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Evaluation of a Medical Student Research and Career Development Program to Increase Diversity in Academic Medicine

Fernandez, Alicia MD; Chen, Victoria; Quan, Judy PhD; Martinez, Alma MD, MPH; Flowers, Loma MD; Aronson, Louise MD, MFA

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002760
Research Reports
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Purpose To describe and evaluate an innovative research program supported by the National Institutes of Health, “Promoting Research Opportunities Fully—Prospective Academics Transforming Health” (PROF-PATH), designed to support medical students from groups underrepresented-in-medicine (URM) interested in pursuing academic careers.

Method Based on social cognitive career theory (SCCT), PROF-PATH supplemented a traditional research program (TRP) by providing additional mentorship and a curriculum focused on “assumed knowledge” of academic culture, guidance with research challenges, and emotional competence. The four-year evaluation (2013–2016) consisted of pre- and postprogram surveys of PROF-PATH and TRP students, plus focus groups and individual structured interviews with PROF-PATH students. Survey questions queried students’ self-confidence in research- and career-related skills and abilities. The authors mapped themes elicited in focus groups and interviews onto SCCT domains.

Results Of 454 medical students, 343 (75.6%) completed the surveys. According to preprogram surveys, PROF-PATH students (n = 85) were less confident in their ability to find or manage mentor relationships than TRP students (n = 258) and less likely to report having a mentor who provided strong support for their research interests. At program’s end, PROF-PATH students showed greater increases in confidence than TRP students in multiple ability domains. Qualitative analysis of themes indicated that PROF-PATH influenced students through seven SCCT domains and increased student academic career self-efficacy.

Conclusions An innovative program for URM medical students participating in mentored research was successful in supporting academic career interest and academic self-efficacy. Schools motivated to increase diversity in academic medicine should consider adapting PROF-PATH.

A. Fernandez is professor of medicine, Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California.

V. Chen is research analyst, Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California.

J. Quan is (retired) statistician, Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California.

A. Martinez is professor of medicine, Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California.

L. Flowers is professor of psychiatry, Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California.

L. Aronson is professor of medicine, Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California.

Funding/Support: Funding provided by the National Institutes of Health National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities, NIMHD R25MD006832.

Other disclosures: None reported.

Ethical approval: Ethical approval was granted by the University of California, San Francisco Institutional Review Board. Approved on May 29, 2015. Reference number: 11-05815.

Previous presentations: Some results have also been presented as PROF-PATH: A Novel Program to Increase UIM Medical Student Interest in Research Careers, Western Group on Educational Affairs Annual Meeting, Honolulu, Hawaii, March 2014; Effective Mentoring for All, UCSF Academy of Medical Educators, San Francisco, California, April 2015; Effective Mentoring for All: Diversity in Academic Careers, UCLA School of Public Health, Los Angeles, California, May 2015; and UCSF PROF-PATH: An Innovative Academic Career Program for UIM Students. Association of American Medical Colleges Medical Education Meeting, Baltimore, Maryland, November 2015.

Correspondence should be addressed to Alicia Fernandez, 1001 Potrero Ave., #107, San Francisco, CA 94110; telephone: (415) 206-5394; email: alicia.fernandez@ucsf.edu; Twitter: @AliciaFMD.

Copyright © 2019 by the Association of American Medical Colleges