Educational Pipeline Program

Mission Statement

The mission of the Educational Pipeline Program is to encourage high school students from backgrounds underrepresented in medicine to aspire to medical science careers.

The Netter Center for Community Partnerships, the Perelman School of Medicine, and Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine collaborate to provide mentorship and education at all levels:

  • High school students are taught by undergraduates and graduate students
  • Undergraduates learn from graduate students
  • Graduate students are guided by faculty

The Pipeline Program allows college students, medical trainees, physicians-in- training, and faculty at the University of Pennsylvania to contribute meaningfully to our local community while simultaneously advancing teaching, learning and research at Penn.

Goals

  1. Foster mentorship across multiple tiers
  2. Demonstrate to high school students to the importance of post-secondary education in addition to introducing them to a variety of careers in medicine and healthcare
  3. Help medical students and other Penn students and faculty learn to communicate effectively about medical problems in “plain English”
  4. Inform high school students how to reduce significant health disparities affecting minorities and their communities.

History

In 1998, Karen Hamilton, PhD, created the Educational Pipeline Program in the Perelman School of Medicine as part of Project 3000 by 2000: an ambitious program launched by the Association of American Medical Colleges to increase the matriculation of underrepresented people of color in medical school to a total of 3000 students by the year 2000.

The Pipeline Program initially served high school students from African American, Hispanic, and financially-disadvantaged backgrounds from Thomas A. Edison and Overbrook High Schools. In 2003, the Pipeline Program combined forces with the Netter Center for Community Partnerships to form a strong and enduring relationship with Sayre High School. In 2014, the Netter Center began to recruit West Philadelphia High School students to the program. And in 2016, the Netter Center partnered with Shoemaker-Mastery High School. The program currently works with students from Sayre, West Philadelphia, and Shoemaker High Schools.

When the Pipeline Program began, the curriculum was focused on neuroscience. Over the years other subjects were trialed: infectious diseases, cardiology, and gastroenterology. Today, the Pipeline Program is a comprehensive program that teaches students about gastroenterology in 9th grade, neurology in 10th grade, and cardiology in 11th grade. In 2015, the School of Veterinary Medicine joined the program and developed a curriculum for 12th grade.

The Pipeline Program has not only expanded the subjects it covers but also the number of students it serves. In 2009, final presentations were given by 12 high school students in one subject; by 2017, 63 high school students, across the four curricula, participated in the presentations.

The Courses

In the fall semester, high school students participate in an introductory medical science curriculum taught by University of Pennsylvania undergraduates. Each high school then selects students for the spring semester program based on the students’ interest and level of engagement.

Then, in the spring semester, the Netter Center helps these students travel to the University after school for 75-minute in-depth lessons. These interactive lessons focus primarily on health issues that are prevalent in the high school students’ community. The students get to have some fun learning what it is like to be a doctor by conducting experiments, performing dissections, examining specimens, and going on a field trip to the New Bolton Center—the School of Veterinary Medicine’s large animal hospital. This portion of the program occurs one afternoon per week for 12 weeks.

Career Day is held midway through the spring semester and exposes students to the variety of careers in medicine and health care, as well as the summer programs available to them at Penn. The Program culminates with a final presentation. Undergraduate and graduate students help the high school students prepare by working in small groups to review medical literature, perform Internet searches, prepare a slide presentation, and practice public speaking skills. Families of the high school students are invited to watch their students give presentations on their selected topic.

The Educational Pipeline Program is an educational initiative operated by the Perelman School of Medicine and facilitated by the Netter Center for Community Partnerships. Pipeline works to provide mentorship and education for high school students while exposing them to a variety of careers in medicine and healthcare. With support and training, Penn students get the unique opportunity to teach lessons in Neurology, Cardiology, and Veterinary Medicine in high schools. Learn more at www.med.upenn.edu/pipeline.