By Julie Walter
The Summer Health Professions Education Program, or SHPEP, at the University of Florida wrapped up its third annual session last month with a case competition and pinning ceremony.
A free immersive summer program for college students interested in the health professions, SHPEP targets students from economically and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds. The six-week program prepares scholars for the rigors of professional school through hands-on training, networking opportunities and workshops. All six health-related colleges take part. Support for the program comes from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
“[The vision for SHPEP is to] provide academic and professional development for students who are interested in health professions careers and who come from disadvantaged backgrounds and/or are underrepresented in health care,” said Amy Blue, Ph.D., associate vice president for interprofessional education at UF Health and PHHP’s associate dean for educational affairs.
According to Blue, the program is very competitive. This year there were over 800 applicants, 80 of which were accepted.
Blue said that one of the most special aspects of the program is that it introduces students to careers in a health field that they may have never considered. Throughout the program, scholars learn about a large variety of health science careers. She said the program is intentionally designed to give the students exposure to the array of health science fields through multiple opportunities.
Ali Albalakhi, a junior at Brandeis University, participated in the program over the summer.
He said SHPEP opened his eyes to the amount options available in the health field he would have otherwise never have known about. He said he was blown away by the number of opportunities available for students like him.
Albalakhi is majoring in biochemistry and recalled his favorite part about SHPEP being the support system from the students and faculty.
“We are all minority students,” Albalakhi said. “Each one of us brings a unique story that is very similar but also so different. We are all here, working toward a collective goal.”
The valuable connections and experiences scholars gain through the program make it an incredible experience, Albalakhi said.
Haelyn Lahens is a sophomore at Florida State University majoring in interdisciplinary medical studies and concentrating on pre-health management policies and information.
“Going to a different university allows you to view and understand the difference in environments,” Lahens said. “It is a difficult culture, and it gives you a sense of possibility for what could be.”
Each year the SHPEP scholars participate in a mass casualty training in which the students assess injuries and triage patients, assigning them to treatment priority categories. The event is hands-on and an opportunity for the scholars to test their skill sets.
Lahen said the mass casualty training event was her favorite because she was able to apply real-world experiences in a safe environment while working on her triage skills.
To learn more about SHPEP visit https://ufhealth.org/summer-health-professions-education-program-shpep.