Dr. Kameron Matthews, Co-Founder of Tour for Diversity
Jun 9, 2016
Kameron Matthews MD, JD is a board-certified family physician and serves as the Chief Medical Officer of Mile Square Health Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago, overseeing thirteen federally qualified health centers. Dr. Matthews graduated from Duke University with a Bachelor's degree in public policy studies in 2000. She then earned her medical degree from Johns Hopkins University and her law degree at the University of Chicago. She completed her residency in Family Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Matthews has since focused her career on underserved patient populations, having worked previously as a staff physician at Cook County Jail and with Erie Family Health Center, a large community health center serving a mainly Spanish-speaking patient population. She is proud to co-direct the Tour for Diversity in Medicine, a grassroots initiative seeking to bring premedical enrichment activities to minority high school and undergraduate students across the country. Founded in 2012, the Tour for Diversity in Medicine has provided exposure, mentoring, and motivation to more than 2700 students across 23 states with upcoming visits to additional states and campuses planned.
How did you first become interested in family medicine?
I was interested in medicine at a very young age because of my father. As a family physician, he interacted with his patients in the most meaningful ways possible - and I wanted to do the same. He respects them and holds their respect for years and over generations. His connection to them defines primary care for me - that he is a resource for them both in the office and in the community. He is their advocate in both good times and bad. What I recognize now is how lucky I have been to have such a role model - and that is the reason why I have to do the same for other future health care professionals. Not all students have the benefit of having someone like my father to look up to.
Can you share your background on how you got to where you are right now?
After starting my undergraduate education at Duke University, I quickly realized that traditional basic science did not hold my attention. I became a public policy major instead due to my interests in larger advocacy work and impacting larger populations. I enjoyed my coursework tremendously and thought that I would continue to area of study through public health studies in graduate school. However after working on Capitol Hill one summer during medical school, I realized the importance of having a background in legislation and law making would have a great impact on my ability to influence change. I therefore decided to attend law school while on leave from medical school. My time at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and The University of Chicago Law School opened my eyes to possibilities that I had not previously imagined. I completed a residency in family medicine at the University of Illinois and took a staff physician position at Cook County Jail. This environment sculpted my career towards working in underserved areas more than any other experience - working with these patients who are often forgotten members of our society only confirmed my passion for helping others. Now, in my role as Chief Medical Officer at a federally qualified health center, I continue my advocacy work as I worked in underserved communities and seek to improve their health outcomes across multiple clinical areas.
Where did the idea for the Tour for Diversity first originate? What are some of your goals for the program moving forward?
While working as national officers with the Student National Medical Association, Alden Landry and I were inspired to reach out to a wider audience of students that were not otherwise exposed to premedical opportunities at conferences or at medical schools. We realized that we wanted to reach those students in their own environments and motivate them to continue to reach for their dream. So we gathered a group of our friends, other young practicing physicians and medical students, and we now visit campuses by bus. We hope to provide students around the nation with exposure to the fields of medicine and dentistry when they might have previously that they were out of reach. Based on our own experiences and those of our colleagues, minority students are more likely to lack mentors and guidance and are more likely to be advised poorly. That’s where our work can assist.
What are 2-3 changes you would like to see in the current medical education system or in the healthcare delivery system?
A more structural focus through both curriculum and clinical assignments in primary care for underserved communities and the social determinants of health.
Earlier opportunities for shadowing and exposure through structured premedical opportunities.
Less emphasis on basic sciences as is being seen through the latest changes to the MCAT.
Do you have any final thoughts regarding the medical profession as a whole?
Medicine education should continue to embrace the non-traditional student through a more widely adopted holistic review admissions process. Students from non-traditional backgrounds and educational path provide the necessary expansion of our workforce that will address disparities and inequities.