• Understanding the Experiences of Participants in the Professional Studies Enhancement Program

      Davis, James Earl, 1960-; DuCette, Joseph P.; Schifter, Catherine; Benjamin, Gregory D. (Temple University. Libraries, 2020)
      It is widely known that the racial and ethnic composition of the United States is diverse and it is predicted that this diversity will become more pronounced in the decades ahead. Conversations about diversity and its effect on public health and the healthcare system are underway and likely to continue in the future. Enhancing the diversity of the healthcare workforce has the potential to make a positive difference as race/ethnicity and language concordance improves the provider-patient interaction. Across all racial and ethnic backgrounds, there are individuals with the desire and ability to become highly skilled healthcare providers providing access to care for an increasingly diverse population, but many lack knowledge of how to navigate the required path to accomplish their goal. Fortunately, educational institutions can enhance social capital through their ability to provide a network of diverse, learned individuals who can provide access to information, resources and educational opportunities to students who desire the knowledge of how to advance through the educational system and become a healthcare provider. For decades, pipeline programs have been designed and offered with the intent to inspire and prepare students to pursue careers as healthcare providers by affording opportunities to link educational experiences and guidance from learned individuals to careers in the healthcare professions. The Professional Studies Enhancement Program (PSEP) is a pre-matriculation pipeline program that began in the 1970s and was offered annually during the summer until 2015. The intent of the PSEP was to recruit and retain students from underrepresented minority (URM) backgrounds for the profession of optometry by promoting a successful transition from the undergraduate educational experience to the healthcare educational experience. The purpose of this qualitative research is to gain a deep understanding of the experiences of participants in the PSEP. Three fundamental goals guided this study. First, to understand the personal lived-experiences of the participants during the PSEP. Second, to understand if the PSEP influences the professional development of the participants. Third, to understand if the PSEP contributes to the creation of social capital for the participants. Twenty-four optometrists who completed the PSEP prior to entering their optometry program volunteered to participate in a one-on-one semi-structured interview that was audio recorded. The audio interviews were converted into transcripts and coded using qualitative analysis software. A secondary coder provided clarity checks by independently reviewing portions of the interview transcripts in conjunction with the coding schema created by the primary coder. The study findings reveal that the personal experiences of the participants are rooted in the connections made with individuals associated with the PSEP, the attributes of the program and the successful personal growth and personal commitment needed to complete the program. Additionally, the findings illustrate that the PSEP influenced the professional development of the participants including academic success in professional school, setting personal career goals and creating awareness about the personal and professional responsibilities of being a URM healthcare provider. Finally, the findings illustrate how participants currently value the PSEP as professionals, notable influencers from the PSEP are acknowledged, valued organizations and activities, along with perspectives on the value of mentoring are also shared. Interwoven throughout the findings are valuable insights about the PSEP contributes to the creation of social capital. Analysis of the findings reveals the answer to each of the three research questions posed in this study. First, the overall lived-experiences of the 24 PSEP participants interviewed for this study are characterized by the creation of deep and enduring interpersonal relationships and the realization of the academic rigor of the doctor of optometry program. Second, the experiences reported by the 24 participants for this study indicate that the PSEP influences and guides the participants to assume the role of a professional-in-training through meaningful interactions with notable influencers. These influencers inspire these burgeoning professionals to be conscious of and purposeful in their individual development. This conscious and purposeful individual development leads to the creation of outstanding professionals who provide eye care to the public and concurrently engage in personally valued professional organizations and activities. Third, for these 24 participants the PSEP creates social capital through quality collective interactions with peers, upper class students, faculty members and program leaders allowing accepted norms and available resources to be known to the participants. This transfer of knowledge allows these PSEP participants to successfully navigate the rigor of the optometry program and graduate to become optometrists and members of the profession, ultimately increasing the number of URM optometrists available to serve patients and shape healthcare policy. Additionally, the interviewees personal, lived-experiences reveal attributes of the PSEP that closely align with those of a particular HBCU recognized for its success in creating social capital for its students and graduates.