Studies continue to reveal that summer learning is enormously beneficial to students — even beyond academics. A 2019 publication by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine showed that children who participate in summer programs like ours saw improvements not only in their grades, but also in mental and physical health, social skills and self-esteem.

Starting in July, more than 500 students will participate in the popular Johns Hopkins Summer Jobs Program. The six-week paid internship, through the Johns Hopkins Health System or the Johns Hopkins University, will introduce students between the ages of 15 and 21 to health care, workplace etiquette, personal finance and job readiness. 

I’m also excited to welcome 35 students from the MERIT Health Leadership Academy, an award-winning East Baltimore nonprofit organization that supports high school students from underrepresented backgrounds as they pursue careers in health care and medicine. Students will shadow professionals across the school of medicine and gain hands-on experience through paid internships in our labs and hospitals. They will also take advanced academic classes and SAT prep sessions. 

This program has proven effective for MERIT alumni like Kahlid Fowlkes. In 2013, Kahlid was struggling academically at East Baltimore’s Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. Kahlid joined MERIT and discovered a cohort of peers, the opportunity to attend medical conferences, and the tools and confidence to attend and graduate from Morehouse College with a degree in medical science. 

Today, Kahlid is working to become a physician — a dream he discovered at Johns Hopkins. He’s not alone. For seven consecutive years, 100% of MERIT students have been admitted to four-year universities, earning more than $10 million in scholarships.

I’m equally excited to welcome students to the Summer Academic Research Experience (SARE), a program founded by Dr. Douglas Robinson and his lab team. Our SARE Scholars are exceptional Baltimore high school students from underrepresented and low-income backgrounds. They receive hands-on laboratory experience and build the academic, creative and critical-thinking skills they need to thrive in biomedical fields.

 SARE only lasts a few months, but participants feel its impact far longer. To date, more than 90% of SARE Scholars have attended college, with all receiving partial or complete funding.  SARE’s expansion in 2015, resulting in the Johns Hopkins Initiative for Careers in Science and Medicine (CSM), broadened programming to serve young people beginning in 5th grade through the post-baccalaureate years. This summer, we’ll welcome a CSM grad back to Johns Hopkins as he begins his internal medicine residency at the Bayview Medical Center. 

Our summer programs spark inspiration — for students like Kahlid, our SARE Scholars and across Baltimore City. And the impact of these programs can reverberate throughout the health care industry. 

These talented young people often finish with dreams of becoming nurses or technicians, professors or physicians. It’s our hope that the resources and recognition we provide will accelerate their aspirations — and that our programs can be the first step in creating a health care workforce that better reflects our diverse society.