John A. Davis is not a medical doctor but in 1970, he made diagnosis about a problem he saw.
"I was working on a behavior science module here (at USC) with medical students to get them to be culturally sensitive to their patients. My secondary job was to recruit black students for the medical school. But what I found was there were not enough students out there interested, so I hit upon the idea of developing our own," explained Davis.
The medical school pipeline program that he created is called Med-COR (Medical Counseling Organizing and Recruiting), and it serves inner city youth, predominantly African American and Latinos, in grades eight to 12.
Each Saturday, youngsters go to USC where they receive tutoring on field trips.
"Getting into the program is about interest," said Davis, the director and founder of Med-COR. "There are some requirements in terms of academic skills, but they are not measured by grades. We give a math test, and students must pass it at 80 percent. They can not be a remedial student, but they don't need to be an A student either."
Med-COR works with a number of local Los Angeles Unified School District campuses to recruit students (a complete list is available at www.usc.edu/programs/uscmedcor). And the youngsters must personally commit to get invovled in what can sometimes be a rigorous program.
"One of my favorite stories (about what it takes to be a Med-COR students) involves three young men. They were at Washington Prep and two of them were fairly decent athletes. They wanted to know if they could stay in Med-COR and play football as well. I told them they had to make a choice," recalled Davis, who said the intensity of the Med-COR program makes it difficult to include other equally intensive activities.
"Their first response, you're cruel," remembered Davis with a laugh. "I told them this is a very difficult thing to achieve. It would be hard to spend the time you need to prepare academically and the time you need to spend to be a first rate football player."
The young men did make a choice, and 20 years later one is a chiropractor, another is one of the top administrators at the Watts Health Clinic, and the other is now a gynecologist in practice in Texas.
In addition to the year round program, Med-COR offers its participants and opportunity to take work-study in the summer, where they receive hands-on experience appropriate to their grade level and knowledge.