Energy, Excitement and Engagement: EMSSP Homecoming Weekend 2019

Students and alumni of the Early Medical School Selection Program (EMSSP) spent the final days of summer in Boston for a memorable homecoming weekend, sponsored by the BUSM Alumni Association. EMSSP alumni traveled from Washington, D.C., North Carolina, South Carolina and parts of Massachusetts to attend the second annual event.

EMSSP is a nationally recognized, early assurance program that provides a supportive environment for a gradual transition into the medical school curriculum during the summer terms after sophomore and junior years as well as the final undergraduate year. Students who meet all program requirements can expect to be promoted to Boston University School of Medicine upon completion of their undergraduate education. There are now 13 participating colleges and universities within this pipeline.

Today, BUSM’s EMSSP program includes 27 undergraduate students and 31 medical students enrolled, and more than 85 alumni (tracked since 2010). Developed in 1982 with a consortium of historically black colleges and universities, the program has since expanded to include partnerships with schools that have large Latino and Pacific Island populations.

The weekend kicked off Friday, Sept. 20, with an evening reception at Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen – bursting with reflections, recognition, mingling and music.

The next morning, students and alumni gathered for breakfast, an open-mic discussion and roundtable chats. Facilitated by Jean E. Ramsey, MD ’90, MPH ‘08; along with EMSSP Program Director Samantha Kaplan, MD, MPH; alumni Drs. Dallas Reed, ’10; Michael Harrell, ’14; Jason Sherer, ’16; and current student Vinson Cobb, ’22, attendees discussed a wide-range of topics, including:

  • transitioning from student to doctor,
  • enhancing wellness in residencies,
  • focusing and pushing yourself,
  • handling microaggressions,
  • improving financial literacy, and
  • finding ways to balance and recharge yourself.

“This weekend is special because it gives current students an opportunity to network, unencumbered, with alumni young and old. We can get to know the younger students, build connections with them, and try to pass on some of the lessons we learned in an effort that they don’t have to jump as high over those hurdles as we did,” said Dr. Harrell, an ophthalmology resident at BMC.

Second-year student Vinson is helping lead the current student initiative: “It’s great to have people like Michael come back, share knowledge with us, and have that open-door communication, whether it’s call, email or text, or even walk over if they’re local.”

Following the honest open mic, attendees shared lunch by specialty, ranging from ophthalmology to family medicine.

On Sunday, students and alumni regrouped for a farewell brunch, complete with dancing and a DJ, and a special musical interlude by Lance Martin. Long-time EMSSP staff member Malissia Evans was honored and presented with a special photo album to recognize her compassion, hard work and lasting impact on the program for the past 35 years.

JoAnn Thomas-Lewis, ’20, the Kenneth C. Edelin, MD, Scholarship recipient from the US Virgin Islands, recalled how her parents encouraged her to go to medical school but the thought of the debt was daunting. She told the crowd how grateful she was for the financial assistance: “EMSSP changed my life forever, changed my life for the better. You enter as a stranger, but leave with real lifelong friends and family.”

Summer may have come to an end on this weekend, but the EMSSP program will continue its efforts to prepare students for medical school and create a supportive network of peers year round.

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