Tour for Diversity in Medicine Strives To Bring Minorities Into The Field

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Photo of two doctors Tour for Diversity in Medicine (T4D) is a unique concept–it recruits doctors, dentists and podiatrists to tour university campuses in order to promote, educate and inspire minority students to enter the medical field.

It is the brainchild of  Dr. Kameron Leigh Matthews, MD JD, co-director and founder, and Dr. Alden M. Landry, MD MPH, co-director and founder.

T4D is a mission of love for Matthews and Landy, who both hold down full-time positions. Matthews, 34, is the medical director and chief medical officer of Mile Square Health Center at University of Illinois at Chicago Hospital & Health Sciences System as well as an assistant professor of clinical family medicine with the UI Health Department of Family Medicine. Landry, 32, is an emergency medicine physician at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Landry is also senior faculty at the Disparities Solutions Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, associate director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center as well as faculty assistant director of the Office of Diversity Inclusion and Community Partnership at Harvard Medical School.

Busy is an understatement, but the pair makes time to make a difference. T4D, founded two years ago, has done four tours of 23 campuses in 17 states and the District of Columbia. In the process, they have reached more than 1,800 minority undergraduate and high school students.

Matthews spoke with TNJ.com about T4D’s mission to bring diversity to the medical sector.

TNJ.com: What brought you together with Dr. Alden M. Landry to create Tour For Diversity?
Dr. Kameron Leigh Matthews: Alden and I met while we were both national officers with the Student National Medical Association while in medical school.  As good friends since then, we share an interest in mentoring and encouraging young students along their career paths.

TNJ.com: Why did you think it was necessary?
Dr. Kameron Leigh Matthews: We recognized the need to reach students that were not located in larger cities or near academic medical centers where there are more opportunities for exposure, shadowing and mentoring.  Typically, health care conferences or physician membership organizations are hosted in a small selection of cities, and therefore the outreach programming that is made available has a limited audience.  We wanted to reach more underrepresented minority students on their home campuses throughout the country.  We wanted to provide them with a quick introduction to the fields of medicine and dentistry while also providing them with the inspiration of our own personal stories and experiences.  Therefore, we decided to “get on a bus” with a group of our friends and colleagues.  The Tour for Diversity in Medicine was created.

TNJ.com: How did you fund the startup?
Dr. Kameron Leigh Matthews: Our original support was generously provided by the Aetna Foundation and the U.S. Army Medical Recruiting Brigade. The US Army continues to send its health care professionals to each stop of the Tour.  We are currently seeking additional foundational support.

TNJ.com: What were some of the major challenges you faced with starting Tour For Diversity?
Dr. Kameron Leigh Matthews: As with many smaller non-profit organizations, our initial challenge was financial support.  The original concept was developed in 2005, but until we received the support of the Aetna Foundation and the US Army Medical Recruiting Brigade in 2011, the program was unable to come to fruition.

TNJ.com: How do you juggle your full-time job with Tour For Diversity?
Dr. Kameron Leigh Matthews: As close friends, we work well together by balancing separate tasks, having consistent communication through multiple online formats, and sharing all documentation on-line for efficient creation and revision.  We have been fortunate enough to have strong experiences in multiple extracurricular endeavors, so balancing our clinical schedules with our outside interests is a labor of love.

We both have strong family support and are proud to have well-balanced lives. Alden is married to Latrice with one daughter and is expecting another child in March.  I am currently single and enjoys time with my 2 1/2-year-old dog. We both enjoy running and will be competing together in a half marathon in mid-2014.
 
TNJ.com: What are some of your goals for the tour for 2014?
Dr. Kameron Leigh Matthews: For the remainder of the 2014 calendar year, we will be developing our additional programming – a regular webinar calendar for students, an Advisor Assistance program to assist advisors and counselors in their daily connections with this special student body, an expansion of our website for additional audiences, a set of local networking events to bring together students and professionals, single-day conferences, multiple speaking engagements, and a potential three-day Tour in the fall semester.   We also hope to establish significant foundational and academic partnerships for further infrastructure support and growth.

TNJ.com: How does the Tour work exactly?
Dr. Kameron Leigh Matthews: Our goal is to visit all 48 continental states.  We seek to visit campuses with high underrepresented minority or other disadvantaged populations and with interested advising programs that need reinforcement and encouragement.  Each stop of each Tour is generally chosen to allow for a wide geographic distribution. We purposefully target undergraduate campuses but invite students from the surrounding area.  The curriculum is focused on developing a successful application, enriching experiences through the undergraduate period, and using the personal stories of the volunteer Mentors to provide inspiration and direction.  Our high school programming, debuted in September 2013, seeks to reach younger high school students and introduce them to concepts of college preparation and public health on local health care campuses.