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Summer institute helps nudge students into medical careers


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August 1, 2002

Nearly 70 students from San Francisco high schools, City College of San Francisco and San Francisco State University recently completed a first-ever summer institute at the University designed to encourage students to pursue health-related careers.

With the health care industry booming and the need for doctors, nurses and other technicians continuing to grow, there remains an unmet demand for professionals from underrepresented groups. For example, 35 percent of Bay Area residents are members of underrepresented groups but only 3 percent of practicing dentists or doctors are either African American or Latino.

San Francisco State University is addressing the issue head-on by working with low-income and educationally disadvantaged high school kids over the summer to get them interested and prepared to pursue a career in health care. Amy Hittner, professor of counseling, and Barry Rothman, professor of biology, spearheaded the program and designed HealthPath, thanks in part to a $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health Resources and Health Diversity.

"The important part of HealthPath is establishing community and a connection students feel with each other and with the program," said Hittner. "We know that many of our target students change majors from the sciences or drop out of college altogether due to lack of academic support and connection with fellow students. We provide both."

The HealthPath Institute started this summer and each weekday during July students from Balboa, Burton, Mission, Galileo and Lincoln high schools, City College of San Francisco and SFSU were on campus learning about careers in health, medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, medical technology, physical therapy and dietetics.

They spent time studying physics, chemistry, biology, math, calculus and English -- college credit classes taught by SFSU faculty members that will give them a leg up once the academic semester begins. They also spent a good portion of their time hearing from professionals in the field who shared advice on medical school entrance exams, study habits, internships and other tips on how to break into a health career. Finally, there was one-on-one career counseling and peer support groups.

"We want to encourage high school students and students from City College of San Francisco to continue their education at San Francisco State University and move into one of the health professions. We know that some students are daunted by the complexity of the curriculum," Hittner added. "With HealthPath on campus, City College and high school students will feel at home on the campus when they begin their college education at the University."

HealthPath will continue through the academic school year. For more information, call (415) 338-3337 or (415) 338-3466) or e-mail

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Last modified August 1, 2002, by the Office of Public Affairs