For student, health career a path to action

by Kalani Simpson, UNMC public relations | August 14, 2019

Image with caption: Kelvin Rodriguez Rivera

Kelvin Rodriguez Rivera

Kelvin Rodriguez Rivera always wanted to be able to help in a crisis. His grandfather had many health issues, and young Kelvin always wished he could take some sort of action, to make everything better. He felt helpless.

A next-door neighbor collapsed once, and Rodriguez felt frozen, unsure what to do. He called for an ambulance. But then, he could only wait.

He always hated that feeling.

And then Hurricane Maria swept over their home island of Puerto Rico. This time Kelvin and his dad and brothers did take action, clearing debris from surrounding houses. Like so many in their community, they helped wherever they could.

But in the aftermath, many got sick. He could only worry and watch.

Rodriguez became determined. He would become the one who would help people.

His aunt is a physician. "I see how she works with people, how she helps them," he said.

And he found he had a talent for science. When it came to biology, he was innately curious.

So when, as a student at University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras, the opportunity came up to take part in the Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP) at UNMC, he jumped at the chance.

Rodriguez was one of several students, from Nebraska and across the country, who spent six weeks this summer at UNMC. SHPEP provides scholars with an interest in medicine, dentistry, nursing, public health, and physician assistant careers with academic enrichment in the basic sciences and math, clinical experiences, career development activities, learning and study skills seminars, and a financial planning workshop.

UNMC is one of only 12 institutions across the U.S. to offer SHPEP, in coordination with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The medical center annually hosts about 90 students each summer, the most in the nation.

The program is especially geared toward strengthening the academic proficiency and career development of students underrepresented in the health professions to prepare them for a successful application and matriculation to health professions schools.

Rodriguez appreciated the hands-on classes and the opportunity to shadow a working physician. He liked meeting classmates who are now friends.

"I really liked the environment, the people, the quality of education here," he said.

Would he consider continuing his education at UNMC?

"If I get accepted, of course!" he said.

He can't wait to be the one to someday purposefully take action, in time of need.

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