dr Miguel Escanelle has always loved science.
He recalls excelling in his science and math courses as an elementary school student in Cuba while struggling with Spanish. When he was 9 years old, his father left Cuba for the Dominican Republic and he and his mother were left alone.
After his mother lost her job as a special education teacher, they applied for asylum, waited a year for a visa, and arrived in Homestead in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina. He was 15 and entered Coral Gables Senior High in his sophomore year. stay there until graduation.
He then enrolled at Miami Dade College, where he majored in physics and engineering, believing the University of Miami was a dream school only for people with money. He earned his associate’s degree from MDC; In 2013 he received his bachelor’s degree in physics from Florida International University.
Well, Escanelle, 32, is a practicing cardiac anesthesiologist with a medical degree from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. He credits the University of Miami’s Medical Scholars Program, a summer program that prepares underserved students for medical school, with the support system to succeed.
Without the program, he said, he probably would have become an engineer. At one point in his education, his adviser had even suggested that he become a general contractor, something he had never shown any interest in.
UM, MDC partnership
Earlier this month, Miami Dade College and UM announced they were forming a new partnership to ensure more MDC students can participate in Medical Scholars’ summer program. The Faculty of Medicine and the MDC signed an agreement that guarantees qualified MDC students a place in the Medical Scholars program.
The program accepts around 120 students each year and is free. The program mentors students and helps them with scholarship applications, room, board, and transportation stipends. Students apply with a letter of motivation and the sending of certificates and letters of recommendation.
dr Henri Ford, the dean of the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, hopes the program will change the face of medicine and represent a step toward greater equity in healthcare.
“This program is hope for the future; it’s important to the community,” he said.
The medical scholars live in dormitories at the University of Miami in Coral Gables and take rigorous courses at the medical school, which is located near Jackson Memorial Hospital. Escanelle remembers immunology, biochemistry, human physiology and bioethics.
The program is rigorous, and students “have to be willing to make that contract with themselves,” Escanelle said.
Even after going through the program, Escanelle had a moment of doubt. Going to medical school and pursuing his dream of becoming a doctor would mean attending 14 years of school, including his undergraduate studies, time during which he could earn money to support his mother.
dr Nanette Vega, assistant professor of medical education and associate dean for the Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion at the medical school, encouraged Escanelle to persevere. She offered him a summer job in her office to prepare students for the MCAT, the exams required to enter medical school, encouraging Escanelle to stay true to his dream of becoming an anesthesiologist.
“There were so many times I thought I could give up and find support,” Escanelle said.
shortage of doctors
Projections put a statewide physician shortage of 37,000 to 124,000 by 2034, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. The shortage is most acute among black and Hispanic doctors. In 2019, just under 6 percent of U.S. physicians identified as Hispanic, and just 5 percent as Black, according to the association.
“These are statistics that we need to change,” Ford said.
Students in the Medical Scholars program often say to Vega, “This is the first time I’ve met a black doctor,” she said. As a student from Colombia embarrassed by her accent, Vega assured her it would be an asset to the medical profession.
Soon after, the student was using her Spanish to soothe a Spanish-speaking patient while shadowing a doctor who only spoke English.
“The most important thing the program did for me was make me realize that it’s possible, and it also showed me what it takes to make it happen,” Escanelle said.
Comfort level with doctor who speaks your language
Studies show that having a healthcare provider who is of the same race or speaks the same language as a patient means the patient is more likely to agree to preventative treatment. However, according to a 2021 Health Care Reform Surveillance Survey, only 23 percent of Hispanic and Hispanic patients said their health care provider spoke to them in the language they preferred.
“I can’t tell you how many times I walked into a patient’s room and they were scared. You do not speak English. But when I communicate with them in Spanish, they feel much more comfortable and open up. They get surgery knowing that behind the scenes there are people who look like them who will support them,” Escanelle said.
Madeline Pumariega, the president of Miami Dade College, said the program will transform people’s lives.
Sixty percent of Miami’s high school graduates who go to college enroll at Miami Dade College, and she’s pleased that the door to medical school is opening more easily for them.
At the recent launch of the partnership, Escanelle apologized to the crowd for not preparing a speech as he had just completed a 16-hour shift at the Jackson Memorial.
He joked about switching from physics to medicine because “he likes talking to people, not machines.”
But then he reached out to the students at Miami Dade Honors College who participate in the program and told them they make as much, if not more, than other medical school students.
“If I can do it, you can all do it,” he said. “For me it’s personal. When I look at these students, I see myself.”