Community-Focused Urban Scholars Program (CUSP)

To improve the health of the populations of our WWAMI region, it is imperative that the UW School of Medicine recruits students who reflect the communities they will serve and trains physicians who are prepared for careers in urban underserved medicine.

The Community-focused Urban Scholars Program (CUSP) is a comprehensive approach to diversifying the UWSOM student population and addressing WWAMI’s urban underserved physician workforce shortage through community-based medical school training.

Our goal is to develop a workforce of diverse physician leaders in under-resourced urban communities in the WWAMI region through a full circle program that recruits students from urban underserved communities, trains them in population health and health equity, tailors their clinical experiences for maximum exposure to urban underserved care, and sends them back to Washington communities as physicians. Core to our mission is nurturing the talents of students from underrepresented backgrounds by creating an ecosystem of support that offers mentorship, tailored programming, and professional development.  

Program Goal

Develop a workforce of diverse physician leaders in under-resourced urban communities in the WWAMI region through a full circle pipeline program that fosters and supports qualified students through mentorship and professional development, population health training, and urban clinical experiences.

Program Objectives/Benefits

  • Develop a workforce ecosystem that encourages and supports a diversity of students toward careers in urban under-resourced clinical practices.
  • Train students to apply the principles and practices of population health in the clinical and community environments.
  • Provide quality clinical rotations and experiences in urban under-resourced areas.
  • Create an inclusive and supportive learning community that values equity and diversity.
  • Through personal and professional development opportunities, prepare students to be clinical and community leaders and advocates.
  • Program completion significance for application to residency and at graduation.

There are three pillars to the program with many ways to meet the requirements.

1. PRE-CLINICAL:   Focused scholarship during the Foundations Phase in understanding structural determinants of health, health disparities/inequities, and the care of urban underserved or historically marginalized communities. This is accomplished through enrollment in one of the many pre-clinical electives focused on these issues, and/or completion of a pathway of focused scholarship (such as the Black Health Justice Pathway, the Indian Health pathway, the Latinx Pathway, the LGBTQ+ pathway, or the Underserved Pathway), attendance at quarterly CUSP cohort meetings with related discussions, and completion of a CUSP-focused Independent Investigative Inquiry (III-3) during the summer between their MS1 and MS2 years.

2. CLINICAL:  Clinical experiences focused on urban underserved/historically marginalized communities. There are two parts to this requirement, which entail a PCP Practicum placement with a PCP serving underserved or vulnerable communities, as well as priority during the Patient Care Phase at designated core clerkship sites meant to maximize clinical exposure and care of urban underserved and vulnerable patient populations. 

3. MENTORSHIP and COMMUNITY BUILDING:  This is accomplished through CUSP scholars being assigned a CUSP designated mentor (from a large cohort of community providers) to discuss progress through medical school and career goals, through near-peer mentor pairings with other CUSP scholars, and through community building during quarterly meetings within the program.

Applying to CUSP

A Secondary Application link will be emailed to qualified applicants after the University of Washington School of Medicine (UWSOM) has received and reviewed the AMCAS application. Unlike many medical schools, UWSOM does not request Secondary Applications automatically; applications are screened to determine if a Secondary Application will be requested. There is an optional section on the Secondary Application to apply to the CUSP program. For more information please visit the Admissions page on Secondary Applications.

Admission to the general medical school class is done on a rolling basis, while admission to CUSP will only be offered at the end of the application cycle once all CUSP applicants have been reviewed (in January or February). Thus, an applicant may be offered an admission to the medical school before knowing about admission to CUSP. Applicants who are wait listed by the medical school will still have the opportunity to be admitted through CUSP, while applicants who are rejected will not be eligible for CUSP.

Contact information

Please contact Holly Kennison, Program Director CUSP & Pathways if you have additional questions. Our CUSP Faculty Director is Dr. Sabreen Akhter, and our Faculty Sponsor is Dr. Bessie Young, Associate Dean of Office of Healthcare Equity and Vice Dean for UW School of Medicine.