The Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP) is a free summer enrichment program focused on improving access to information and resources for college students interested in the health professions. SHPEP’s goal is to strengthen the academic proficiency and career development of students underrepresented in the health professions and prepare them for a successful application and matriculation to health professions schools. These students include, but are not limited to, individuals who identify as African American/Black, American Indian and Alaska Native and Hispanic/Latino, and who are from communities of socioeconomic and educational disadvantage. SHPEP, formerly known as the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP), expanded in 2016 to include a broader array of health professions.
SHPEP’s roots go back to 1989 with its first cohort of scholars. Due to noted declines of medical school applicants from racial and ethnic backgrounds starting in 1977, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) initiated a study in 1984 to learn strategies to change the trends. Findings contributed to the development of the Minority Medical Education Program (MMEP) to increase the acceptance rates of medical school applicants from racial and ethnic minority groups who were underrepresented in medicine—African Americans, Mexican Americans, mainland Puerto Ricans, and American Indians and Alaska Natives.
Over the years, MMEP’s intensive academic preparation program expanded to 11 medical school campuses. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) assumed the role of National Program Office in 1993.
In 2003, the program changed its name to the Summer Medical Education Program (SMEP), reflecting the inclusion of students representing a range of economic, cultural and geographic diversity. In 2006, the program expanded to include dentistry, and was renamed the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP). SMDEP focused on students in the first two years of their college education because the experience of previous programs indicate that this is when students derive the most benefit.
In 2016, in an effort to keep apace of the growing importance of team-based care and interprofessional collaboration, RWJF expanded the program to include a range of health professions and changed the program name to the Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP).
Creating a Culture of Health
The Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP) is part of an effort by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) that works to build a Culture of Health. As the nation’s largest philanthropy focused on improving health and health care, RWJF is striving to build a national Culture of Health (visit www.cultureofhealth.org) that will enable all to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. Aspiring health professionals are poised to be tomorrow’s change leaders in helping build a Culture of Health in their communities and the nation. And to bring about meaningful change, health professionals must know how to learn and work together across disciplines. SHPEP exposes students to a range of health professions to help realize this vision.
SHPEP offers students a variety of academic and career experiences:
- Academic enrichment in the basic sciences and quantitative topics.
- Learning and study skills development, including methods of individual and group learning.
- Clinical exposure through small-group rotations in health care settings, simulation experiences, and seminars. This is limited to 5% of program time for all the sites.
- Career development sessions are directed toward exploration of the health professions, the admissions process, and the development of an education plan.
- A financial literacy and planning workshop that informs students of financial principles and management strategies.
- A health policy seminar series to expose scholars to current health policy issues, the policymaking process and analysis, health care financing, and the social determinants of health.
- An introduction to interprofessional education that addresses effective collaboration across health professions.
SHPEP is a national program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation with direction and technical assistance provided by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the American Dental Education Association (ADEA).