Today, only 4.4% of practicing urologists identify as Hispanic/LatinX, 2.4% as Black/African-American and 10.9% as female. These numbers lag far behind the demographics of the urology patient population.
To address the disparity between the urological workforce and the needs of urology patients, there have been great strides to develop mentorship programs within urology. Working in a urology clinic as a medical student, you quickly learn that urology requires creating a safe space in the clinic to discuss topics that can often be stigmatizing such as incontinence and sex. We both got involved in UroVersity leadership during our second year of medical school because of the persistent racial disparities in urological diseases and believe that every patient should have an opportunity to receive care from a provider that they feel comfortable with.
UroVersity is a student-led, multi-level mentorship program that aims to increase diversity, equity and inclusion within the field of urology. This program was created by Dr. Kristian Black, a PGY-3 in the Department of Urology, to address the lack of representation and opportunities for underrepresented groups in urology and other surgical specialties.
Each year, we welcome a handful of students from underrepresented ethnic/racial backgrounds, low-income backgrounds and students who identify as LGBTQ+ to engage in a longitudinal mentorship program. Students are provided with mentorship and guidance starting in their first year of medical school from both faculty and resident mentors and maintain these connections throughout their time here at the University of Michigan Medical School. Through the program, students have an opportunity to explore the field of urology and connect with mentors who can provide them with guidance and support as they navigate medical school and The Match.
In addition, UroVersity provides opportunities for students to gain hands-on experience and exposure to the field. This includes structured shadowing opportunities in the clinic and the operating room prior to starting clerkship year, and a skills-based curriculum so students can excel on their first day of their surgical rotation. These opportunities allow students to develop a deeper understanding of what life as a urologist looks like. UroVersity also works with students and faculty to provide opportunities for research, and several of our second-year students have presented at urological conferences. These experiences allow students to develop relationships within urology while also increasing their competitiveness for the Match.
In 2022, UroVersity also worked to increase DEI efforts within the medical education pipeline by working with the Black Undergraduate Medical Association (BUMA). BUMA and UroVersity partnered to set up a surgery open house event, where undergraduate students met with faculty and residents from surgical sub-specialties including urology, ENT and orthopedics. This event helped introduce BUMA students to surgical specialties and dispelled misconceptions that could prevent students from pursuing these careers. UroVersity’s mission is to increase student awareness of the field of urology, and our hope is to continue to provide opportunities for students at both the undergraduate and medical school level.
UroVersity is just one program within the Department of Urology that seeks to improve diversity, equity and inclusion. We are grateful to our mentors and the Department of Urology DEI Task Force for their continued support of our program. Our structured mentorship program, along with the guidance and opportunities that it provides, will help diversify the urology workforce and help our students make informed decisions about their careers. By increasing representation within our field, we hope to bring new perspectives, ideas and solutions to the table to improve patient care and address significant health care disparities.
Laura Zebib is a third-year medical student at the University of Michigan. She was born and raised in South Florida where she completed her undergraduate studies in biology and public health, and graduate training in geospatial technology at the University of Miami. She then went on to pursue a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology and Forced Migration at Columbia University. While in medical school, she became deeply passionate about increasing the workforce diversity within urology. She is the current UroVersity Co-Coordinator and hopes to expand the services and support UroVersity can offer their students. Her research interests include applying GIS systems and QI tools to understand disparities in urological disease, incarceration and health, and refugee health. In her free time, she enjoys shopping for vintage clothing, backpacking and cooking.
Sarosh Irani is a third-year medical student at the University of Michigan. Originally from Metro Detroit, MI, he holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Public Health and a Bachelor’s of Public Affairs from Wayne State University. At UroVersity, he serves as the mentorship and curriculum coordinator, where he helps set up mentorship, shadowing and research opportunities for the M1s and M2s. Sarosh also sits on both the Student Council and Student Diversity Council, where he advocates for increased representation of a diverse student body and an emphasis on mental health and wellness. His academic interests include disparities in access to urologic care and the health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. In his free time, Sarosh enjoys good coffee shops, urban photography and traveling.
Josh Goyert and Hana Murphy are on the leadership team for Doctors of Tomorrow, a partnership between Cass Technical High School and the University of Michigan Medical School focused on exposing underrepresented minority students in Detroit to careers in medicine and providing mentorship to help them pursue this path.
When applying to medical school in the summer of 2019, we didn’t really know what to expect from our M1 year, but we certainly did not anticipate what this past year has held. The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically altered nearly every facet of our daily lives. The traditions of how we work, learn, and live have all been upended by this virus. Yet, while COVID-19 has been challenging for all of us, it has certainly not been equally difficult for each of us. This virus has disproportionately impacted minority populations, with Black and Hispanic communities being drastically overrepresented in both hospitalizations and deaths. COVID-19 has compounded America’s existing health disparities and serves as another powerful reminder of how much more work there is to be done in addressing them.
