Penn Conference Report: The SUMR Minority Research Program at 20 Years

Penn Conference Report: The SUMR Minority Research Program at 20 Years

Former Undergrad Health Services Research Scholars and Mentors Gather for First-Ever Reunion
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Photos: Hoag Levins

The University of Pennsylvania's Summer Undergraduate Minority Research (SUMR) Program marked its 20th Anniversary with a two-day conference that for the first time brought together two decades' worth of SUMR alumni -- scholars and mentors -- from across the country. (Click images for larger)

In 2000, after a year of organization and preparation, the University of Pennsylvania's Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics (LDI) and The Wharton School together launched a new program aimed at channeling minority and other students toward postgrad studies in the health services research field. Called the Summer Undergraduate Minority Research (SUMR) program, its first cohort consisted of three students. Over the next two decades, SUMR's annual round of applications went from that handful of Penn undergrads to several hundred from undergrads at universities across the country. Each year, about 20 finalists are chosen to take part in the three-month curriculum that pairs each scholar with top faculty researchers and immerses the cohort in the daily work of Penn's broad, multidisciplinary community of researchers focused on improving the nation's health care delivery system.

The 20th Anniversary Conference featured presentations and panel discussions on some of today's most important areas of health disparities research. It also looked to the future as the SUMR program continues its efforts to expand and enhance its ability to amplify opportunities for qualified undergrads interested in exploring health services research careers.

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"What you're all part of here collectively is an incredible achievement," Wharton School Dean Geoffrey Garrett (above, left) told the opening session of the SUMR 20th Anniversary Conference. "Standing up an institution like this that has so much impact at the personal level and the societal level, standing it up and then making it last is really not easy to do, and I think you should all feel really good about being part of that. Nothing could be more important than research aimed at understanding and improving the way the health system works and an enormous part of the solution to that must be a well executed diversity agenda which requires leadership at all levels. I am so impressed by the enormous commitment that people are making to this program." Above, right, Perelman School of Medicine Vice Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, Eve Higginbotham, SM, MD, characterized the SUMR program as "one of those national jewels that is under recognized."
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Along with bringing together 20 years of SUMR scholars for the first time, the 20th Anniversary opening day was a tribute to the two people most responsible for envisioning and organizing the program: Wharton School professor Mark Pauly, PhD, and SUMR Founding Director Joanne Levy, MBA. Pauly (above, left), who was Vice Dean of Wharton's doctoral programs in 1999, recounted how he got the idea from a short-lived Wharton experiment that sought to recruit more minority students to the school's broad array of PhD programs. Levy (above, right) at LDI seized on Pauly's idea and began organizing the three-month Summer Undergraduate Minority Research (SUMR) program designed to attract minority students to postgrad studies in health services research.

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The conference was about both health services research science as well as the nostalgia of getting back together with former SUMR colleagues. Above, left, all alumni of the SUMR 2013 cohort, are (rear row) Maximilian Pany, MD/PhD candidate in Health Policy Management at the Harvard Business School; Cjloe Vinoya Chung, MPH, Assistant to the Deputy Secretary for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the Pennsylvania Department of Health; Christina Nguyen, rising PhD student at MIT; and Alisha Reginal, MHA, Consultant with Manatt Health. (Bottom) Randall Burson, MD/PhD student in Anthropology at the Perelman School of Medicine; Pearl Eni, MA; and Aaron Landrum, MA, Human Capital Analyst, Deloitte, Washington, D.C. Above, right is a triumvirate of SUMR 2016 alumni: Kenya Wright, Management Fellow at Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Boca Raton, Fl.; Kehinde Oyekanmi, Clinical Research Coordinator, University of Pennsylvania; and Carlos Carmona, Penn MPH student and Data & System Manager at the Wistar Institute.

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In keeping with SUMR's focus on the study of health disparities and related topics, the keynote speaker of the event was UCLA School of Medicine Professor José Escarce, MD, PhD (above, left), a leading authority in the field of health equity. His remarks underscored why health services research is so needed and valuable. "The U.S. ranks poorly among OECD countries in life expectancy and infant mortality," he noted. "There's a high and growing income inequality and, not surprisingly, large disparities in equity in health [are related to it]. Overall, disparities are based on income, educational attainment, race, and place. The inequities based on income and education appear to be growing over time." Above, right, leading a workshop on "Implicit Bias and Resilience" was Brian Gittens, EdD, Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the University of Arkansas.

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On stage for the event's official tribute (above, left) to Joanne Levy were (l to r) Rachel Werner, MD, PhD, Executive Director of LDI; Safa Browne, MPH, Associate SUMR Program Director; Joanne Levy, MBA, Founding Director of SUMR, and Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, former RWJF CEO and current Penn PIK Professor of Population Health Policy and Health Equity. "When you have a program as incredibly successful as this one," said Lavizzo-Mourey, "there's usually a visionary champion who is the conceptualizer, the detail person, the chief fund raiser and someone who cares deeply about the scholars and devotes every day to making sure they are successful. In this incredible program, that person is Joanne Levy." Above, right, Lavizzo-Mourey was also the moderator of a panel of SUMR alumni who have gone on to health care positions in academia and government. She questions Cjloe Vinoya Chung, MPH, (SUMR '13) who is now Assistant to the Deputy Secretary for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

