Urology diversity scholarship positions more students for a successful residency match

Illinois medical student Kanesha Overton gained exposure to VCU’s highly ranked urology program and trained under faculty mentors through the division’s visiting scholars program for students underrepresented in medicine.

By Polly Roberts School of Medicine polly.roberts@vcuhealth.org

November 16, 2022

When VCU Division of Urology Chair Lance Hampton, M.D., made the lead gift to fund a urology diversity scholarship on the MCV Campus, he wanted to provide students underrepresented in medicine with an impactful clinical experience that would help position them for success in urology’s highly competitive residency match.

Students like Kanesha Overton: a fourth-year student at Carle Illinois College of Medicine, an institution without a urology residency program. She applied for the Lance and Suzette Hampton Urology Diversity Scholarship after reading an article about Hampton’s commitment to building a more representative urology workforce.

According to the American Urological Association’s 2020 annual census, 10.3% of urologists are female; 2.1% are Black. The scholarship funds a four-week elective in the VCU School of Medicine’s highly ranked urology program for medical students from historically Black medical schools or who are members of Student National Medical Association chapters at peer schools.

“Having a chair who truly stands for trying to make a difference was a program I really wanted to be in,” says Overton, a Black female who completed the program in September 2022. “It’s also nice to be with residents who look like me and I can talk to about things like choosing a residency and living arrangements. It’s different when you’re in a program and you see people who look like you. It gives you the motivation to say ‘I can do it, too.’”

Without the scholarship, she wouldn’t have been able to afford the expenses of traveling to and living in another state for a month.

“But getting hands-on experience can make or break a match in urology,” Overton says of the specialty she fell in love with during medical school. “I had no idea how competitive urology was — I just knew I wanted to be a urologist. This scholarship has helped pave the way.”

Potential realized

Overton will become the first physician in her family, inspired by her grandmother who raised her and worked as a nurse. “I would see her nursing badge and couldn’t wait for mine to say Dr. Overton.”

She says growing up as a Black female in a low-income household in Washington, D.C., sparked her passion to serve disadvantaged communities and help others reach their potential. In her personal statement, Overton writes that she experienced great hardship in her first 18 years. “However, I have not let these traumatic experiences define me; I use them to counsel patients in ways I never thought possible.”

Overton’s path first led her to the University of Oklahoma, where she earned her undergraduate degree in industrial and systems engineering. However, family hardships forced her to defer medical school and first work as an engineer to support her mother and help raise her niece and nephew.

Adam Klausner, M.D., Endeavour Legacy Professor of Urology and residency program director, served on the scholarship’s selection committee.

“To us, it was clear that most people in Kanesha’s situation had a greater chance of being sucked up by the system than being in the competitive field of a surgical residency,” he says. “Yet she does it all with a smile. She understands that she’ll be able to give back more to her family and the community once she has the resources and skills of a physician. That’s really motivated her.”

Expanding diversity on the MCV Campus and beyond

Rebecca Zee, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, serves as program director for urology clinical electives. Medical students spend one week with pediatrics and three weeks on adult services — all while training under expert faculty mentors and participating in research. Zee also arranged for Overton to meet with private practice urologists and alumni, including Randy Vince Jr., M.D., H’19

While the program’s chief goal is mentoring promising students, division faculty hope it also provides VCU with the opportunity to encourage students to apply for residency on the MCV Campus, and thereby allow it to continue to build a more diverse, culturally competent urology program.

“I appreciate VCU connecting me with other minorities who went through the program to gauge their experiences and what it would be like,” says Overton, who also spent time at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU and the Central Virginia VA Health Care System. “They’ve given me a well-rounded experience. To find a program where people are actually putting a plan together speaks volumes.”