Not many doctors can speak of their affiliation with a street gang and with the American Medical Association. But most people don't have the grit required to transform themselves from teenage toughs to MDs. After running with a gang while growing up on the hardscrabble streets of Gary, Ind., Ryan Gholson is now preparing for medical studies as an undergrad at Indiana State University, Terre Haute.

Gholson went to Houston this summer with both aspirations and reservations about the Summer Medical and Research Training (SMART) program at Baylor College of Medicine. A recipient of a National Institutes of Health minority student development grant, Gholson wanted research experience to improve his chances of admission to a medical school. But he was unsure if he was on par academically with his Ivy League colleagues. "At first I thought I was there only because I was a minority," he says. But by the...

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