Summer program empowering diverse students to pursue health care

Each summer, students from across the country journey to UCLA for the Summer Health Professions Education Program, or SHPEP, a free enrichment program designed to improve access to information and resources for college students interested in health care.

More than 70 students, many who are the first in their families to go to college, took part in the 2022 program. Funded by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, SHPEP’s goal is to strengthen the academic proficiency and career development of students underrepresented in the health professions and prepare them for a successful application and matriculation to health professions schools.

SHPEP students working with a simulation mannequin

Jointly administered by the UCLA School of Nursing, David Geffen School of Medicine, and School of Dentistry, the six-week program helps students gain a better understanding of the urgent need for health care professionals in medically underserved communities.

“The program provides the students with the confidence they need to pursue their dreams of a career in nursing or other health care professions,” said Anita Bralock, PhD, RN, CNM, director of the UCLA School of Nursing’s prelicensure programs and a co-principal investigator for the program. “They start the program tentatively and end with new knowledge, skills and enthusiasm to apply for future education in nursing, as an RN, a nurse practitioner or a nurse researcher working to improve health disparities.”

The program gives students the chance to connect with expert faculty and staff, learn about real-world health challenges and patient outcomes, participate in small-group discussions, and gain vital hands-on learning experiences. They also learn study skills and receive coaching on how to apply and interview for degree programs in their areas. 

“My academic advisor suggested the program as a way to gain some experience before I apply to a post-baccalaureate nursing program,” said Dai’Mion Banks, a student at Grand Valley State University. “This experience has really reconfirmed my want to pursue nursing and help people.”

“I joined this program because I have very limited opportunities like this back home,” said Nneka Mbeledogu, a student at Kennesaw State University who will begin a nursing program in the fall. “I don’t have access to any mentors in health care, so this was a great opportunity to step outside my community and make connections with people who can help guide me.” 

Mbeledogu, along with Banks and more than a dozen other participating students on the nursing track, got to engage with UCLA Nursing faculty and staff throughout the program. Students had the chance to visit the School of Nursing’s Skills & Simulation Lab and got up-close with a variety of simulated learning experiences. 

For Lab Director Jihan Ceyhan, MSN, RN, AGPCNP-BC, HNP, the visit is an opportunity to help inspire tomorrow’s nurses. 

“At the UCLA School of Nursing, we’re fortunate to have access to state-of-the-art tools and resources along with some of the world’s foremost experts on nursing,” she said. “To be able to open our doors and provide these opportunities to students who may otherwise not have access is truly validating.” 

“This has been an amazing experience,” Mbeledogu said. “It has really reignited my passion for health care and for nursing and has inspired me to continue to pursue internships back home.”

Learn more about SHPEP

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