Georgetown med student: Support is key for undergraduate transfer students

Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., Kwadwo “Kojo” Sarpong (M’22) recently discussed his journey from community college to Georgetown University School of Medicine. The February 17 panel discussion, titled “Pathways to Success: Supporting Undergraduate Researchers Transitioning Between Two- and Four-Year Colleges,” highlighted several hurdles that can complicate community college students’ path to a graduate medical program.

Specifically, panelists pointed out that many community college students aren’t aware of research opportunities. Others may find that their two-year program doesn’t have a strong partnership with four-year institutions, which are more likely to offer research opportunities.

From Ghana to Georgetown Experimental Medical Studies

Sarpong described how, after arriving in the United States from Ghana in 2009, he found it nearly impossible to enter a four-year institution, even though he had already been a first-year university student back home. After working for several years, he enrolled at Georgia Perimeter College (now Perimeter College at Georgia State University), which has a close partnership with Georgia State University and enabled him to participate in a summer research program. He was later able to transfer to, conduct research at, and graduate from, Emory University.

Related: Uptick in efforts to simplify, encourage transfers to four-year schools >

Along the way, he co-founded the nonprofit African Research Academies for Women (ARAW), which helps Ghanaian women—many of whom are unaware of the full range of science career opportunities—pursue non-medical STEM careers. Finally, Sarpong came to Georgetown in 2017 through the Georgetown Experimental Medical Studies (GEMS) program. He values the opportunity to focus on research and work closely with a mentor.

Sarpong recounted how a research opportunity early in his college career was a formative part of his path to Georgetown and emphasized the need to give community college students access to similar programs.

“There isn’t as much funding or as many resources at the community college level, so it can be more difficult for students to be exposed to this kind of work,” he said. “When I was first in school, I had no idea what scientific research looked like in the U.S….There are many students like me at the community college level.”

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