‘LEAP to Medical School’ program launches

Liliana Bronner is the director of medical pathways in the UNMC College of Medicine Office of DEI.

You can break barriers. And — perhaps with a helping hand — you also can leap over them.

This summer, the DEI office’s medical pathways program launched the “LEAP” (Long-term Enhanced Advising & Preparation) to medical school for undergraduates. The goal of LEAP is to provide tailored advising for prospective medical school applicants to help them navigate through the application process.

The goal of the program is to help college students from backgrounds that are underrepresented in medicine, such as Black, Native American and Latin@ students, first-generation college students, students from underserved rural and urban communities who often do not have a support network and the proper guidance to help them prepare a successful application and matriculation to health professions schools, particularly in medicine.

This summer the DEI office is piloting the LEAP program with participants in one of the UNMC flagship pathway programs, the Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP).

The UNMC SHPEP program is a six-week summer academic enrichment program for undergraduate students, SHPEP scholars with an interest in medicine, dentistry, nursing and public health. During the program, scholars explore basic sciences and math, clinical experiences, career development activities, study skills and many other activities.

The medicine scholars, this year, include 50 undergraduate students hailing from 17 states, one U.S. territory and two foreign countries. The scholars represent a diverse group not only in race and ethnicity but also in socioeconomic status, rural and urban underserved backgrounds — all categories that are too often underrepresented in medicine and other health care fields.

The scholars also work on wellness activities and create special bonds within small groups called learning communities. Upon completion of the program, some former students have matriculated into health professions school at UNMC, however, outcomes have not been systematically tracked. Although contact is maintained with some scholars, they have not been systematically provided with coaching beyond the enrichment summer program.

With LEAP, we aim to bridge this gap, maintain contact consistently and accompany our scholars, who we consider part of our community, to their desired goal in health care. This year we are starting with medicine scholars in SHPEP and hope to expand to other health care professions as well within SHPEP and other enrichment programs we hosts on our campus

As part of the pilot launch, during the second week of SHPEP on our virtual campus, we invited them to fill out an intake survey to understand their background, barriers and opportunities to successfully complete requirements for medical school. During weeks three to five, each scholar had a one-on-one meeting with one of the deans from the UNMC College of Medicine Office of Admissions and Student Affairs. The scholars were provided with tailored advice based on their individual survey. During week six, scholars were offered the opportunity to provide feedback on the process as we seek to make the experience useful and address concerns promptly to improve throughout LEAP.

After the summer session, the ongoing LEAP activities will include virtual fall and winter meet-ups, where the scholars will have the opportunity to reconnect with their learning communities and workshops, educational sessions and testimonials such as tips for the MCAT, personal statement, how to pay for medical school, life as a medical student, resident or faculty,. Some of these topics were suggested by the scholars in the intake survey.

The recommendations we will provide are adapted from publications by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), with input from the UNMC College of Medicine Office of Admissions and Student Affairs. Scholars will additionally have a yearly assessment and review of their portfolio to provide ongoing evaluation of barriers and opportunities in collaboration with the Office of Admissions and Student Affairs.

We are committed to supporting our SHPEP medicine scholars in navigating the system, continuing the relationship we have fostered this summer and accompanying them to their chosen profession at UNMC or elsewhere.

In the end, we envision a virtual, inclusive, and tailored pre‐med advising program through “LEAP to Medical School,” one not bound by the confines of an institution or a campus, and one that aims to provide tangible support to help recruit a diverse healthcare workforce need in our state and beyond.

A leap over barriers.

A leap to success.


  1. Mike Sitorius says:

    Great work Liliana. Congratulations.

  2. Dr. Sheritta Strong says:

    Love this initiative, Team COM DEI 🙂

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