Looking to close the diversity gap in the health care professions, Boston Fellow Peter Mattson created Health Career Opportunities Reimagined (HealthCORE), a course that exposes underrepresented high school students in the Providence, RI, area to health care disciplines not covered in traditional pipeline programs such as global health, medical design, healthcare policy, and narrative medicine. It also includes a mentoring component, with individual sessions aimed at helping students develop a detailed plan to achieve their stated career goal. Peter Mattson, a student at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School, implemented his project after working with the school’s Pathways to Medicine Program.
“Our goal is to inspire underrepresented students by increasing their exposure to a wide spectrum of career paths, nurturing their specific interests, and offering opportunities to turn their interest into meaningful action,” said Mattson. “Multiple studies show that diversity in the medical field helps to improve patient satisfaction and equity in patient treatment—and that can only help a patient’s health.”
HealthCORE differs from other health career pipeline programs in two ways, said Mattson.
The first is rooted in Mattson’s own path to medicine, which he said wouldn’t have been possible without exposure to the fields of public health and global health, and learning about the work of health care innovators like Albert Schweitzer, Paul Farmer, Ophelia Dahl, Jim O’Connell, Michael Murphy, and John Snow. These luminaries helped Mattson see that health care professionals could be impactful in disciplines far beyond those that are practiced in hospitals and clinics—from public health and research to design and entrepreneurship. Hence, HealthCORE’s focus on nontraditional health care careers.
“Most health career pipeline programs focus on teaching the basics—you conduct a spin-off science project, or you learn about how many years it takes to become a nurse or a pharmacist or a doctor, or you practice how to talk to a patient,” Mattson said.
While HealthCORE covers that base level of education, students spend the majority of their time in the two-week summer program exploring other work health care professionals can take on “to inspire them through experience to think more broadly about what they could accomplish as health care professionals,” said Mattson.
The second unique feature of HealthCORE is the subsequent HealthCORE+ component, which links students with mentors and professionals in the community that help them to identify and accomplish three unique health experiences during the academic year.
“This way, students gain first hand exposure to fields we discussed in class, which enhances their learning and guides them on their path to further education and career endeavors,” Mattson said.
Mattson has enjoyed seeing how HealthCORE has inspired participants to explore health care careers of all kinds. To date, eight HealthCORE students have joined the Pathways to Medicine Mentorship program here at Alpert Medical School as one of their three HealthCORE+ experiences. Others have shadowed physicians, nurses, physical therapists on the job and a few students are taking public health classes at local colleges to expand upon their interests from the course.
He has also heard good things from some participants’ high school teachers.
“Keily’s involvement in HealthCORE has dramatically influenced her world view and inspired her to pursue a career in public health,” wrote one teacher.
“My student who participated in the HealthCORE program was inspired to take ownership of her interest in the health field by learning as much as possible about various health careers, taking advantage of every health-related learning opportunity that has come her way since, and putting more energy and vigor into her academic work,” another teacher stated.
For the past few months, Mattson has been meeting with fellow Brown med students Natasha Furtado Dalomba and Andrew Del Re, who will be continuing HealthCORE after Mattson’s Fellowship year, and returning mentors Dr. Paul George and David Upegui. The group has been discussing how to strengthen the program, including creating more hands-on experiences for students during the two-week intensive period; formalizing the curriculum; growing the network of HealthCORE+ mentors through whom students will do internships, workshops, and shadowing; and creating a manual for how to start and run a HealthCORE chapter so that the program can be easily replicated.
“We’ll happily work with other Schweitzer Fellows or health professions students who wish to establish a chapter as we expand,” said Mattson.
Reflecting on his Fellowship experience, Mattson expressed deep appreciation for the chance to learn what it takes to conceive and implement an effective service project.
“ASF taught me so much about the organization, drive, and courage needed to sustain a project. You always have to be three steps ahead to keep a program evolving, but the students’ dedication to their work sustains our team and keeps us fighting for their success,” Mattson said. “The constant innovation and teaching invested in HealthCORE have been the keys to my happiness, as they remind me why I pursued medicine in the first place.”