Tulsa Community College program works to get more students into medical school

TULSA, Okla. — Tulsa Community College and OU Tulsa School of Community Medicine are working to get more students into medical school.

Through the University Medical Accelerator Program, or UMAP, students get the courses needed and an understanding of the process to get into medical school.

Dr. Jabraan Pasha is one of the doctors who meets with students in this program. He says UMAP is a win, win for both students and the medical profession.

“It’s a group that traditionally is sometimes overlooked in the medical school process,” he explains. “We are here to tell them how to get into medical school and that they are needed in medical school.”

That need is evident now more than ever. The Oklahoma State Department of Health shows all of the state’s 77 counties are facing health professional shortages. Dr. Pasha says the pandemic definitely played its part.

“Burnout was tough for a lot of us,” he says speaking to the past two years. “It has left us understaffed, whether it’s nursing shortages or physician shortages. It’s a challenge, we still have the same number of patients but now we have, in a lot of situations, less medical providers to take care of those patients.”

He says that shortage has required medical schools to reimagine their typical applicants.

Lily Robistow fits that mold. Two years ago, she was a biology teacher, now thanks to UMAP she is headed to medical school next fall.

“When I graduated with my bachelor’s in biology, I did not initially think that medical school was my path,” she says.

As for many people, she says the pandemic changed things. As a teacher for Teach for America, she said she noticed inequity in her classroom, with students’ physical and mental health becoming obstacles to their education.

“I wanted to marry my two passions of helping others and biology into a career in medicine,” Robistow says. “TCC made that dream a lot more attainable.”

She says UMAP helped lay out what her path to medical school would look like. That meant enrolling her in the courses she needed, going through the application process and offering prep options for the MCAT, the test needed to get into medical school. She says an added perk came with the price tag.

“They made sure that I had the classes that I missed at a fraction of the cost,” she says. “What I pay in one semester at a four-year institution is what I might pay for the full two years here.”

UMAP hopes to also help with representation in the medical field.

“The folks that are more likely to go to community college are maybe people who have financial struggles or are from rural or underrepresented minorities,” Dr. Pasha says.

Robistow spoke to that diversity as well saying, “Expanding what a physician looks like and what background they have will help close physician gap or at least mitigate it but now you will have more diversity within physicians.”

For more information on UMPA click here.

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