Health Science Learning Academy: A Successful “Pipeline” Educational Program for High School Students
Description: The Health Professions Partnership Initiative at MCG was created in 1996 by collaboration among the MCG Schools of Medicine and Nursing, two Augusta high schools attended primarily by underrepresented minority students, three historically black colleges and universities, the Fort Discovery National Science Center of Augusta, community service organizations, and MCG student organizations. The project was funded by the Association of American Medical Colleges and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The high school component, the Health Science Learning Academy (HSLA), was designed to strengthen the students' educational backgrounds and interest in professional careers as evidenced by increased standardized test scores and numbers of students entering college and health professions schools. Additional goals included a system to track students' progress throughout the pipeline as well as professional development sessions to enrich faculty members' knowledge and enhance their teaching expertise. The HSLA began with ninth-grade students from the two high schools. During its second year, funding from the Health 1st Foundation allowed inclusion of another high school and expansion to ninth grade through twelfth grade. The HSLA's enrichment classes meet for three hours on 18 Saturday mornings during the academic year and include computer-interactive SAT preparation and English composition (tenth grade); biology, algebra, calculus, and English composition (eleventh grade); and advanced mathematics and biology (twelfth grade).
Discussion: The ultimate solution to the paucity of underrepresented minority physicians resides largely in successful pipeline programs that expand the pool of well-qualified applicants, matriculants, and graduates from medical schools. Intermediate results of the HSLA support the success of the program. Since its creation in the 1996-1997 academic year, 203 students have participated in the HSLA and all 38 (from the original two schools) who completed the four-year program have enrolled in college. The mean SAT score for students who completed the HSLA program was 1,066, compared with a mean of 923 for all college-bound students in the participating schools. The mean increases in SAT scores for students who completed the four-year program were.5% (1,100 to 1,105) for students attending a magnet high school and 18% (929 to 1,130) for students attending the comprehensive high school. The mean overall increases in SAT scores for students in the two high schools were 1% (1,044 to 1,048) and 9.1% (765 to 834), respectively. The HSLA is accomplishing its goals and, while it is too early to know if these students will participate in MCAT preparatory programs and apply to medical and other health professions schools, their sustained commitment and enthusiasm bode well for continued success.