There are many obstacles that urban youth experience in pursuing health careers, but the benefits of diversifying the classroom and workforce are clear. This is especially true today as educators and policymakers seek to enhance underrepresented minority students' access to health careers, and also achieve the health workforce needed to support the Affordable Care Act. The creation of student pipeline programs began more than 40 years ago, but success has been equivocal. In 2008, Mentoring in Medicine (MIM) conducted a research project to identify how students learn about health careers; develop strategies for an integrated, experiential learning program that encourages underrepresented minority students to pursue careers in health; and translate these into best practices for supporting students through their entire preparatory journey. Six focus groups were conducted with educators, students, and their parents. The inclusion of parents was unusual in studies of this kind. The outcome yielded important and surprising differences between student and parent knowledge, attitudes and beliefs. They informed our understanding of the factors that motivate and deter underrepresented minority students to pursue careers in health care. Specific programmatic strategies emerged that found their place in the subsequent development of new MIM programming that falls into the following three categories: community-based, school-based and Internet based. Best practices derived from these MIM programs are summarized and offered for consideration by other health career education program developers targeting underrepresented minority students, particularly those located in urban settings.