Addressing disparities in Florida’s physician workforce requires starting early – long before a medical school’s admissions process begins. At the Florida State University College of Medicine, part of that effort is a summer “mini med school” for high-school students.

Ann Reeder, a senior at Franklin County High School, was among 71 students from across Florida who recently participated in one of the college’s three Summer Institute sessions. Reeder attended as recipient of the Duke Energy Scholarship.

The weeklong sessions, for rising juniors and seniors, provided an inside look at what it means to be both a doctor and a medical student. It’s one way to encourage students from diverse backgrounds, and from rural areas, to consider a career in medicine. Typically, children from medically underserved communities or backgrounds never get that encouragement.

 “Our goal for the Summer Institute is to recruit students from rural, underserved and minority backgrounds and, at the same time, recruit students from other parts of Florida who have a desire to work in medically underserved areas,” said Thesla Berne-Anderson, director of college and pre-college outreach at the College of Medicine.

Participants shadow physicians and medical students, visit rural health centers and get college testing and application advice. They also attend faculty lectures on topics such as medical ethics, migrant health care and doctor-patient relations. In several activities, the participants go through training similar to what real med students face. 

The focus on minority recruitment stems from the college’s founding mission to help train physicians for Florida’s traditionally underserved populations. Fewer than 5 percent of Florida’s practicing physicians are African-American and 15 percent are Hispanic, according to the Florida Department of Health.

By contrast, 40 percent of Florida’s population is African-American or Hispanic, according to the Census Bureau. As Florida’s population continues to grow and its number of practicing physicians declines, people who were underserved from the beginning suffer all the more.

“The selection process is competitive,” said Roosevelt Rogers, coordinator of community outreach programs at the College of Medicine. “We sought the best and brightest at their schools – from a GPA of at least 3.5 and outstanding leadership, volunteerism and a passion for science and medicine. They should feel proud about being selected. We’re certainly proud to have them here.”