Research has shown that health outcomes improve for vulnerable populations when the healthcare provider and patient share the same race, ethnicity, or background. To achieve better health, it’s critical to attract, recruit and retain a diverse pipeline of students in healthcare fields who reflect the patients they will serve, a mission that inspired the Future Physicians of Florida Mentoring Program.

“If you look at the numbers, a little discouragement can completely stop a student from progressing into the medical field,” Laurel Dalton, executive director of the T. Leroy Jefferson Medical Society, which runs the four-year-old program. “Our students say the mentorship has made a huge difference, especially through COVID, but our physicians get something back, too: renewed energy to go into work every day.”

In fact, many physicians return to the program year after year to educate and encourage the next generation. The George Snow Scholarship Fund identifies interested students and Dalton pairs Palm Beach County mentors with mentees. Last year, 14 first-year college students and physicians participated, and demand continued to grow, even as the Jefferson Medical Society faced dark days.

“Back at the start of the pandemic, we were looking at possibly closing our doors. We said, ‘Let’s give out as much PPE that helps people as possible’,” said Dalton. “So, it was a huge deal for us that the Community Foundation and other organizations stepped in and helped us hit our stride instead. The dollars that the Foundation is able to funnel make a real difference to our neighbors and we’re tremendously grateful for its leadership.”