Lacy Manuelito grew up in Fort Defiance, Arizona, on the Navajo Nation, knowing that she wanted to be a doctor. The first in her family to graduate from college, she holds a bachelor’s degree in family relations and human development from the University of New Mexico.
Now married with a 3-year-old daughter, she is gearing up for the medical school admissions test that will determine whether her dream will come true. Manuelito is one of 10 students enrolled in a new program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine — Tucson to help some of the brightest and most deserving students reach their goal of becoming doctors.
Called P-MAP, for Pre-Medical Admissions Pathway, the one-year program is open to students who have not had the educational and economic advantages that help students get accepted to medical school and cope with its rigorous curriculum. Yet their character, commitment and academic record make them outstanding candidates. P-MAP was launched in May by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the UA College of Medicine — Tucson.
“We know these students are very bright,” says Dr. Francisco Moreno, deputy dean for diversity and inclusion. “We know they are going to serve their communities well. We know they are going to be awesome role models. They just may not have had the opportunities or the different kinds of experiences that our admissions committee wants to see.”
P-MAP is open to students who are Arizona residents, with preference given to those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged, first-generation college students, from rural or border communities, or enrolled in Indian tribes. Preference also is given to students who speak Spanish or Navajo, the most commonly spoken Native American language in Arizona. Most P-MAP students meet more than one of these criteria.
Students who complete the P-MAP coursework and score highly on the medical college admissions test are guaranteed admission to the UA College of Medicine — Tucson in August 2015.
P-MAP illustrates the college’s strong emphasis on increasing the diversity of its students. Two of the first 10 students are immigrants from Africa, three are Hispanic, three are Native American, and two are Native American and Hispanic.
Of all the under-represented minority groups, Native Americans face the most severe shortage of physicians, says Dr. Carlos Gonzales, professor of family and community medicine and assistant dean for medical student education, who is of Mexican and Pascua Yaqui descent. The first in his family to go to college, Gonzales is the mentor for P-MAP students.
“There is tremendous need for Native American physicians who understand the culture and are sensitive to the needs of the population,” he says. “In my view, this is one of the best things this college has ever done.”
Says Manuelito: “I definitely want to go back to the (Navajo) reservation. The turnover rate of doctors on the reservation is very frustrating. There is very little continuity of care, and that’s been my motivation for wanting to be a doctor there.”
Sylvestor Moses, a member of the San Carlos Apache tribe, is a single parent with a 10-year-old son, joint doctorates from the UA in biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology, and experience in cancer research. He now wants to be a doctor.
“I believe that in becoming a physician, I not only can provide health care to my San Carlos Apache community, but I can serve as a role model for our Apache youth,” he says.
Moses was accepted for P-MAP because he has been out of school for several years and, despite his research background, he has had no opportunity to volunteer in a clinical setting — experience that medical school applicants are expected to have. He also will mentor the P-MAP students who are studying for a health-related master’s degree — an important asset for students wanting to enter medical school.
Marisela Mariscal is a member of New Mexico’s Pueblo Laguna tribe and also of Hispanic descent. Raised in Tucson, she is the first in her family to get a college education, holding a bachelor’s degree in physiology from the UA. She has known since high school that she wanted to be a doctor.
“I am interested in working on Native reservations, but I’m passionate about working with underserved populations in general,” Mariscal says. “Too many people can’t afford to get treated or get regular checkups. I experienced that growing up.”
P-MAP is funded in part through a U.S. Health Resources Services Administration grant that pays for a counselor and other needed staff and makes some scholarships possible. Donors will be critically important to P-MAP.
“All 10 of our students are very desirable applicants for medical school,” Moreno says, “but we don’t have enough money to provide scholarships for all our students.”
The Tucson-based Stoklos Family Foundation has provided scholarships for the college’s Native American students for more than 12 years — and has provided scholarships for some of P-MAP’s first 10 students.
“I think this is a great investment in our future,” Michael Stoklos says.
Additional support will be needed when the P-MAP students enroll in the UA College of Medicine — Tucson. For some of the Native American students, financial aid will come from their tribes or the U.S. Indian Health Service. But all 10 P-MAP students will be pressed to cover the cost of their medical education — which will amount to $150,000 or more by the time they graduate in 2019. Student loans are an option, but they impose a huge debt on new doctors.
Larry Testasecca of Louisville, Ky., loves Arizona and is a passionate supporter of Native American students who attend the UA and want to enter medicine and other health-related professions. He also is a P-MAP supporter.
“I believe this is not a handout but a hand up for these young students,” he says. “I am honored to be a donor to this program.”
For more information about P-MAP, visit the www.medicine.arizona.edu/pmap. To learn how you can help support P-MAP, contact the UA College of Medicine Office of Development, 520-626-2827, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.