UK HealthCare

UK College of Medicine pipeline programs expand opportunities for future doctors, scientists

Cristina Rivera-Ramirez and Maddie Duff
Cristina Rivera-Ramirez

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 5, 2023) Standing before a classroom of college juniors, orthopaedics resident Cristina Rivera-Ramirez, M.D., skillfully interpreted an X-ray of a distal radius fracture in a patient’s arm. The next step was to reveal how to treat it. By the time she got out the supplies to demonstrate making a splint, students were at the edge of their seats, ready to volunteer.

As a presenter for the University of Kentucky Medical Education Development Program (UKMED), Rivera-Ramirez helped college juniors discover the possibilities of a career as an orthopaedic surgeon, but more generally, as a doctor.

This year was the 13th run of UKMED, an annual recruitment program established by Ima Ebong, M.D., assistant professor of neurology. Through workshops and interactions with physicians, the goal is to draw interest to medicine, particularly students from diverse backgrounds or communities that are medically underserved.

UKMED is part of a broader group of programs under the Office of Admissions aimed at enhancing the pipeline for underrepresented students to attend medical school. This year, 42 students participated in UK College of Medicine pipeline programs.

While the UKMED program enrolls college juniors, UK’s Professional Education Preparation Program (PEPP) Scholars is for high school graduates interested in health professions. PEPP MD is for rising college sophomores. Building off of the success of these programs, the Office of Admissions recently launched the 120 in 365 Initiative to engage with prospective medical students from every county in Kentucky in one year.

“Our pipeline programs deliver experiences that foster a career in medicine to individuals from diverse backgrounds while showcasing both the talent and possibilities at the UK College of Medicine,” said Wendy Jackson, M.D., associate dean for admissions. “The purpose of all the programs is to deliver robust experiences to premedical students in the hope of strengthening their candidacy as well as solidifying their commitment to both medicine and the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”

The programs are aligned to provide educational experiences that increase in complexity as students advance through the pipeline. Jackson said that upon completion, participants will have gained insight into the medical profession “far beyond their initial understanding.” 

“This camp has been the best because being from Eastern Kentucky, there aren’t a lot of experiences for exposure to medical school,” said UK neuroscience junior Maddie Duff, a UKMED participant from Prestonsburg, Kentucky.

Meanwhile, the programs are a chance for residents, fellows and medical students to pay it forward. “I didn’t have that as a pre-med, and this would have been so valuable to me,” said second-year medical student Eric Hennemann, who volunteered for UKMED. “As an underrepresented person in medicine, it was important to me to give back and help show students the path forward.”

The UKMED program concentrates on specific topics relevant to the prospective applicant such as personal statement writing, mock interviewing, study skills and more. Along with a splint demonstration, UKMED offered suturing and surgical simulations this year.

PEPP programs deliver themed content focused on a specific medical condition impacting the Commonwealth, including substance use disorder, diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Woven into the curriculum are lectures, workshops, and social activities to allow relationship-building among faculty and participants. 

At the end, participants from all pipeline programs came together for a closing ceremony and to present their projects.

Jackson said that when the time arises for them to apply to medical school, “our hope is that they aid us in fulfilling our mission by bringing their talent to our institution.”  

Learn more about summer pipeline programs here.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.