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When Javit Thao learned about the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Advocates in Medicine Pathway (AMP) program, it sounded like a perfect fit.

“I’ve never really seen a pre-med program aimed toward specifically me, a Hmong person,” said the senior biomedical science major from Oshkosh. “I was kind of amazed by that so I decided to apply.”

Thao applied, was accepted, and earlier this year was one of a cohort of 10 students to receive experience, guidance and mentorship that will help him on his journey from graduation to medical school beyond.

What is the AMP program? 

AMP is designed for college juniors and seniors or graduates with a strong desire to move on to medical school but haven’t yet been admitted. Preference is given to students who come from rural and/or Hmong backgrounds and have connections to central Wisconsin.

“One of the big things the program emphasizes is a lot of students that come from underrepresented populations don’t really have guidelines or anyone to help support them when getting into medicine,” he said. “Being able to have these guidelines, have these resources available and telling us step by step how to apply to med school, how much it might cost, the scholarships available—that sort of guidance is extremely helpful because I didn’t have much background before coming into the program.”

The program ran January through July and included students from Wisconsin and Minnesota. It included eight weeks of virtual advising sessions on topics like what to expect in medical school interviews, preparing for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and more. There also was an online course centered on the examination of case studies, a one-week on-site clinical rotation shadowing a physician, and lastly an eight-week internship.

For the internship, Thao spent time with the Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service (WIPPS) in Wausau. WIPPS—a unit of the Universities of Wisconsin—is an organization with a mission to educate and engage Wisconsin residents, develop future leaders and help communities meet their needs.

Overall, he said, the AMP program “absolutely” has him better set up for what’s to come. So he was right: The fit was perfect.

“I met a lot of like-minded people who wanted to be a part of medicine and it really ignited my passion to do my best and really try to get into medicine,” he said. “Getting to meet all those people was a really, really wonderful experience.”

What comes next? 

After he graduates in May, he plans to take a year to study to earn his Emergency Medical Technician license and prepare to take the MCAT. If all goes as planned, after he passes the MCAT he wants to go to medical school at the Medical College of Wisconsin-Central Wisconsin, the campus of which he visited as part of the AMP program.

John Chan, a former assistant professor at UW Oshkosh now teaching at UW-Madison, had Thao in lab classes and helped him prepare to present research at two conferences.

“I have no doubt that Javit will accomplish whatever it is he sets his mind to,” Chan said. “I’m glad he’s taking advantage of opportunities like undergraduate research and the MCW summer program to hone in on what his interests are.”

Chan said one reason the AMP program is significant is because of its targeted inclusion of Hmong students. Hmong students, he said, are often ineligible for programs aimed at increasing diversity in higher education.

Once Thao gets to medical school, he’d like to study psychiatry. He wants to help destigmatize issues of mental health and help young people, especially.

“Psychiatry interested me because of the pandemic and people who were struggling with mental health,” he said. “Me seeing personally other people affected and how much, that has really gotten me interested in learning about mental health and how much people really don’t know about it or care about it or stigmatize it.

“My basic goal is to have mental health treated just like your physical health—they’re both equally as important.”

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