OMAHA - Each year, hundreds of individuals from minority and underrepresented groups make trips to the doctor but often expect to work with physicians who come from backgrounds different than their own.
Last year, a new partnership between the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) and University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) created the Urban Health Opportunities Program (UHOP) in order to address that problem right here in the Omaha metro area.
After its first full year, six recent graduates have moved on to their first years of medical school at UNMC and three incoming freshmen, as well as two alternates, have been welcomed into the program at UNO.
High school seniors who apply to the UHOP program are selected based on their academic achievements, and their unique backgrounds, commitment to success, care for others, and desire to leverage their experiences to work with patients of all ages, genders, nationalities and sexual orientations.
As new members of the program, the students will be provided a full scholarship to attend UNO, peer mentorship from other UHOP participants, hands-on learning opportunities at UNMC and targeted academic guidance from UNO faculty and staff with the goal of attending UNMC’s College of Medicine MD program following graduation.
This year’s incoming class features students coming from five unique school districts and neighborhoods across the greater Omaha metro area and beyond.
Melissa Martinez Munoz
A recent graduate of Omaha South High Magnet School, Melissa was inspired to become a pediatrician after her own experience as a patient at Children’s Hospital and Medical Center. That inspiration has already lead her to spend time job shadowing a pediatric physician at OneWorld Community Health Centers, a nonprofit healthcare provider; attending a summer program at Emory University to learn about infectious diseases; and being one of just a few students selected to participate in an orthopedic surgery program in 2015. As a bi-lingual speaker in English and Spanish, Melissa hopes to be a pediatrician who can be informative and make both children and parents feel comfortable.
A heavily involved student at Millard West High School, Matthew was not only a part of his high school band drumline, which was named “Best Percussion” in Nebraska last season, but he also served as a mentor to underclassmen and a recruiter for incoming middle school students, encouraging them to become involved in school activities. Matthew’s interest in medicine grew as he saw the positive impact it had on families. As a physician, Matthew, himself, wants to specialize in interventional radiology and make a difference in the Omaha community, especially by providing additional representation in the field for Hispanic Americans.
In her time at Bellevue West High School, Alexis was an active member in her high school community, serving on the Student Advisory council, taking part in the University of Nebraska Medical Center Student Exploration Community Academy and serving on the student senate in her junior and senior years. She is also dedicated to the community in Bellevue, providing more than 300 hours of community service over the last four years. Alexis decided to become a pediatrician following a childhood accident requiring prolonged medical attention. She says that during all her time visiting hospitals she has never encountered an African American physician and wants to be that positive role model for future generations.
An Elkhorn resident and graduate of Gretna High School, Morgan plans to study Neuroscience or Biotechnology while at UNO. While in high school, she was a member of the National Honor Society and UNMC High School Alliance, which allows high school students to job shadow and take courses from UNMC health care professionals. Her ultimate goal is to become a physician and increase the visibility of women in the profession.
A graduate of Elkhorn South High School, Tuoma has had a passion for medicine ever since his first trip with his family to Nigeria, where they visited friends and relatives. While in Nigeria, he volunteered at a local hospital where he saw substandard medical conditions. In Nebraska, Tuoma also volunteered at his father’s home health business and worked closely with military veterans. He hopes to be able to become a physician in order to help be a voice for underrepresented populations.
About the University of Nebraska at Omaha
Located in one of America’s best cities to live, work and learn, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s premier metropolitan university. With more than 15,000 students enrolled in 200-plus programs of study, UNO is recognized nationally for its online education, graduate education, military friendliness and community engagement efforts. Founded in 1908, UNO has served learners of all backgrounds for more than 100 years and is dedicated to another century of excellence both in the classroom and in the community.