OMAHA – A new collaborative program between the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) and University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) is providing a unique opportunity students seeking to be part of the next generation of physicians.
The Urban Health Opportunities Program, or UHOP, has announced its first four cohorts of students selected to help address a need for medical professionals with diverse backgrounds.
Beginning with the 2016-2017 academic year, student cohorts of UNO pre-med students at the freshman, sophomore, junior and senior levels will be provided a scholarship that covers their tuition with a guarantee of admission to UNMC’s College of Medicine upon graduation.
Each of the students in the first year of the UHOP program are either current UNO students or incoming Freshmen. All future additions will be high school students that will commit to enrolling at UNO and, eventually, UNMC.
“The UHOP program is another example of how two wonderful institutions, UNO and UNMC, can leverage their strengths and help address community needs by working together,” said Paul Davis, UHOP coordinator and associate professor of biology at UNO. "It's a win on both sides."
A 2014 report from the Association of American Medical Colleges identifies that only 4.4 percent of active doctors identify as as Hispanic, 4.1 percent identify as African American and a mere 0.4 percent identify American Indian or Alaska Native.
Before UHOP, a significant number of Nebraska high school students interested in the medical field were leaving the state. UNO Chancellor John Christensen explained that it is important for physicians to reflect the lives and experiences of their patients and this program not only helps meet that need, but also allows for diversity of thought on both the UNO and UNMC campuses.
"Our metropolitan mission has always been to provide access to a premier education for students, regardless of their background, and UHOP is a great example of those efforts,” UNO Chancellor John Christensen said. “I am extremely excited to be working with our partners at UNMC to provide this opportunity to our students."
“We are committed to creating a healthy future for all individuals and communities by providing innovative educational opportunities that open doors to those talented individuals who seek to commit themselves to a lifetime of service in the health care profession,” added UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D.
UHOP is an outgrowth of an effort Davis launched in 2013 called the UNO Pre-Medical Committee sponsorship. The sponsorship, which will continue as part of UHOP, provides faculty support to UNO pre-med students through academic counseling and letters of recommendation to the medical school of their choice.
In the three years since offering sponsorship, the acceptance rate of UNO students into medical school has jumped from 22 percent to more than 60 percent, which is well above the national average of just under 40 percent.
"We are very excited for the collaboration between UNMC and UNO in recruiting and training a diverse group of compassionate future physicians who want to serve and give back to their own local urban communities especially in North and South Omaha," explained Jeff Hill, Associate Dean for Admissions and Student Affairs in UNMC's College of Medicine.
There are no specific requirements for a student to apply to the UHOP program; instead, Davis says applicants are chosen for their unique backgrounds, commitment to success, and desire to leverage their experiences to comfort and treat patients of all ages, genders, nationalities and sexual orientations.
“Diversity in the medical clinic is vital, as physicians see a wide variety of patients from all walks of life,” Davis said. “Equally vital is diversity among medical school classmates, who learn to value and appreciate social and cultural differences and customs, in turn making them better physicians.”
Applications for the next UHOP cohort are open now and due in October. High school seniors may apply at cas.unomaha.edu/uhop.
The members of the first UHOP class are:
Returning UNO Seniors
Returning UNO Juniors
Returning UNO Sophomores
Daniela Cortes Reyes
Incoming UNO Freshmen
Alicia Luis (Omaha South High School)
Lena Parker (Omaha North High School)
Elias Witte (Omaha Westside High School
For media requests, please contact:
Sam Petto, UNO Media Relations Coordinator
Charley Reed, UNO Associate Director of Media Relations
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