Website paves path for minorities in medicine

Grady

After mentoring minorities and underprivileged students during their time at Winston-Salem State University, Ja’Pel Sumpter and Cynthia Grady decided there must be a way to reach more undergraduates who have questions about applying to medical school.

In January, the two teamed up with the Medical University of South Carolina and launched their website, pavedpath.musc.edu.

The Paved Path movement is designed to help students better understand the requirements and expectations that come when applying for medical school.

Through the site, students can access general information on all colleges where they could obtain a doctorate of medicine. So far, about 60 students are using it.

The site is free and open to everyone, but geared toward minority students, Grady said.

A 2010 report by the Association of American Medical Colleges indicates 75 percent of all doctors are white, even though U.S. Census data from the same year shows minorities make up more than 36 percent of the population.

The problem in South Carolina is more pronounced.

A 2014 report published by the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services said “the demographics of the physician workforce in South Carolina do not reflect the racial composition of South Carolina’s population.”

In 2009, 5.8 percent of physicians in South Carolina identified as African-American, in a state where 28 percent of residents are black.

“There is a shortage of minorities in medicine and so this is really about doing what we can to bring more minorities to the field,” Grady said.

For now, MUSC is the only university that allows students to interact with school officials and enrolled medical students on the Paved Path website. Sumpter added that they would like more schools in the Carolinas to sign up for the feature.

In addition to the interactive service, students can create a profile and update their accomplishments and resumes, as well as take notes on information they’ve learned about colleges.

Grady said they hope word will spread so that aspiring doctors begin using the site as college freshmen. By the time they’re ready for medical school, students would have all the necessary information to make an informed decision, she said.

MUSC funded the site and was eager to team with Sumpter, who graduated in 2015 from the MUSC College of Medicine. Sumpter said the school has been supportive of the project because MUSC is committed to diversity.

“MUSC is very nurturing and open to new ideas. They serve a diverse group and they’ve been a big part of this effort,” Sumpter said.

Dr. Pat Cawley, Medical University Hospital CEO, said the website’s mission is “in sync with MUSC goals” and added that he believes the effort will be successful because Sumpter and Grady are dedicated to it.

Sumpter added, “We need more doctors who can relate to their patients through cultural sensitivity and cultural competency. This website will help bring more people who embody those qualities into the field of medicine.”

As they work on the site, both Grady and Sumpter are enrolled in residency programs. After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine, Grady is now practicing at Louisiana State University. Sumpter is a resident at Duke University.

Reach Derrek Asberry at 843-937-5517. Follow him on Twitter @DerrekAsberry