Supporting First-Generation and Low-Income Students at Michigan Medical School

3:37 PM

Author | Courtney Kein & Jourdin Batchelor

Hello! We're Courtney and Jourdin, two M4s who have finished interviewing (for EM and OB/GYN -- wish us luck in the Match!) and who spend a lot of time together as Smoker Musical Dance Demi-Czars, Biorhythms choreographers, baby animal parents, foodies, and close friends. 

We also both happen to be first-generation, low-income (FGLI) students. 

Though definitions may vary across institutions, most define a first-generation student as someone for whom neither parent has a Bachelor's degree. Low-income students are often identified by eligibility for Pell Grants -- grants the federal government provides as part of financial aid for undergraduate students meeting an income threshold. As you can imagine, there is often overlap between these groups. Approximately 12% of our medical school community identifies as first-gen, and multiple students hail from low-income backgrounds. As M4s, we know how difficult it can be to navigate the new environment of medical school, especially without loved ones who can provide guidance. We both have struggled, lacking the social capital (and more often than we'd like, monetary capital) necessary to thrive in medicine's typically affluent environment.  

Though already friends for years, we actually didn't know of each other's FGLI identities until it came time to share our Impact Project ideas with the rest of our class. Here at Michigan, everyone completes a Capstone for Impact. This project can be anything. From research to workshops -- your only limitation is your imagination. The school administration is extremely supportive from both a mentorship and financial perspective to really help students leave something behind at Michigan. 

Both of us hoped to spend the Branches, our third and fourth year curriculum, helping to improve the experience of both prospective and current FGLI students through targeted programming and mentorship. We were thrilled to find out that we both had a shared experience and could combine our efforts. With help from some amazingly invested Admissions Office friends (shoutout to Carol and Becky!) and our fantastic mentor Dr. Okanlami (check him out on twitter!-- @okanlami), our little passion project has really taken off.

FGLI students brainstorming ideas for support!

FGLI students brainstorming ideas for support!

 

We have been so excited to see the level of support from various offices across the school, and the level of engagement of our fellow FGLI students. This engagement has been instrumental in our progress, as we used student opinions gathered from focus groups and surveys to drive our efforts. From the insight of students, we have been able to establish outreach to prospective students and send representatives to Admissions events, work with the school to secure funding and resources for FGLI students, work on consolidating the existing resources into a more visible format, and we have just recently launched a peer mentorship program. This last effort is particularly near and dear to our hearts as we both remember the loneliness that can come from trying to overcome the challenges of being FGLI in medical school when you feel like you are alone in the struggles you're experiencing. We hope that this will provide a first step to establishing a flourishing FGLI community at Michigan, where people feel they can be open with these often invisible identities. 

More recently, we've been trying to ensure sustainability -- at UMMS, at the University of Michigan more broadly, and nationally. We have been very deliberate in our efforts to identify underclassmen who can carry on and expand our project at the Medical School, to ensure that students will continue to benefit from these efforts after we graduate (In May! So soon!). Earlier this week, we attended a First Gen Community Dinner for students across the undergraduate and various graduate schools, which gave us further opportunities to network and build relationships with people on campus who are passionate about these issues. We are also currently working with students from several medical schools across the nation to develop a national FGLI organization.

© Copyright 1995-2024 Regents of the University of Michigan
Media Contact Public Relations

Department of Communication at Michigan Medicine

[email protected]

734-764-2220

Stay Informed

Want top health & research news weekly? Sign up for Health Lab’s newsletters today!

Subscribe
Featured News & Stories Toddler Martina smiling.
Philanthropy News
Rallying Together to Support Childhood Cancer Awareness and Research
September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, a time to recognize the impact of pediatric cancer and highlight the importance of research and patient programs.
blood pressure cuff on mans arm with white coat doctor taking it
Health Lab
Blood pressure high for years? Beware of stroke risk
A study led by Michigan Medicine narrows in on the cumulative effects of years of high systolic blood pressure — the top number on the blood pressure reading and how hard the heart pumps blood to the arteries — finding that a higher average reading during adulthood is linked with a greater risk for the two most common types of stroke.
bottle cap red
Health Lab
Bipolar disorder and alcohol: It’s not as simple as 'self-medication'
People with bipolar disorder have a high risk of alcohol use issues, which have been seen as “self medication,” but a study shows that changes in drinking predict worse symptoms.
Hernandez
Department News
The Department of Pharmacology welcomes Dr. Ciria Quintero Hernandez!
The Department of Pharmacology welcomes Dr. Ciria Quintero Hernandez!
Left to right: Surbhi Gupta (University of Michigan), Laura Mike (University of Pittsburgh), Harry Mobley (University of Michigan), Melanie Pearson (University of Michigan), Chelsie Armbruster (SUNY Buffalo), and Allyson Shea (University of South Alabama)
Department News
Harry Mobley receives a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Urinary Tract Infection Global Alliance (UTIGA)
Harry Mobley receives the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 5th Clinical and Scientific Advances in Urinary Tract Infections held July 19-21 in Columbus, Ohio
Headshots of two new Genetics Training Program members
Department News
Graduate students Ross Kaufhold and Ben Pockrass chosen for training program positions
Two Biological Chemistry graduate students receive positions in the Genetics Training Program for the 2024–2025 academic year.