Gaining Experience: Summer Health Professions Education Program

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Getting health-related experience will not only help you enhance your medical school application, but will ensure you like working in a health field, give you a chance to take on leadership roles, and build your resume. While there are many opportunities out there, as a college freshman or sophomore, one great option is the Summer Health Professions Education Program.

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Do you know what you’re doing next summer? It may seem early to start making plans, but many health-related opportunities have applications opening soon. One great option is the Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP). Last year, more than one thousand students participated in SHPEP at thirteen institutions across the country.

What is SHPEP?

SHPEP is a free summer academic program that prepares college freshmen and sophomore students who are underrepresented in the health professions for their successful application and matriculation to health professions schools. Students who identify with a group that is racially or ethnically underrepresented, come from an economically or educationally disadvantaged background, or who have demonstrated an interest in issues affecting underserved populations, are encouraged to apply.

In 2017, SHPEP expanded to allow students the opportunity to learn about other health professions beyond medicine and dentistry, including nursing, optometry, pharmacy, physical therapy, physician assistant, and public health as other career program types. Regardless of where you attend SHPEP, each SHPEP host institution follows the same essential core components of the program and then tailors the summer according to the health career options available at their particular institution. 

Why participate in SHPEP?

Each SHPEP attendee, or scholar, participates in career development workshops, math and science classes, clinical simulations, a financial literacy and planning seminar, and advising sessions. The academic and professional development sessions can be rigorous, however all SHPEP scholars enjoy down time with their cohort. There are opportunities to participate in recreational group activities and explore the community surrounding the host institution. For example, this past summer, scholars at the University of California Los Angeles engaged in outdoor teambuilding activities and scholars at the University of Nebraska volunteered at a homeless shelter.

SHPEP attracts unique and ambitious students who help to create a memorable summer experience for all involved. Each year, highly motivated students complete the program with a renewed confidence in their abilities to achieve their goals. For example, last summer’s scholars included an artist and future orthodontist who was inspired by the dental molds she saw as a child; a former refugee who plans to earn her doctorate in epidemiology; and a sociology major pursuing a career in medicine who wants to address the needs of the deaf and LGBTQ communities.

How can I apply?

The application for summer 2024 opened on November 1, 2023. The deadline is February 5, 2024, and requires one essay.

Visit for more information about the Summer Health Professions Education Program and to apply. We hope to see you join other future health care professionals for an extraordinary summer.

Not eligible for SHPEP? Not to worry! There are lots of summer experiences you can take advantage of. For more information, visit AAMC’s Aspiring Docs.

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