Sixty high school students from across Arizona have spent their summer exploring health-care career opportunities that could change the direction of their lives, thanks to Med-Start, an innovative program offered in Tucson and Phoenix by the University of Arizona College of Medicine's Office of Outreach and Multicultural Affairs.
Med-Start is a five-week academic summer program for Arizona high school students who will enter their senior year in the fall and who are interested in careers in the health professions.
Twenty-four students are participating in Med-Start Phoenix, a weekday program held on the UA College of Medicine-Phoenix campus through July 8.
Thirty-six students are in Med-Start Tucson, a residential program on the UA College of Medicine-Tucson campus where participants live in a UA residence hall, through July 9.
Med-Start encourages participants to pursue health-care careers by providing hands-on experiences in a variety of health professions while taking college-level coursework in chemistry, composition and study skills. Participants also learn about college life and the educational pathways to achieving their goals.
"The Med-Start program is an intensive experience in which the students acquire basic medical knowledge while learning about health-care careers," said Dr. Ana Maria López, UA College of Medicine associate dean for outreach and multicultural affairs. "In addition, they're introduced to college life, which is vital to students entering health professions."
Med-Start participants include students who are the first in their family to attend college or to pursue a career in the health professions, who are from ethnic groups that are underrepresented in the health professions, who live in medically-underserved rural or urban communities or who are economically or educationally disadvantaged.
Med-Start is supported by the UA College of Medicine's Arizona Hispanic Center of Excellence and Indians Into Medicine program, The Merlin K. "Monte" DuVal Memorial Med-Start Endowment and the Arizona Area Health Education Centers. This year, part of the Med-Start Phoenix program funding also comes from grants from the Phoenix Suns Charities, Casino Arizona and the Greater Valley Area Health Education Center.
Just two years after opening its doors to the first class of medical students in 1967, the UA College of Medicine in Tucson welcomed a group of about 20 high school students who came to the campus to attend the first Med-Start summer program, developed to improve health care in rural and economically disadvantaged areas and to increase the number of minority health-care professionals in Arizona.
The Med-Start cause was championed by a group of idealistic and innovative minority medical students – including Marcos Duarte, Ruth Smothers and Yuel Tom, all of whom later completed their medical degrees at the UA. In 1968, they received the support of UA College of Medicine Founding Dean Dr. Merlin K. "Monte" DuVal.
The late DuVal probably is best remembered for his role in shaping the fledgling college, providing support for numerous programs and initiatives that have contributed to recognition of the College as one of the top medical schools in the West.
After his death in 2006, generous gifts from family and friends established The Merlin K. "Monte" DuVal Memorial Med-Start Endowment, which pays tribute to the founding dean while supporting this vital program.
Since it was launched in 1969, several thousand students have participated in Med-Start. In 2004, Med-Start expanded to the UA College of Medicine-Phoenix campus.
"The real magic of Med-Start is revealed in the personal stories of career success," said Patricia Rodríguez, associate director of the Office of Outreach and Multicultural Affairs at the College of Medicine-Phoenix. "Whether the youth who have benefited from Med-Start became direct-care providers or chose career paths outside of the health professions, many have had a tremendous impact on the lives of others."
Some Med-Start alumni who have pursued medical careers include:
- Dr. Mariana Amaya (1992) graduated from the UA College of Medicine in 2001 and practices obstetrics and gynecology in Phoenix. (Amaya also participated in the UA Minority Medical Education Program in 1994.)
- Dr. Ernestine Bustamante (1988) graduated from the UA College of Medicine in 1997 and practices obstetrics and gynecology in Chandler.
- Dr. Carlos R. Gonzales (1972) graduated from the UA College of Medicine in 1981. One of the early Med-Start participants, today Gonzales is an associate professor with the UA College of Medicine Department of Family and Community Medicine, an award-winning family practice physician and a leader in addressing the challenges of border health issues. He recalls that as a student at Pueblo High School, he dreamed about going into medicine, but it was just a dream. Med-Start helped him realize that being part of the medical profession was possible, he says, and he became the first in his family to go on to college. "Med-Start motivated me," he notes. "Without Med-Start, it wouldn't have happened."
- Evelinda Gonzales (2002) is the daughter of Carlos Gonzales (see above) and a member of the UA College of Medicine class of 2012.
- Dr. Larry Oñate (1978) graduated from the UA College of Medicine in 1989 and is a psychiatrist in Tucson.
- Dr. Celida Rangel (1990) graduated from the UA College of Medicine in 2002 and is a pediatrician in Phoenix.
Today, in addition to the Tucson and Phoenix summer programs, Med-Start promotes youth exploration of health careers year-round through tours of the Arizona Health Sciences Center, high school career days, student health events and other activities.