Health and educational disparities are national issues in the United States. Research has shown that health care professionals from underserved backgrounds are more likely than others to work in underserved areas. The Association of American Medical Colleges’ Project 3000 by 2000, to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in medical schools, spurred the West Virginia School of Medicine to start the Health Sciences and Technology Academy (HSTA) in 1994 with the goal of supporting interested underrepresented high school students in pursuing college and health professions careers. The program was based on three beliefs: (1) if underrepresented high school students have potential and the desire to pursue a health professions career and are given the support, they can reach their goals, including obtaining a health professions degree; (2) underserved high school students are able to predict their own success if given the right resources; and (3) community engagement would be key to the program’s success.
In this Perspective, the authors describe the HSTA and its framework and philosophy, including the underlying theories and pedagogy from research in the fields of education and the behavioral/social sciences. They then offer evidence of the program’s success, specifically for African American students, including graduates’ high college-going rate and overwhelming intention to choose a health professions major. Finally, the authors describe the benefits of the HSTA’s community partnerships, including providing mentors to students, adding legislative language providing tuition waivers and a budgetary line item devoted to the program, and securing program funding from outside sources.