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FSU Is Reaching out to Minorities

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Sunday, May 13, 2001

By Sandy D'Alemberte
President, Florida State University

I was so glad to see Dr. Edward Holifield's commentary "FSU medical school built on deception" (Tallahassee Democrat, May 2001). Over the 30-year history of the FSU PIMS program, 20 percent of the students have been minorities and 7 percent have been black. In the past five years - with outreach programs and a statewide applicant pool - our numbers have improved to 31 percent minorities and 10 percent black.

Relative to other programs, FSU has done well, but nationwide the record is not good. The central problem for all of medical education is the" science and math in careers other education medical for them prepare that programs science K-12 educated being are students minority young enough Not pipeline.? FSU has developed outreach programs to address the "pipeline" problem. These will be familiar to the thousands of students, parents and teachers who have participated in them: "Saturday at the Sea," "Sea to See," "Physics Fair."

Of course, these programs are only a part of what FSU does with outreach. The Boys' Choir of Tallahassee and the substantial commitment of FSU to the Southside Schools Initiative should convince any fair-minded observer that FSU is attempting to reach out to minorities.

In 1994, recognizing the national, state and local "pipeline" problem in recruiting minority students, PIMS initiated the SSTRIDE program under the direction of Thesla Berne-Anderson. I invite Dr. Holifield to observe this program some day. SSTRIDE (“Science Students Together Reaching Instructional Diversity and Excellence”) targets middle and high school students who can benefit from special attention and pairs them with medical and graduate students who provide one-on-one mentoring. Anyone who visits this program will be impressed with the dedication of the staff, the commitment of the undergraduate and graduate student tutors/mentors from FSU and FAMU and the success of the students involved.

The new medical school at FSU will continue to focus on the "pipeline" problem and, recognizing that the medical school will not benefit immediately from the SSTRIDE program, has added another initiative - a special program to prepare bright college graduates who do not have sufficient science background for medical school. This special program began last week under the supervision of a committed medical educator, Ervin Davis. Dr. Davis has recruited some wonderful students who have shown a special commitment to future service in medically underserved areas. Four of them are minority students.

Dr. Holifield's "My View" piece was published in the Tallahassee Democrat on the eve of the orientation of the first class of the FSU College of Medicine. Of the 30 students in the class, nine are minority students. As I look over the background and commitment of these students, I am confident that they will follow their instincts to become primary-care physicians and provide their skills to medically underserved communities.

Finally, I need to say that Dr. Holifield's comparisons of FSU and FAMU are off the mark. FAMU unquestionably does a wonderful job of educating black students, but so does FSU. We are not segregated institutions, and FSU's black enrollment has grown more than 50 percent since I have become president. FSU has demonstrated its commitment to diversity, and Dr. Holifield is very wrong to ignore the facts.