SMYSP began in 1988 as a student-directed program with strong faculty and Stanford support. In the more than 30 years since then, it has grown into a university-based program that offers academic enrichment in the biomedical sciences, college guidance, and long-term mentoring to low-income and underrepresented high school students.
A reception for volunteers allows participants and hospital employees to mingle during Stanford Medical Youth Science Program.

Founding of Stanford Medical Youth Science Program

The Stanford Medical Youth Science Program (SMYSP) was the brainchild of Dr. Marilyn Winkleby, then associate professor of medicine at Stanford University, and two exceptional Stanford pre-med students, Michael McCullough and Marc Lawrence. Together, the three envisioned a program that would offer academic enrichment and long-term mentoring to low-income and minority high school students. They wanted to find a way to bring these students, many of whom had suffered hardship, into the world-renowned setting of Stanford University where they could learn more about science and medicine.

SMYSP was awarded a $10,000 grant from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the first iteration of the program launched in the summer of 1987. It was a shoestring operation: McCullough and Lawrence arranged labs and lectures; Dr. Winkleby made home visits to urge families to let their children attend the program; Stanford staff members and students were tapped to lend support and to teach. The enormous effort paid off, and seven students enrolled in the free, commuter program.

The following year, in 1988, SMYSP became the residential experience it is now known for. Stanford undergraduates began to serve as counselors to the students that year, and workshops in SAT preparation, writing college essays and obtaining financial aid for college were provided. The program also extended its recruitment efforts to 18 counties in northern California and ultimately invited 23 students to be a part of the inaugural summer residential program. Many of the students selected showed great courage in the face of both academic and personal challenges like poverty and war, violence and racial injustice. Students like Irene Linetskaya, who survived the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and went on to attend Harvard Medical School, and Erik Cabral, a student who turned his back on an inner-city gang to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor, were admitted. Many SMYSP participants have gone on to become the first in their families to attend college. 

Over the subsequent years, the program received funding from a number of grants and donations that continue to support its efforts to enhance the education of low-income and minority high school students in medicine and science. The program is grateful for support from generous individuals, organizations, and foundations, including the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Initiative for Biomedical Research, U.S. Department of Education, National Institute of Health, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), the California Educational Facilities Authority, the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), the California Endowment, and many others.

The program celebrated its 30-year anniversary in 2018.

SMYSP in Images

Former SMYSP Logo

Previous logo for SMYSP

The shield references Stanford Medicine, which was the department that founded SMYSP. The logo also features a book, a stethoscope, and the SMYSP acronym was used as a logo for the program early on.

Highlights Through the Years


SMYSP launched with seven students enrolled in the program


The program expanded to host 23 students and becomes a residential program.


SMYSP received a $100,000 grant from the MacDonnell Foundation, and the curriculum expands to include five themes: college week, human biology, human development, medicine and society, and complementary medicine.


SMYSP received the largest individual donation in the program’s history. Leo Hindery Jr., inspired by the life-saving efforts made for him by a young African-American resident at Stanford Hospital, donated enough money to run the program for five years.


The California Endowment awarded SMYSP with a $409,000 grant to replicate the program at the University of California San Diego and to expand the program.


SMYSP won a competitive national grant in the amount of $487,000 from the Fund for the Improvement of Post Secondary Education (FIPSE).


Staff development opportunities for the residential counselors expanded with the introduction of Med1A-C courses.


SMYSP received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring. The award is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government for mentoring in these fields.


The program joins the Stanford Pre-Collegiate Studies department, which oversees a number of residential and commuter programs for pre-college students at Stanford.


SMYSP celebrates the 30 year anniversary of the residential program on Stanford's campus.

SMYSP is committed to developing young leaders.

The statistics speak for themselves. SMYSP is changing for the better the lives of under-resourced students, and by extension, the healthcare community at large.
SMYSP Class of 2019
Over 700 students have graduated from the summer residential program over the years.
SMYSP participants at graduation
99% of program alumni have been admitted to colleges and universities.
Over 40% of the 4-year college graduates are becoming or have become health professionals.