While it has been a challenge to get high-achieving students to consider medical and other scientific careers, it has been even more difficult to direct capable minority students into those fields as well. The National Academy of Physicians works to encourage high school students to enter the medical sciences; however, improving these numbers among minorities requires consideration of the circumstances that many students may face.
Acknowledging these issues may go a long way in getting more minorities to consider these types of careers.
Managing Science Participation in School
Many minority students may excel at basic sciences, but just taking very basic science is not enough to prepare or expose the student to the full possibilities of science. Taking one or two science or math courses will not be sufficient; however, many inner city schools do not have the resources to provide more advanced science courses. These types of courses are important in the pathway to science careers.
It is necessary to encourage minority students to explore the available science courses at their schools and try to establish ways to improve the science, math, and technology offerings at schools that may have only minimal choices.
Exposure to Variety of Medical Options
It is especially vital to this population to increase exposure to the wide variety of science careers – from medicine to biotech to physical and speech therapy. These high school students should be encouraged to participate in summer medical internships, clerkships in medical and research labs, and clinical clerkships.
This exposure plays a dual role. First, these opportunities introduce the students to all of the different job possibilities; many students may only be aware of physicians and nurses as medical science career options and not know that there are other things they could do. Secondly, this exposure can encourage the students to continue on their scientific path and actively seek out more science and math courses – both inside and outside their high schools.
Introduction to Mentors and Other Role Models
Since the pathway to most medical careers requires hard work, sacrifice, and dedication, family support plays an important role in getting students through. In some situations, family support may be lacking. It may be due to structural issues, a need for more immediate money-earning careers, or a lack of exposure for the parents about the possibilities for scientific careers. Many minority students may have limited role models who have attended college or medical school which does play a role in student aspirations.
Parental influence also makes a difference in what types of careers students strive for. Finding mentors – both clinical and lab research — who can work with both the students and the parents may improve this situation.