An innovative program at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine that provides opportunities for students who are underrepresented in medicine has expanded to better serve the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Early Identification Program (EIP) provides intensive medical school preparation over two summer sessions for rising undergraduate juniors pursuing their dream of medical school. 

During the first summer, participants receive 10 weeks of intense exposure to hands-on independent research under the guidance of acclaimed researchers from the medical school and the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC. During the second summer, continuing students participate in six weeks of clinical rotations through various departments at Carilion Clinic facilities and receive individualized test preparation and application advising. 

“I never had exposure to careers in medicine like this growing up, so it’s been great that EIP has been able to provide that as I’ve gone through college,” said Deborah Thomas, a second-year participant from Virginia Tech. “I’ve gotten to learn so much more about medicine and realized that this is truly my passion.”

An EIP student smiles while listening to a patient alongside a physician in a clinic.
Deborah Thomas (at right) joins Carilion Clinic nurse practitioner Quianna Charles (at center) as she speaks with a patient's family member at Carilion Children's. As a second-year Early Identification Program student, Thomas gained experience in actual medical clinics. Photo by Ryan Anderson for Virginia Tech.

Supporting the underrepresented

Thomas and Sydnee Harrison, both of whom are senior neuroscience majors at Virginia Tech, were selected through a competitive application process to enroll in the EIP in 2022. They were joined by four new participants, three of whom are first-generation college students, this summer 2023. The six total EIP students in 2023 was the most ever.

The EIP prepares students with the rigorous research that is expected from medical school applicants while also introducing them to physicians and specialties they would not had the opportunity to see.

“I think when you are pre-med, you have to get through the weed-out classes and make sure you get good grades. I was saying I wanted to be a doctor but I hadn’t been exposed to the clinical side of things,” Harrison said. “The second summer of EIP has completely solidified that this is what I want to do. Seeing and experiencing it by shadowing amazing doctors is completely different than learning from a book or online.”

An EIP student looks at a laptop to review a chart with a physician.
Sydnee Harrison (at left) reviews an electronic chart with Quianna Charles at Carilion Children's. Photo by Ryan Anderson for Virginia Tech.

Expanding the reach

In addition to students from Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, the commonwealth’s two land-grant universities, the EIP expanded to include applicants from James Madison University and Old Dominion University in 2023. New for 2024, students from William & Mary can also apply.

“For a student like myself, the EIP was an invaluable experience that allowed me to gain relationships with doctors and leaders at the forefront of their domains. Being able to interact with these professionals provided me with unparalleled insights and knowledge,” said Hezekial Emmanuel, a rising junior in pre-med at James Madison University. “Aside from the knowledge and experiences I gained, though, I believe one of the most significant takeaways was the sense of community and support that I found within the program. Being surrounded by like-minded individuals who share a passion for medicine and are dedicated to making a positive impact in health care was truly inspiring.”

Attracting students from across Virginia is important because there is a physician shortage forecast for the commonwealth. Even before the pandemic, the Association of American Medical Colleges anticipated a shortage of 3,911 doctors in Virginia by 2030. It has been shown that physicians who attend an undergraduate program in the state are more likely to remain there after their residency program.

An EIP student works in a lab at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC.
Hezekial Emmanuel, a rising junior at James Madison University, gained research experience in his first year of the Early Identification Program while working in the Finkielstein Lab at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC. Photo by Ryan Anderson for Virginia Tech.

What’s included with EIP

The medical school and its admissions team provides EIP participants with a wealth of support to help them make the most of their time in the program.

“We know there are numerous hurdles that outstanding students who are underrepresented in medicine must face when pursuing medical school,” said Melanie Prusakowski, associate dean for admissions. “They may be working to pay for college, they may not have access to mentors in medicine, they may not be able to afford an MCAT prep course. We have built resources into the EIP so everyone can build a path to medical school.”

Included in the program is:

  • Room and board in downtown Roanoke 
  • A stipend for living expenses
  • Research experience with world-renowned scientists
  • Clinical experience shadowing experienced physicians
  • Mentoring from established physicians and community members
  • Preparation for the MCAT medical school entrance exam
  • One-on-one application counseling and interview prep
An EIP student smiles in a lab coat in a lab.
Kali Holsinger, a first-year participant majoring in neuroscience at Virginia Tech, conducted research in the Mukherjee Lab. Photo by Ryan Anderson for Virginia Tech.

How to become part of the EIP

Undergraduate students who are eligible for the EIP should visit to fill out the online application. Interested students in their sophomore or junior year will need to submit:

1.  A completed online application
2.  A copy of their academic transcripts
3.  Two professional references, including one from a science faculty member

The 2024 EIP application period will open on Oct. 1. For more information, contact Katherine Murphy at


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