Summer STEM Program Geared Towards High Schoolers | PCOM Georgia
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Opportunities Academy Educates Gwinnett Students about Health Care

July 1, 2022

High school students practice treating a human patient simulatorAs if in unison, “Ahhh!” could be heard emanating from a worktable in the PCOM Georgia Anatomy Lab as four Gwinnett high school students dissected sheep brains under the guidance of a PCOM Georgia faculty member. They had just learned that the “pons,” shaped like a peanut, is part of the brain stem. Other terms like lateral ventricle, choroid plexus and cerebrospinal fluid were being discussed and identified as Adwoa Aduonum, PhD, associate professor of physiology and neuroscience, advised them to act like surgeons and “cut with precision” as they examined the organ.

The Gwinnett students from high schools including Shiloh, North Gwinnett, Collins Hill and Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology were ensconced in an anatomy lesson during the Opportunities Academy, a weeklong experience on the campus of the Suwanee medical school. Eight PCOM Georgia students, in the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine and the Masters of Biomedical Sciences programs, served as mentors, while faculty members and invited guests shared their knowledge and experience.

Asked if she had ever participated in a similar academy, the Shiloh High School student, who is interested in a healthcare career, called the experience fun and new for her.

Valerie E. Cadet, PhD, associate professor of microbiology and immunology, is the faculty advisor for the summer camp attended by 30 students. She also enjoyed teaching the students about Microbiology: What’s Living on my Things?

She said, “What better way to learn the importance of germs and the importance of proper hand washing and cleaning your items than by exploring the laboratory of life? We were able to simulate collecting a sample from a ‘sick patient’ and process it to see if the disease was caused by bacteria or not; all the while gaining an understanding of clinical and biomedical laboratory sciences.“

A participant of the Opportunities Academy paints a picture of the human heartOther activities the students participated in included painting the heart, modeling the kidney, checking vital signs, life as a veterinarian, pathology as a career, becoming a pharmacist, an introduction to osteopathic medicine and medical simulation.

The high schoolers also learned about applying to college, participated in a resume workshop and heard from a nurse practitioner about the secrets of a fulfilled life.

A health professions student panel featuring professional students in the osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy, physician assistant studies and biomedical sciences program rounded out the activities. A graduation, where students received certificates and superlatives, followed the showcase of the week’s activities.

The high school students included a prospective reconstructive plastic surgeon who is part of the HOSA program at McClure Health Sciences High School. HOSA is a student-led organization with chapters across the globe, which promotes careers in the health professions.

A potential biomedical engineer who was one of PCOM Georgia’s first Future Healthcare Scholars attended the academy from Grayson High School, while a future nurse who said her eyes have been opened to a multitude of healthcare careers attended from Peachtree Ridge High School.

The camp is sponsored by Jackson Electric Membership Corporation and Hologic and is hosted by the PCOM Georgia Office of Diversity and Community Partnerships.

Darnae Parks, who directs the campus’ diversity office said, “The program allows high school students from underrepresented communities the opportunity to take a sneak peek at careers in the healthcare field. Some of the workshops allow them to take transferable skills like resume building with them throughout their life journey.”

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About PCOM Georgia

Established in 2005, PCOM Georgia is a branch campus of Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM), a private, not-for-profit, accredited institution of higher education with a storied 125-year history dedicated to the healthcare professions. Located in Suwanee (Gwinnett County), PCOM Georgia offers doctoral degrees in osteopathic medicine, pharmacy and physical therapy. Graduate degrees are offered in biomedical sciences, medical laboratory science and physician assistant studies. The campus joins PCOM South Georgia in Moultrie in helping to meet the healthcare needs of the state. Emphasizing "a whole person" approach to care, PCOM Georgia focuses on educational excellence, interprofessional education and service to the community. For more information, visit or call 678-225-7500. The campus is also home to the Georgia Osteopathic Care Center, an osteopathic manipulative medicine clinic, which is open to the public by appointment. For more information, visit

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Jamesia Harrison, MS
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