|Eleven years ago, Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) approached the University of Houston about participating in an academic pipeline to educate future physicians from among the best and the brightest at the DeBakey High School for Health Professions (DHSHP). Today, thirteen medical doctors have graduated from the program and sixty-nine are on their way.
The program, called the Houston Premedical Academy, selects up to ten graduating DHSHP students, who receive provisional acceptance into Baylor if they attend UH and complete all the program requirements.
Providing an academically rich and supportive environment, the academy enables students to make their career choices and medical school selection at the same time. This also increases the number of DHSHP graduates who become physicians and serve the health- care needs of the Houston community.
During their undergraduate years at UH, academy students strengthen their math and science skills and receive academic support through the UH Scholar Enrichment Program, a UH learning community with workshops designed to enhance learning and problem-solving skills.
In addition, academy students are required to participate every summer in programs arranged by Baylor.
“The Houston Premedical Academy has evolved two-fold since its inception,” says James Phillips, MD, who oversees the program and is a senior associate dean at Baylor. “Participation in summer enrichment programs was encouraged, but the programs were being held mainly in town. I decided that since these students were expected to spend their high school, undergraduate, and medical school careers in Texas that we needed to expose them to opportunities outside of the state to help facilitate their professional as well as their personal growth.
“We initiated a summer enrichment program in their sophomore year at the University of Houston, which allowed the students to apply to programs outside of the state, and some even traveled outside of the country. The students are required to submit abstracts from their summer experience, and in January of the following year, they are required to participate in a research symposium highlighting their experiences.”
Winfred Frazier, now a third-year medical student at Baylor, spent his UH summers at a variety of locations. “First summer, I participated in the Honors Premedical Academy at Rice University. The following summers, I performed research at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories in New York, Universitat de les Illes Balears in Spain, and the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston,” he says.
“Participating in a summer program is the most educational and interesting part of the academy,” says UH senior Maya Kriseman. “On both a research level and a personal level, it is a chance of a lifetime to spend a summer in another city.”
As Maya completes her senior year at UH, her older sister Yana Kriseman, also an academy student, is completing her final year at Baylor. The sisters are continuing a family tradition—both their grandmothers were also doctors.
“It has been amazing watching the progression of these young scientists,” says Phillips. “Some of them have continued their professional development by participating in research programs after their matriculation at Baylor College of Medicine.
“I am proud to say that although the students from the Houston Premedical Academy earn most of their training in Houston, they have actually participated in activities that have helped them compete with students from across the country as evidenced by the outstanding residencies obtained by some of the recent Houston Premedical Academy medical school graduates.”
Some of these residencies include the following: Ronald Cotton, surgery (Baylor College of Medicine); Snehal Desai, radiation oncology (Baylor College of Medicine); Stacie Johnson, anesthesiology (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine); Aungel Latchley, obstetrics and gynecology (George Washington University).
While Houston Premedical Academy students have access to outstanding faculty and training programs during their college careers, there is another element to the program’s success, which is best expressed by Frazier: “I have had a great experience in the program, but the best part is sharing the experience with six other people in my class who I have known for over ten years.”