Health Sciences LEAP will be honoring 22 soon-to-be graduates at its annual closing dinner in April. Health Sciences LEAP—a twenty-two-year partnership between the LEAP program and University of Utah Health Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion—is a three-year program that intentionally supports historically marginalized students in their development as future healthcare professionals. The program critically examines healthcare access, impacts on social determinants of health, and connects these elements to academic research. It also facilitates volunteer and research experiences for Health Sciences LEAP students and provides them with networking opportunities with health professionals. In a nutshell, Health Sciences LEAP works to widen access to healthcare professions, strengthen academic skills, and level the playing field for historically underrepresented students.
This year’s cohort is comprised of first-generation college students, Pell grant recipients, members of minoritized ethnic and racial communities, as well as students from the LGBTQ community and rural areas. During their time with Health Sciences LEAP, these students have collectively completed over 5,280 research hours in over 20 different labs on campus; presented their research at various undergraduate symposiums and professional conferences; and contributed to their fields of study by submitting articles for publications. They’ve also shadowed healthcare professionals from various fields as part of the career exploration component of Health Sciences LEAP.
Health Sciences LEAP graduates, as co-instructors Dr. Nora Wood and Erica Rojas like to point out, are the future of healthcare and they are changing the face of care delivery. Students from this cohort are pursuing careers in medicine, nursing, physical therapy, and public health, to name just a few. They continue to build on a legacy of outstanding Health Sciences LEAP graduates from underserved backgrounds who have become physical therapists, physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and public health educators and policymakers.
The impact that Health Sciences LEAP has had on students over the years is best captured by two of its graduating seniors:
"Choosing to apply to the Health Sciences LEAP program was easily one of the best decisions I made, and it really shaped my college experience as well as who I am today. It has given me a deeper understanding of what it really means to be a physician which is something that I plan to carry forward with me into the professional world."
- 2023 Health Sciences LEAP Graduate - Health and Kinesiology major
"My time here at the University of Utah was nothing less than extraordinary…I made some of my closest friends through the Health Sciences LEAP program and gained opportunities that I otherwise would have missed. I’ve been involved in research, programs on campus, volunteering, and clinical experiences… With all my accomplishments, LEAP has always made sure to support me in any way they could and both the program and the University have had a great impact on who I am and will continue to be in the future."
- 2023 Health Sciences LEAP Graduate - Psychology major
Erica Rojas, MPA