Discusses the findings from an evaluation of the SMDEP, a free, six-week residential science enrichment program offered during the summer to rising college sophomores and juniors of minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged background who are interested in attending medical or dental school; and the outcomes of students who participated.

“SMDEP…is a free, six-week residential science enrichment program offered during the summer to rising college sophomores and juniors of minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged background who are interested in attending medical or dental school. The immediate goal of the program is to help these students become more competitive applicants to medical and dental schools, with the ultimate goal of increasing the number of successful applicants from underrepresented groups and eventually diversifying the medical and dental labor force” (p.vii).

 

“In late 2012, RWJF commissioned an external evaluation of SMDEP. Conducted by Mathematica, the evaluation was designed to contribute to the existing research by providing rigorous evidence of program effectiveness under the current SMDEP model (implemented since 2006) and by helping to identify the critical components of the program in order to facilitate replication efforts.

 

To align with these two evaluation objectives, Mathematica’s mixed-methods evaluation included two components. The first was formative; [the authors] used qualitative methods to learn about the characteristics and key components of the program as implemented by different institutions. The second was summative; [the authors] used a quasi-experimental design through propensity score matching methods to assess the impact of SMDEP on key expected student outcomes…by comparing average outcomes for SMDEP participants to those of a group of similar students who did not participate in the program. In subgroup analyses, [the authors] modeled outcomes by institutional and individual characteristics of interest, such as the type of program offered (medical-only versus medical and dental), the academic and pedagogical approaches adopted, and participants’ gender, ethnicity, and home institution (two- versus four-year)” (p. vii-viii).

 

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Major Findings & Recommendations

“The study relied on data from several sources, including student applications to SMDEP (collected from the National Program Office), applications to medical and dental school (collected from AAMC and the American Dental Education Association), student enrollment in and graduation from postsecondary institutions (collected from the National Student Clearinghouse), SMDEP project directors (collected through telephone interviews), and SMDEP staff, collaborators, and students (collected during site visits). Descriptive findings: 1. The program has become increasingly competitive. Applications grew by 32 percent between 2006 and 2012, and enrollment targets remained fixed at 80 students per site, causing sites to experience a decline in enrollment rates, from 18 percent in 2006 to 13 percent in 2012. 2. The program has succeeded in reaching the target student population. It selects students who are more likely than nonparticipants to be from a minority group, report low family income levels, have parents who have not completed college, and self-identify as disadvantaged. Students from two-year colleges are not, however, likely to participate in SMDEP (only 7 percent of participants and nonparticipants come from such colleges). 3. The majority of participants stay on the path to a potential career in health. The vast majority of participants earn bachelor’s degrees in a health- or science-related field, and, within one to four years of obtaining their degree (depending on the cohort), more than half apply to medical or dental school. Specifically: a. Over 80 percent of participants obtain a bachelor’s degree. b. More than two-thirds (67 percent) obtain a bachelor’s degree in a science- or health-related field. c. More than half (55 percent) apply to medical or dental school. d. More than one-third (38 percent) matriculate in medical or dental school. In other words, for every 10 students who participate in SMDEP, about 8 obtain a bachelor’s degree, 6 apply to medical or dental school, and 4 matriculate in medical or dental school. Of the approximately 60 percent who do not matriculate in medical or dental school within four to six years of program participation, the majority obtain a bachelor’s degree in a health- or science-related field (64 percent), and some obtain a master’s degree (14 percent)” (p. ix-x). “Key findings: • The program has succeeded in reaching the target student population…. • The majority of participants stay on the path to a potential career in health…. • The program helps diversify dental and medical professional schools…. • Implementing sites are more likely to admit former SMDEP participants to their medical schools…. • Positive program impacts cannot generally be attributed to institutional or individual characteristics, but the leadership approach and level of faculty engagement influence outcomes. • Self-confidence and self-efficacy are leveraged as mechanisms of change” (p.53-54). “This study led to some expected findings (the program has a positive impact on dental school outcomes) and some unexpected ones (new sites are as effective as existing ones). These findings have implications for the future implementation and possible scale-up of SMDEP in medical and dental professions but potentially in other health-related fields as well” (p. 55). (Abstractor: Author)