Prior to medical school, we both really enjoyed our work in youth mentorship and wanted to stay involved through programs that advanced equal opportunity in medicine. We know we wouldn’t be at UMMS without the caring and selfless mentors in our lives and hoped to find a way to pay it forward and support a more diverse generation of physicians. Our shared passion for mentorship and our goal to help patch medicine’s leaky pipeline led us to Doctors of Tomorrow (DoT).
DoT is a partnership between Cass Technical High School and the University of Michigan Medical School designed to increase representation in medicine by providing students from underrepresented communities mentorship and exposure to the field. DoT is split into three main cohorts: DoT Foundations (9th & 10th grade), DoT Rising (11th & 12th grade), and DoT Succeed (program alumni who matriculate at the University of Michigan for undergrad). Each cohort meets virtually twice a month where they might learn from a cardiologist teaching about heart disease, a surgeon hosting an interactive suture session, or medical students demystifying the path to medical school. Students also meet regularly with their medical student mentors and work in groups on longitudinal capstone projects to solve community health issues. The goal of these sessions is to expose students to different fields in medicine so that they can better visualize a career in health care.
Hana:As Director of DoT Rising, I organize educational sessions with Michigan Medicine physicians, create programming to outline career paths in health care, and provide guidance and facilitate essay support throughout the college application process. Our most recent session, “Diversity in Medicine: Representation Matters” included physicians Dr. Donnele Daley and Dr. Randy Vince, who shared with DoT students their career paths, life obstacles, and experiences as a BIPOC individual in the medical field. Their guidance and genuine life perspective I could tell struck a chord with students, helping them to see what the road to medicine might look like. Dr. Vince’s powerful reminder that “it’s extremely hard to become what you can never see,” serves as a testament to the importance of programs like Doctors of Tomorrow. How can we hope to diversify, and thus improve, health care if the talent we need most is never exposed?
DoT Rising Diversity in Medicine Panel, January 2021
Josh: Alongside Hana, I work as the Director of Capstone. Each month, we meet to work on students’ community health projects and continue to build on their public speaking and research abilities. Despite hours of “Zoom school,” DoT students show up eager and driven to complete capstone projects that address issues important to them. Our initial brainstorming sessions evolved into student-led discussions that spanned racial disparities in preterm labor to environmental racism and its impact on health outcomes. Their conversations were impassioned and persuasive. It was clear that their research projects had the potential to result in real change. To support their efforts, we sought out individuals well-positioned to help implement their ideas. With the help of Wayne County Commissioner Joseph Palamara, we were introduced to Michigan State Representative Clemente who has agreed to review and respond to DoT student proposals. Providing channels for civic engagement and community service supports DoT’s mission to prepare students to become future leaders in health care.
Dr. Finks demonstrating surgical techniques in the UMMS Clinical Simulation Center, December 2019
Josh & Hana: The failure of our health care system to produce physicians that represent their patients is not simply a moral failure, but it propagates the very disparities it seeks to address. While only 14% of the population, Black Americans have accounted for up to 48% of COVID-related deaths in Michigan. Although the health care industry is not solely responsible for this discrepancy, the tragic death of Dr. Susan Moore, a UMMS alumnus, demonstrates acutely how the medical field continues to fail Black patients. Doctors of Tomorrow aims to increase diversity by promoting educational opportunities in communities that have traditionally been excluded from medicine. A more diverse medical workforce will ensure that patients are able to see providers who more thoroughly understand their perspectives, which can result in increased patient satisfaction and more positive health outcomes. While increasing representation in medicine is necessary, it will not be sufficient to eradicate the health disparities that have long plagued the United States. Significant institutional change is required to effectively eliminate the health disparities that exist today.
Medical students leading interactive physiology lessons on Clinical Skills Day, February 2020
The incorporation of anti-racism components into medical school curriculums is a start to addressing these disparities, but this education without action leads to little progress. Advocacy is not a sideline sport, and all of us have a role to play. Medical students in particular are in a unique position to advocate for a more equitable future. For us, Doctors of Tomorrow was a means to translate words into action. We encourage current and future medical students to find meaningful opportunities that allow them to contribute to a more equitable future in medicine.
Joshua Goyert is a first-year medical student at the University of Michigan Medical School. His interests include mentorship and research. Outside of studying, he enjoys spending time outdoors exploring parks throughout Michigan.
Hana Murphy is also a first-year medical student at University of Michigan Medical School. Her interests include women’s health, youth mentorship, and urban health equity. She loves being outside and on a sunny day you can find her running Argo Park, doing outdoor yoga, or hiking with friends.