STEM High Schoolers Gain Insight Into Health Careers | PCOM Georgia
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Bridging the Gap: 
STEM High Schoolers Gain Insight Into Health Professions


February 14, 2024

high school students observe staff member demonstrate medical procedure on simulation center mannequinPCOM Georgia welcomed 96 high school sophomores from the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology (GSMST) on February 2 for a hands-on experience in the Simulation Center. Multiple departments participated in hosting the students, who were divided into morning and afternoon groups which rotated through each activity.

In addition to an asthma simulation with the high-fidelity mannequins, the visitors enjoyed anatomy, ultrasound, and core strength presentation by the Department of Physical Therapy. Campus tours were also provided by PCOM Georgia’s student ambassadors from admissions.

Manager of Clinical Simulation Toni Senchisen, MS ’18, NREMT, takes great pleasure in orchestrating such events. “I have found a passion in mentoring and helping students find their calling,” said Senchisen, who wanted to be a teacher when she was a young girl. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in education.

Senchisen’s other love is science. “In high school and college,” she shared, “my dream was to be a doctor.”

When she began her master’s program at PCOM Georgia, Senchisen was still weighing her options. Almost immediately, however, she said, “I got a work-study job in the Simulation Center when it expanded in 2016. We were unboxing the heads. I actually dove right in and began building mannequins.” Encouraged by her mentor, Jeff Adams, MS, NREMT-P, Senchisen started her concentration in medical simulation a year later.

Today, Senchisen considers herself “hands-on in construction.” As she attested, “I can tear these mannequins apart!” Concealed by a two-way mirror, Senchisen is also a ventriloquist of sorts, giving voice to her model patients. “It’s a big-kid job,” she admitted. “It’s like playing with dolls and computers every day.”

With everyone striving to create a fun and informative experience, one PCOM student volunteer observed, “It was great to see the excitement and curiosity sparked in the students.” Their feedback, in turn, was overwhelmingly positive:

“I loved how interactive it was, it was very fun!”

“I came here with intentions of pursuing a career in technology, and now I think I want to be a doctor!”

“Even though I don't want to study medicine, everyone was so nice, engaged, and happy.”

“This exposed me to opportunities that I didn't even know existed.”

“The whole experience really solidified that I want to go into the medical field.”

Professor demonstrates ultra sound equipment for high school studentsTo captivate students’ imaginations with real-world applications for their coursework, GSMST emphasizes discovery outside the classroom. Freshman, for instance, learn about STEM careers from an array of professionals who speak and volunteer on their campus. Sophomores proceed with site visits to businesses and institutions like PCOM. Juniors continue with a fellowship that spans a semester (at least), while seniors must intern for a full year.

“Right now, I have a senior interning in the Sim Center who comes in one-to-three days a week as part of her fellowship,” said Senchisen, “and we have also accepted juniors.” Whether they find their calling in the health professions or ultimately rule out a career track, GSMST students are well positioned to determine their next steps.

High school students listen to professor teach in front of skeleton anatomy modelRanked tenth nationally among all public STEM high schools by US News and World Report, GSMST is a lottery-based charter school with two primary admission requirements: applicants must be eighth graders who reside in Gwinnett County and must hold a Distinguished Learner designation in advanced algebra. The distinctive, cumulative curriculum further restricts matriculation to the start of ninth grade. If a student leaves the school for any reason, the spot stays open. Therefore, with a total capacity of 1,200 students, the high school accounts for attrition and admits approximately 375 freshmen annually. The graduation rate is 100 percent.

Without question, partnerships with corporate and educational entities like PCOM inspire talented, success-oriented teens to think ahead and capitalize on the competitive advantages available to them.

“I’m really proud of what we offer our students,” said Rebecca Robbins, partnership and internship coordinator at GSMST. A strong proponent of “college and career readiness,” she served as a GSMST Spanish teacher for ten years before assuming her current role. While teaching, she shared, “Part of my day, I taught a service-learning class for junior internships, so I had a baby toe in the partnership program.” Meeting Senchisen through students’ internships at PCOM prompted the sophomore site visits, the first of which was in November 2023.

Robbins is thrilled for Gwinnett high schoolers to “see options that are right in our backyard,” she said. “Our partnership with PCOM is something. I’d love to see it grow in the years to come.”

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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 pcom.edu 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 pcomgeorgiahealth.org.

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    Jamesia Harrison, MS
    Assistant Director, News and Media Relations
    Email: jamesiaha@pcom.edu
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