Presidential award goes to Stanford science program for minority, low-income high school students

Marilyn Winkleby

Marilyn Winkleby

A program that for nearly a quarter of a century has given low-income and under-represented minority students hands-on training in science and medicine at Stanford University is now receiving national recognition for its success.

The Stanford Medical Youth Science Program today was named as a 2011 recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring. The award, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government for mentoring in these fields, carries a $25,000 prize from the National Science Foundation to help further SMYSP’s efforts.

Today’s announcement covered the 2010 and 2011 award winners; in addition to SMYSP, 16 other organizations and teachers were honored. The awards will be presented at a White House ceremony later this year.

“We are thrilled that Stanford and the School of Medicine — whose students, faculty and staff have been instrumental to our success — are being recognized by this wonderful award,” said Marilyn Winkleby, PhD, professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center.

Winkleby founded SMYSP in 1988 with two pre-med students, and has since served as its faculty director. Each year, 10 Stanford undergraduates oversee the summer residential program.

SMYSP focuses on low-income and under-represented minority high school students from northern and central California. Those who are selected receive full tuition for the five-week program on the university campus. During that time, participants are immersed in science and medicine through a broad curriculum that includes anatomy classes in the human cadaver lab; hospital internships; group research projects; lectures by prominent scientists and physicians; college admissions and standardized test preparation; and long-term guidance to aid them on their path to science and health professions.

“SMYSP reaches students who may feel they are not academically competitive and promotes confidence and awareness of their capabilities in science and medicine,” said executive director Judith Ned, EdD.

And the program’s results are impressive. More than 80 percent of its 547 alumni have graduated from four-year colleges, many of them the first in their family to do so. Among SMYSP’s college graduates, 47 percent are attending or have completed medical or graduate school, and 43 percent are working as or training to become health professionals.

“We have learned that the greatest value of SMYSP is that it addresses educational inequities by encouraging students to thrive at prestigious universities like Stanford and fulfill their potential in the sciences and medicine,” Winkleby said.

Charles Prober, MD, the school’s senior associate dean for medical education, said the program’s track record of success in helping students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees “borders almost on the unbelievable. I don’t know of any other program in the country that compares with what SMYSP has done.”


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