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On break between sessions (above, left) are Rachel Werner, MD, PhD, Wharton School and Penn Medicine Professor; Marilyn Schapira, MD, MPH, Professor of Medicine at Philadelphia's Crescenz VA Medical Center and LDI Senior Fellow; Meghan Lane-Fall, MD, MSHP, Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care at the Perelman School of Medicine, and LDI Senior Fellow; and Makeda Carroll Walelo, MPH (SUMR '12), Research Analyst in Medical Policy and Technology Evaluation at Independence Blue Cross. Above, right are Peter Groeneveld, MD, MS, Director of the Penn Medicine Cardiovascular Outcomes, Quality and Evaluative Research Center, and LDI Senior Fellow; Joanne Levy, SUMR Founding Director; J. Sanford Schwartz, MD, Professor of both Medicine at the Perelman School and Health Care Management at the Wharton School, and LDI Senior Fellow; and Scott Harrington, PhD, Professor and Chair of the Wharton School Health Care Management Department.

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Above, left, Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA; Marilyn Schapira, MD, MPH; and Judith Long, MD, Chief of the Penn Medicine Division of General Internal Medicine. Above, right, from the Penn Dental School contingent of the SUMR program are Mark Wolff, DDS, PhD, Dean of the Penn School of Dental Medicine; and DMD candidates Yu-Tien (Margaret) Lee (SUMR '19); Nitika Gupta (SUMR '19); Saskhia Dieudonné (SUMR '19); and Andrew Ng (SUMR '17); and Margaret Yang, Director of Student Affairs at the Dental School.

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Enjoying their reunion (above, left) are Carlos Carmona and Anna Bonilla Martinez, both SUMR 2016 alumni and their SUMR mentor, Jaya Aysola, MD, MPH, LDI Senior Fellow, Chair of Penn Medicine's Health Equity Taskforce, and Executive Director of the Penn Medicine Health Equity Initiative within the Office of the CMO. Carmona is Data & System Manager at the Wistar Institute and Bonilla Martinez is Program Coordinator at the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Cancer Free Economy Network. Above, right, are Mounika Kanneganti (SUMR '14), medical student at Penn's Perelman School of Medicine, and Hillary Bonuedie (SUMR '14), graduate student at Emory University School of Public Health.

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Arnold (Skip) Rosoff, JD, Wharton School Professor Emeritus of Legal Studies and Health Care Management, LDI Senior Fellow, and long-time SUMR mentor, chats with SUMR 2013 alumnus Maximilian Pany, a MD/PhD candidate in Health Policy at Harvard University. Above, right, Lorraine Dean, ScD (SUMR '01), now an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University, was the first SUMR scholar to get her degree, join the faculty at Penn and become a mentor to new SUMR Scholars. She presented on her current Hopkins research work focused on credit scores and health. "Consumer credit is an interesting marker of health," she explained. "People with the exact same financial history who live in different neighborhoods can often have different credit scores. You do the same thing but because you live in a different ZIP code, your score is different. This is how individuals can sometimes be blamed for things that are actually happening at the institutional, contextual level of neighborhoods."

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For the assembled undergrads and newly-minted academics who will need to find mentors and sponsors as their career treks move forward, three top Penn health services research experts provided a litany of tips on how best to do that (above, left). They were Meghan Lane-Fall, MD, MSHP; Therese Richmond, PhD, CRNP, FAAN, Associate Dean for Research and Innovation at the Penn Nursing School and LDI Senior Fellow; and Holly Fernandez Lynch, JD, MBE (SUMR '02), Perelman School of Medicine Assistant Professor and LDI Senior Fellow. Above, right, a conference audience participation session formed teams to discuss new ideas for improving and enhancing the SUMR program. At one discussion table are Eve Higginbotham, SM, MD; Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA; Carmen Guerra, MD, MSCE, Vice Chair of Diversity and Inclusion at the Perelman Medical School and LDI Senior Fellow; and Jade Avelis, PhD, MA, Senior Research Coordinator at the Penn Prevention Research Center.

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At another table filling out their yellow sheets with ideas of how to improve the SUMR program (above, left) are SUMR Scholars Jonathan Delgadillo Lorenzo, Khalid El-Jack, and Obaidah Bitar of the 2019 cohort, Derek Mazique, MD, ('09), Jason Mazique and Jay Sangani of 2019, Khalida Saalim ('18), and Aminata Jalloh ('19). Above right, are Makeda Carroll-Walelo, MPH (SUMR '12) and Brittany Wiafe (SUMR '19).

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The first day's session ended with a Quizzo contest (above, left) focused on health services research trivia. The game was hosted by Gadareth Higgs, MS (SUMR '06), graduate student researcher at Yale University, and Benjamin Chartock, Wharton PhD student and LDI Associate Fellow. Above, right, alumni of the 2015 SUMR cohort reunite around a celebratory 20th Anniversary sign: Tammy Jiang, PhD student in Epidemiology at Boston University School of Public Health; Mei-Lynn Hua, PhD student in Health Care Management at the Wharton School; Omar Mansour, PhD student in Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University; and Enrique Torres Hernandez, Neuroscience Research Fellow at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.