By Denise Koch

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Only 6 percent of practicing physicians in the U.S. are minorities.

Too few apply to medical school, too few graduate and too few practice and teach.

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The University of Maryland, Baltimore believes you have to start early to fill that gap, and that’s the goal of their CURE Scholars Program.

WJZ’s Denise Koch visited a class recently, where 20 scholars recruited from inner-city schools were set to extract DNA from fruit.

They were being led by the School of Pharmacy’s Dr. Lisa Jones.

The soon-to-be 8th graders have already been a part of CURE for two years, studying science and medicine after school, on Saturdays and over the summer.

“Some of the students came in saying ‘I want to be an NFL player or a hairdresser,’ and now they’re saying ‘I want to be a pediatrician’ or ‘I want to be a neo-natal surgeon,'” says executive director Robin Saunders.

Princaya used to want to be a wrestler. Now, she says: “I want to be an anesthesiologist.”

Two years ago, before she started the program, she didn’t know that job existed.

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The program has helped one student, Tyler, turn his D in science to an A. Now, he wants to be a surgeon.

“I live with my aunt and my uncle, and they think that it’s real cool of me that I’m in this program, because they never got any of these opportunities as a child,” he says.

Tyler’s father is in jail. His mother’s not around.

Many of the students are overcoming tough circumstances with the help of mentors, volunteers and grad students.

The students recently presented their study on cancer in African Americans to a convention of cancer researchers.

CURE is a national program, but only University of Maryland recruits 6th graders. They don’t have to be A students, either, they just have to be committed.

For more information on the program, CLICK HERE.

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