Creating Opportunity for the Health Care Leaders of Tomorrow – The Summer Health Professions Education Program

Their passion for health care is boundless.  Some want to pursue nursing.  Others, medicine or dentistry.  But they all want to change the lives of underserved communities. 

For six weeks, 80 students from communities underrepresented in health care, came to UCLA to participate in the Summer Health Professions Education Program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. During this intensive six-week program, they worked with expert faculty and staff who were eager to mentor students and share their knowledge.  They heard about real-world health problems and patient experiences, attended lectures and participated in small-group discussions and activities.  They learned study skills and received coaching on how to interview and successfully apply for degree programs in their areas of interest. 

And when the six weeks had ended, the participants had a much better understanding of the urgent need for health care professionals in medically underserved communities and of the educational pathways that can lead to providing care to underserved populations. 

The Nurse Experience

The UCLA School of Nursing was one of seven nursing schools across the country participating in the SHPEP program.  Twenty of the scholars were nursing students. 

Anita Bralock, prelicensure program director at the School of Nursing, explained the value of SHPEP:  “This program provides the students with the confidence they need to pursue their dreams of a career in nursing or other health care professions. They start the program tentatively and end with new knowledge, skills and enthusiasm to apply for future education in nursing, as an RN, a nurse practitioner or a nurse researcher working to improve health disparities.”

Dr. Lazar teaching SHPEP students

One of the most exciting experiences for the students took place in the simulation lab at the School. The students rotated through three stations, learning about physical assessments and bedside observations.  But the station with the most reaction was the live birth mannequin.  The students stood in awe as the mannequin simulated labor and actually gave birth.  One dental student even proclaimed “I’m changing to become an Ob/GYN!”

Dr. Bralock instructs SHPEP students with live birth manikin
Dr. Bralock demonstrates live birth manikin


The program concluded with an interdisciplinary team presentation focusing on a health disparity issue. Sixteen projects addressed challenges such as preventing the spread of infectious diseases in prisons, improving health outcomes of patients with lung cancer, reducing the stigma of mental health, suicide prevention on Indian reservations and educating the Latino undocumented immigrant community about available healthcare options.  

“With the interdisciplinary experience, the students got a better perspective of the team effort needed in health care,” added Bralock.  “We all depend on each other.  It was important for the students to learn about each other’s field.”

Following the graduation, where students received a certificate of completion, two of the nursing students shared their appreciation for the program with Bralock:

Kristian Punu, CUNY Lehman College: “I personally thank you, Dr. Bralock, from the bottom of my heart.  Thanks for being a friend, mentor and mother figure for me during those six weeks at UCLA.  You have been an excellent role model for all of us.  I am inspired to follow your footsteps as an amazing nurse and take on the responsibility of putting the nursing profession as a pivotal and essential part of the healthcare field.”

Jarad Barrow at SHPEP graduation

Jarad Barrow, George Mason University: “Thank you so much for the opportunity to work with you while I was attending SHPEP. Your journey through the field of Nursing is one that encourages me to continue. Your dedication, hard-work and resilience, to accomplish anything, is inspiring to the up and coming nurses of tomorrow. Your time and effort dedicated to SHPEP’18 will not be taken for granted. Instead, it will be utilized as fuel for us all to remain steadfast in our careers to achieve success.