The University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center Pathways to Inclusive Health Care program (PIHC) offers an innovative, meaningful gap year for pre-health professions students who are recent college graduates (called Scholars) that exposes them to the needs of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). The first program of its kind in the nation, this certificate program seeks to build a pipeline of future health professionals who are interested in providing clinical care and reducing health disparities among the ASD/IDD population. The extraordinary relevance of this unique training opportunity, in light of the global Covid-19 pandemic, will competitively position the PIHC graduate when submitting applications to advanced degree programs.
The PIHC program is housed at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center at UMass Medical School, a pioneer in IDD-related research, training, and service for fifty years. Targeting pre-medical, dental, nurse practitioner, and other pre-health professions students (e.g. speech/language pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists), recent college graduates (called Scholars) participate in a nine-month-long program that features the following elements:
- Scholars work as paraprofessionals 4 days/week with individuals with ASD/IDD in practicum sites such as day habilitation and community based programs.
- Scholars attend weekly seminars, take coursework through the Shriver Center’s Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) program, and visit community-based programs that serve people with IDD and ASD.
- Scholars receive mentoring on their medical or graduate school application efforts.
- Scholars receive a certificate in Disability Studies from the University of Massachusetts Medical School upon completion of the program