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SMDEP helps DeAndre Bluitt launch his medical path

DeAndre Bluitt, a first-year medical student from Paris, Texas, was a business major, a football player, a "macho, do-it-your-own-self" kind of guy.

DeAndre Bluitt, a first-year medical student from Paris, Texas, was a business major, a football player, a "macho, do-it-your-own-self" kind of guy.

Then he got hurt and had an epiphany.

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DeAndre Bluitt
"I was just floored," he said. "This is what doctors and nurses do?"

And like that, he knew what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.

Changed course

He changed majors in the middle of his junior year of undergrad. He switched to biology. He transferred schools. As he scrambled to figure out how to navigate his way to med school, he heard about the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP) at UNMC.

"I was a member of the inaugural class, the first class," he said. This was in 2006.

SMDEP an opportunity

SMDEP lets college students to take science classes, shadow health care providers and participate in community projects. And in turn, potential students from underserved or rural communities -- or who want to serve underserved or rural communities -- are exposed to UNMC.

"For me," Bluitt said, "it was my first time seeing the real doctor-patient relationship. It was seeing how you become someone, who in those 10-15 minutes you see a patient, you have an opportunity to affect their lives."

Good examples

He credited SMDEP mentors, like Jeff Hill, M.D., associate dean for admissions and student affairs at the College of Medicine. From them, he learned to make medicine personal.

He's tried to pay forward that message by serving as a resident assistant for SMDEP's summer sessions. The new students who come in all want to know the secret of getting into med school, he said. But there is none. Only hard work.

A solid foundation

Everything he's done to get to this point, Bluitt said - the research, the programs, getting into med school - comes from "the seminal foundation of SMDEP."

"A lot of people don't have a net," he said. "You know, like a net, to catch them.

"But now I'm confident to go to the edge and jump."

That's the best way to learn how to fly.

Know an interested student?

Students must apply directly to the national SMDEP program website. The application deadline is March 1. A grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supports the program.