OMAHA, Neb. ― Two local University of Nebraska institutions have teamed up to create a program to diversify Omaha’s physician population.
The Urban Health Opportunities Program will provide tuition and other benefits to undergraduate students at the University of Nebraska at Omaha who want to be doctors in Omaha, particularly in the northeast and southeast parts of the city, the Omaha World-Herald reported.
“I think it would be really cool,” said Mark Carter, a sophomore from Kearney, Nebraska. “It’s something that I’ve always dreamed of doing. It’ll be awesome to finally reach that goal.”
Those who meet the program’s requirements will be admitted to the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s College of Medicine.
The program’s goal is to produce more physicians from minority groups, more who can speak foreign languages and more who have a passion for working in low-income areas. The program’s leaders said it isn’t an affirmative action initiative but an effort to break the typical mold from which most physicians emerge.
Dr. Jeff Hill, associate dean of admissions and student affairs at the medical center’s College of Medicine said the effort is not about meeting quotas, but about improving health care.
“Right now, we see the need in Omaha,” Hill said. “This is a mission-based program.”
He said members of minority groups make up about 10 percent of the college’s first-year class this semester.
The Urban Health Opportunities Program, which began this school year, currently includes 13 undergraduates representing all four classes.
“You’re in a pipeline program to train you to be doctors,” said Paul Davis, director of the program, during the program’s orientation Friday evening. “Today’s the day you start acting like the ideal medical student you’ve always wanted to be.”
Three freshmen will join the group each year after demonstrating high achievement in high school, writing essays about their interest in the program and interviewing with program’s leaders.
Those students will them mentor those in the undergraduate program once they enter medical school.