Education: Celebrating Diversity in People and Science

SHPEP 2017Research shows that people are more likely to challenge assumptions and derive new ideas in a heterogeneous group. In this way, diversity promotes excellence. The concept pertains not only to people, but also to science. Modern biomedicine calls for novel bridging of scientific disciplines and professions to conquer pressing health challenges.

The UF Summer Health Professions Education Program, or UF SHPEP, contributes to learning and discovery for diverse talent by establishing a funding vehicle that applies across traditional curricular and research boundaries. SHPEP is a free, six-week summer-enrichment program focused on improving access to information and resources for underrepresented students interested in the health professions. Launched at UF in 2017, the program allows 80 pre-health students from across the U.S. to attend a six-week program to learn more about careers in dentistry, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, public health and health professions, physician assistant studies and veterinary medicine.
The program provides crucial access to information and resources that will strengthen participants’ knowledge and understanding of each health-related field.

At UFCD, SHPEP program takes the place of the Summer Learning Program, which provided 15 years of guidance, knowledge, resources and support to aspiring dentists from 2002 to 2016. Approximately 65 percent of those students enrolled in dental school, and approximately 30 percent of those students who went on to dental school attended UFCD.

Of the 160 SHPEP students who attended the first two programs, 40 focused exclusively on dentistry. Those students participated in hands-on projects in a dental-simulation lab, shadowed dental students in general and specialty dental clinics, and explored dentistry and its specialties with faculty, residents and students.