PCOM Opportunities Academy aims to address lack of Hispanic health professionalsJuly 7, 2016
Despite being the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population, Hispanics only account
for about 4 percent of practicing physicians, according to a study by the Association
of American Medical Colleges. This illustrates a clear need for more doctors of Hispanic
origin, as research shows that minority patients are far more likely to receive care
from physicians of similar ethnic background.
To address the dearth of Hispanic health practitioners, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic
Medicine (PCOM) has been working with two of the city’s largest Hispanic-serving educational
institutions—ASPIRA, Inc. of Pennsylvania Schools, and Esperanza, Inc.—to help raise
interest in science, technology, engineering, and math—plus medicine (STEM+M) at the
high school and undergraduate level and encourage Hispanic students to pursue health
As part of these partnerships, PCOM has announced the launch of the PCOM Opportunities
Academy, an intensive, five-week pilot program beginning July 12, designed to provide
a pipeline that routes motivated students with an interest in STEM+M toward four-year
degree programs and into training for the health professions.
Each week will focus on a different area of study, led by PCOM students, alumni and
faculty. In addition, students in the Academy will have the chance to broaden their
horizons though field trips to institutions such as the Franklin Institute and the
Mütter Museum; will be provided with SAT and ACT preparatory materials; and will hear
from healthcare leaders from various specialties and ethnic backgrounds. PCOM staff
will also discuss the medical school admissions process and provide career advice.
“Because there is such a lack of practicing physicians and providers who are Hispanic,
many students who might have an interest in the STEM+M areas simply don’t have any
exposure to those areas, or feel those careers are not an option,” said Lisa McBride,
PhD, chief diversity officer at PCOM. “We want to inundate these students with science
in every aspect of their lives—from the academic, to the social, to the cultural—to
show them that a career in the health professions can be an attainable goal.”
Throughout the year, PCOM faculty will collaborate with faculty from ASPIRA Schools
and Esperanza on professional and curriculum development and the establishment of
practicum and research opportunities. Currently, students from ASPIRA Schools can
participate in the College’s affiliations with national programs such as the Health
Professions Recruitment Exposure Program and the Perry Initiative, and students from
Esperanza College’s Science and Medical Assisting programs are provided access to
PCOM’s laboratories and simulated clinical environments. ASPIRA Schools also serve
as clinical practicum sites for PCOM’s School Psychology graduate programs.
PCOM and its partners are keeping careful watch on the new Academy’s outcomes. They
will track expected measures such as students’ performance in the STEM+M skill-building
activities but are also interested in changes in students’ career goals and confidence
levels. A program evaluation of the PCOM Opportunities Academy will focus as well
on how the Academy influences the partner institutions’ curricula and teaching methods.
"The educational model and principles in-place at ASPIRA Schools are based on the
idea that academic improvement is driven by rigorous, adaptive learning experiences
which challenge students over long periods of time," said Andrea Gonzalez-Kirwin,
Superintendent of ASPIRA of PA Schools. "This cradle-to-career approach to teaching
and learning can be strongly felt in the program PCOM has outlined to develop passion
for STEM+M education and careers over the course of a student's high school tenure.
This is a great step for STEM+M education in our communities and for the Philadelphia
STEM+M industries they'll eventually be part of."
“At Esperanza, we are committed to programming that ignites curiosity that leads to
careers in STEM,” said Rev. Luis Cortés, president of Esperanza. “This partnership
is an important addition to that work and we are very encouraged by PCOM’s dedication
and commitment to this effort.”
“Our commitment to STEM+M is reflected in part in the programs we offer, which includes
associates of science degrees in Natural Sciences and Math as well as associates of
applied science in Medical Assisting, and as part of our efforts we have fostered
partnerships that provide students with enhanced experiences in the STEM+M fields,”
added Nilsa Graciani, PhD, director of science, math and medical assisting at Esperanza
College. “The partnership with PCOM strengthens our position as an attractive option
for students interested in this area. Our students give back to the community by choosing
to work in the underserved populations in Philadelphia.”
About Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Founded in 1899, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) has trained thousands
of highly competent, caring physicians, health practitioners and behavioral scientists
who practice a “whole person” approach to care—treating people, not just symptoms.
PCOM operates three campuses (PCOM, PCOM Georgia and PCOM South Georgia) and offers doctoral degrees in clinical psychology, osteopathic medicine, pharmacy,
physical therapy and school psychology, and graduate degrees in biomedical sciences,
forensic medicine, mental health counseling, organizational development and leadership,
physician assistant studies, school psychology, and public health management and administration.
PCOM students learn the importance of health promotion, research, education and service
to the community. Through its community-based Healthcare Centers, PCOM provides care
to medically underserved populations. For more information, visit pcom.edu or call 215-871-6100.
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About ASPIRA Inc. of Pennsylvania Schools
ASPIRA Inc. of Pennsylvania Schools are community-based and serve the Hunting Park
and North Philadelphia neighborhoods where our organization began. It is our mission
to empower students through advocacy, education and leadership development. ASPIRA
of PA Schools aim to produce youth who, upon graduation, identify as bi-cultural and
socially conscious individuals dedicated to service. We concentrate student efforts
within a comprehensive and supportive educational setting where rigorous teaching
and learning is the foundation of high expectations for all.
About Esperanza College
The mission of Esperanza College, a Christian college program dedicated to the service
of the Hispanic and local communities, is to enhance the knowledge, skills, and outlook
of young people and adults so that they can live even more thoughtful, positive, productive,
and purposeful lives. We achieve our mission through the integration of faith, reason,
and justice and acknowledge the importance of forming this integration within the
academic program, in its instruction, and in the learning of our students, in order
to: 1) develop a Christian worldview that informs intellect, attitude, and behavior;
2) sharpen skills of critical thinking, reflection, and analysis, as well as linguistic
and communication skills; 3) appreciate the sources, values and contributions of Latino
and surrounding cultures to our school that lead to the enhancement of the spiritual,
social, and economic well-being of the individual, the family, and the community.