By Dr. Alden M. Landry
The Tour for Diversity in Medicine is an initiative to promote careers in the health professions to underrepresented minority (URiM) students. It’s a flipped model, bringing mentorship, advising, motivation and encouragement to the students in the form of Black and Latinx doctors, dentists, pharmacists, podiatrists, and pre-health advisors to undergraduate campuses instead of traditional conferences. What also makes T4D unique is the honesty of the of the conversations that the health professionals, called mentors on the T4D, have with the students as they share stories of success, struggles, and most importantly, how they overcome their struggles to achieve their career goals.
The original program was developed by Dr Kameron Matthews and I when we were in medical school. Our goal of creating a bus tour taking health professionals to college campuses to inspire students began when they wanted to remove as many barriers that students may face when going to typical pre-medical informational conferences. Though the program never got off the ground, we knew it was the right approach to reach students with potential but not opportunity.
Years later, Kameron and I revisited our plan with a new cohort of sponsors, partners and schools. The initial program was a success reaching over 500 students during the first tour. Each subsequent tour brought its challenges and successes but the overarching theme of reaching those with talent but without resources remained the same. During one tour, we were told by a pre-health advisor that the students at that campus did not deserve something like the T4D. Unfortunately statements like this typify the URiM student experience, those in a position to support are often the barriers to opportunity. The T4D found a way to visit the campus with the unhelpful advisor and met a number of truly passionate students who needed sound advice.
To date T4D has visited over 40 campuses in 27 states and reached over 4000 students. Many of those students have gone on to getting accepted into health professions schools. Others have taken the lessons learned and parlayed them into other opportunities for career development. The end result is that students, both pursuing careers in the health professions and those need career development in other arenas, benefited from the interactions with the mentors.
A quintessential example of the interactions of between attendees and mentors is that of Corey Shy, then a student at Prairie View A&M University, Dr Nathan Lott and I. Both Nathan and I are alumni of Prairie View and on that stop we had a chance to meet Corey who was in the process of applying to medical school. The timing of the tour stop could not have been more advantageous because Corey had the opportunity to meet with two physicians who had gone to his college and been through the process he was about to experience. Corey was successful in gaining acceptance to medical school and has gone on to graduate at the top of his class. He is currently training in Internal Medicine and aspires to become a Gastroenterologist. What makes now Dr Shy’s story more special is that he recognized the impact of T4D on his career and the need to give back to those coming behind him. While in medical school he became a mentor of T4D and mentored numerous pre-medical students.
Dr Shy is one of many examples of the power of strong mentorship in non-traditional forms. T4D continues it’s push to educate, cultivate and inspire future health care professionals through expanded its programming to high school students. For more information regarding T4D, visit www.tour4diversity.org.