Impact Evaluation of the RWJF Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP)

2012-2014
Prepared for
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP) is a free, six-week residential science enrichment program offered to rising college sophomores and juniors of minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds who are interested in attending medical or dental school. The program is offered in 12 sites across the nation. Three sites offer only the program’s medical component while the others offer both the medical and dental components. The goal s to help students become more competitive applicants to medical and dental schools, with the ultimate goal of increasing the number of successful applicants from underrepresented groups and eventually diversifying the medical and dental labor force.

Mathematica's evaluation assessed program impacts on different educational and employment outcomes, studied program implementation to identify project components that may be associated with observed impacts, and provided feedback to the national program office regarding its ongoing data collection activities to monitor program outcomes.

Findings from the evaluation included the following:

  • The majority of SMDEP participants stay on the path to a potential career in health. Most earn bachelor’s degrees in a health- or science-related field, and, within one to four years of obtaining their degree (depending on the cohort), more than half apply to medical or dental school.
  • The program helps diversify medical and dental schools, as it increases the likelihood of applying to and matriculating in medical and dental school. SMDEP has a positive impact on medical school applications and matriculation in sites offering only the medical component, and on dental school applications and matriculation in sites that offer both the medical and dental components. 
  • Three program characteristics—staffing, clinical experiences, and leadership approach—are related to program effectiveness. Specifically,
  1. Sites that recruit new instructors every year—compared to those maintaining a stable group of faculty over time—have an adverse impact on medical school applications and matriculation.
  2. Sites that offer less exposure to clinical experiences have greater impacts in terms of dental school applications and matriculation than those with more intense clinical experiences.
  3. Sites where leadership is not collaborative across program components (medical and dental) have better dental school outcomes than sites with a collaborative leadership approach.