How SHPEP Helped Me Recognize the Value of Summer Enrichment Programs

Thursday, March 09, 2023
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Hi! My name is Emyli Peralta, and I am currently a second-year dental student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine. In the summer after my undergraduate freshman year, I had the privilege of attending the Summer Health Professional Education Program (SHPEP), formerly known as the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program, at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) in Omaha, NE. This six-week intensive summer program is an excellent opportunity for college students who are interested in pursuing a career in health care. In this blog post, I will share my experience and what I learned during my time in the program, specifically focused on dentistry.

My first day in the program, we received a tour of the medical school and got familiar with the building and hospital nearby.


When applying to SHPEP, I was initially nervous about visiting another part of the country and spending six weeks with complete strangers. When we first arrived, we were welcomed with a tour of the medical school where we would be taking classes Monday through Thursdays along with our dorm building where our rooms, lounge space, and dining hall was located. I was pleasantly surprised when I met my cohort because we all got along very well. I especially became close friends with my three roommates on my first day there. Maia, Kristine, Jennifer, and I did everything together that summer—from grabbing breakfast at the buffet every morning building to walking up the gym after classes every day.

My roommates and I attended a local street fair in Omaha after arriving in the city. (From left to right, Kristine Ongchuan, Maia Ghosh, Emyli Peralta, and Jennifer Stobbs-Vergara)


The dental track was designed to provide students with an overview of the field of dentistry. On Fridays, we would take a bus to the dental school and spend the day doing fun dental activities. It covered a wide range of topics, including dental anatomy, dental radiology, specialties, and patient care.

Maia and I assisted each other while placing a class 2 composite restoration.


One of the highlights of the program was the opportunity to practice hands-on activities every week. We received hands-on training in restorative dentistry, taking radiographs, and waxing up teeth. This experience gave us a glimpse into the daily life of a dentist and helped us understand the importance of being able to work well with your hands.

I had the opportunity to take radiographs on a mannequin and then review them in the lab.


Jennifer and I were able to take alginate impressions on each other and then pour the models.


Aside from the academic and clinical experiences, the program also offered a variety of social and cultural activities. We had the opportunity to explore Omaha and attend cultural events, such as concerts, sports games, and the zoo. This allowed us to bond with our fellow participants and learn more about the city and its people.

We received a tour of the University of Nebraska football field.


Another valuable aspect of the program was the mentorship we received from experienced dental professionals. In all these activities, we were with medical and dental students that were willing to share their knowledge and answer our questions. This was especially helpful when it came to preparing for dental school and navigating the application process.

We went to the Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, which is the second-best zoo in the country!


Lastly, the program is free, and you receive a stipend for attending. It was an incredible experience to spend my summer not only learning about dentistry but also being exposed to many different activities and adventures without any additional cost. This is program dependent, but at UNMC, it was nice to not have to worry about buying any meals or paying for activities.

Some of the fun activities we did on the weekends included cruising on a lake and attending a College World Series Game.


Overall, attending the Summer Health Professional Education Program at UNMC was an incredible experience. It provided me with a solid foundation in the field of dentistry and helped me develop the skills and knowledge necessary for a successful career. I would highly recommend this program to any college student who is considering a career in dentistry or a related field.

Maia, Kristine, Jennifer, and me in our ceremony at the end of the program.