Rural students gain glimpse of medical career

By Will Aaron

Joseph Brown witnessed the miracle of life as a UK undergrad and knew he wanted to be a doctor.

“You’ll never forget the sight of a baby being born or your first time in the gross anatomy lab,” said Brown, a second-year medical student.

His experiences were part of the Professional Education Preparation Program, offered by UK’s dental and medical schools.

PEPP gives high school seniors and undergraduates from medically underserved towns in the state a chance to interact with dentists and physicians for four weeks, observing the daily tasks in the students’ future fields.

By working with students from small towns, the program coordinators hope to encourage them to return to their rural homes and set up practices, said Carol Leslie, director and principle investigator of PEPP.

Brown participated in PEPP as a high school student and an undergrad. The experiences helped develop his passion for medicine and reaffirmed his decision to become a physician, he said. The Wayne Country native said he plans to practice medicine back home after he finishes medical school.

“Physicians from the area who know the everyday lives of their patients have an insight that is invaluable in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients,” he said.

Since the program launched in 1982, it has “developed a family of support, with past program participants giving back with their time and insights,” Leslie said.

Students in the program are involved in hospital rotations, health seminars and informative program-based lectures.

“It was a chance to speak with real role models, individuals who were in the field and who could answer all my questions,” Brown said. It also helps students network with helpful contacts, he said.

The second phase of the program, PEPP II, offers a greater in-depth examination of a physician’s career demands, allowing scholars to observe childbirth, emergency medicine and outpatient surgeries, Brown said. Those PEPP II students interested in dentistry are allowed on dental clinic rotations, where they can observe oral and maxillofacial surgeries as well as emergency dental procedures.

The program designed for undergraduates also explains the detailed application process for dental and medical schools and how individual students can choose the right school for them.

“PEPP II showed me exactly how to achieve my dream,” Brown said.

Students interested in either program can contact Leslie at (859) 257-1968 for more information. The application deadline for high school seniors is March 3 and the deadline for undergraduates is March 7.