HPME faculty terminates program for all future cycles, citing effectiveness regarding diversity


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

The Feinberg School of Medicine. Researchers at the school recently discovered Illinois’ first case of the P.1 COVID-19 variant.

Caroline Brew, Reporter

The Honors Program in Medical Education, a seven-year program that annually admits around 20 students simultaneously to Northwestern and the Feinberg School of Medicine, will be permanently discontinued.

In an email, HPME program director and Feinberg Prof. Aarati Didwania said the program was terminated, effective as of this year’s application cycle.

“After a general review of all our pipeline programs and their effectiveness regarding diversity, we decided to close HPME and focus on other partnerships with the Evanston campus aimed at undergraduates,” Didwania said.

In an August email, Didwania said existing HPME students will continue the program as planned. Although there are no concrete plans regarding how the program’s resources will be allocated, Didwania wrote in the email to HPME students that faculty hope to dedicate their time and resources to “creating additional opportunities to enhance innovation, excellence, diversity, equity and inclusion in the medical field.”

Since 1961, HPME has allowed students to complete their undergraduate degree in three years, with freedom to explore various academic pursuits while completing required pre-medicine courses, according to the HPME website.

“I’m really interested in a lot of the social issues and public health issues that go with medicine, and Northwestern has a lot of resources for that,” HPME freshman Emily Lam said. “With HPME’s academic flexibility I can explore these other interests, rather than focus just on doing things that med schools want me to do.”

While some students said they were grateful for the opportunities HPME has granted them, they also acknowledge its shortcomings in fostering diversity and inclusion.

“Thinking about who’s in HPME, the students usually have research experience in high school or clinical shadowing hours or medical background,” HPME senior Hannah Green said. “Those things all require a pretty high level of social capital and cater more explicitly to those of higher socioeconomic status.”

To apply for HPME, students had to submit an application request, ACT or SAT scores, Math Level 2 and Chemistry SAT Subject Test scores, an HPME-specific application and the Common Application for Undergraduate Admission, according to the program’s website.

HPME second-year Kranti Rumalla is a member of the Committee on Justice and Equity, a Feinberg and HPME group unaffiliated with Associated Student Government.

Rumalla is working with a subcommittee focused on sending student proposals for a program focused on underrepresented minorities in medicine.

“We need more cultural training, more cultural awareness and just more representation so everyone in this country can receive the same quality of care and understanding,” Rumalla said. “If we have a more diverse medical school class, each one of those students is going to learn culture and background from each other.”

HPME junior Mahie Gopalka said she hopes the program’s decision to reevaluate diversity within the program will create a larger conversation.

She further stated her hope is for other University operations to consider their own problems regarding inclusion and equity.

“Discontinuing a program is a pretty big step, so the fact that they’re doing that means they’re taking all of the sessions about equity and diversity seriously,” Gopalka said. “I hope that it’ll cause Northwestern undergrad to also take a step back and see what they can do to become more accessible to students who haven’t been applying or getting in in the past.”

Email: [email protected]

Related Stories:
Northwestern Medicine finds COVID-19 may damage placentas in pregnant women
NU scientists launch COVID-19 antibody study in Cook County