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Summer STEM Academy Introduces High School Students to Healthcare Careers

July 1, 2021
PCOM Georgia' summer STEM program allows Atlanta area high school students to learn about anatomy and careers in healthcare.
PCOM Georgia' summer STEM program allows Atlanta area high school students to learn about anatomy and careers in healthcare.

Gwinnett area high schoolers learned about human anatomy, preparing for college and various careers in medicine.

About 40 high school students, known as “mentees,” energized the zoom rooms and halls of PCOM Georgia for the past two weeks as they learned about healthcare careers from physical therapist to pharmacist to veterinarian, in addition to such topics as professionalism, time management, financial literacy and college readiness.

A team of PCOM Georgia “mentors,” students in the biomedical sciences, osteopathic medicine and pharmacy programs, provided leadership and guidance to the high schoolers, participants in the college’s free Summer Math and Science Academy. Each high school student painted a heart, made kombucha, dissected a sheep brain and made faux DNA from candy. They participated in simulation activities and visited the college’s anatomy lab.  They also worked in teams to present on chosen conditions such as gestational diabetes, the Spanish flu, Marfan syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease.

STEM program provides intrinsic value

At the academy commencement ceremony, students had the opportunity to reflect on their two-week experience. Crestard Falohun, a rising sophomore, at McClure Health Science High School, who is considering a career in anesthesiology or pharmacy, said his experience at camp had been “mind blowing” and noted, “It’s amazing there are adults here who care about us.”

He said, “I would definitely recommend this camp to other high school students. If they are potentially interested in pursuing a career in the medical field, this is a great place to start.” He also found value in networking with students and medical professionals who are both in the field and still training.

“Overall, this program gets high school students excited to pursue a career in the medical field as well as making it fun along the way.”

Claire Dorcent, DO ’21, a recent PCOM Georgia graduate and an OB/GYN resident at the Mayo Clinic who is credited with planting the seed for PCOM Georgia’s summer academy, delivered the keynote address at the graduation ceremony, which was also attended by campers’ family members. 

A first generation Haitian American, she said, “Even though the journey will be hard, don’t give up on yourself.” She thanked the mentors, teachers and professors who “poured into me” while she was a student and promised the mentees “we are here to help you when times are rough.”

“You really are the future of America,” she said. “Whatever you do, try not to compare yourself to others. Run your own race.” She quoted a favorite saying, “A mind that is stretched by new experiences can never go back to its old dimensions.”

Observations from the leadership team

The camp’s leadership team consisted of PCOM Georgia students Charles Ahweyevu, MS/Biomed ‘21, Arthur Few, PharmD ‘23, and India Chaney, DO ‘23 who met each week for a year to plan academy activities. Faculty leads were Adwoa Dansoa Aduonum, PhD, MSc, associate professor of physiology and neuroscience and the director of the interprofessional education program for the osteopathic medicine program, and Valerie E. Cadet, PhD, associate professor of microbiology and immunology. Aisha DeBerry, JD, the executive director of diversity and community partnerships, provided support.

DeBerry said, “This academy is truly a labor of love. Each year we are able to see the impact that the academy has on our high school students of color. When we talk about equity, this is what we are referring to – providing the opportunity for students of color to be exposed to healthcare professions early in their lives. These students are able to see what they can be and not what others say they should be.”

Ahweyevu said, “This opportunity was very fulfilling and eye opening. I was so touched by how much the students genuinely enjoyed the program. Seeing their eyes light up after a speaker's testimony or a lab made everything we did worth it.

“I loved that we focused on not just science and medicine, but also on how to stay motivated and find the confidence to chase your dreams. I am humbled to be a part of their journey.”

Seeing joy on campers’ faces proved to be top moments for Few who said, “As a lead mentor, the stress of planning such an event is rewarded when you see the students smile and respond with positive excitement about the activities and speakers they encounter.

“I truly hope that our mentees see that there are people who care and want to see them succeed, no matter what profession they choose. These are the moments that make academies like SMSA worth it.”

According to Dr. Aduonum, a Ghanaian American, “It is our duty to reach back and help those who are coming up behind us.” She said that this philosophy refers to the “Sankofa,” a metaphorical symbol used by the Akan people of Ghana, usually depicted as a bird with its head turned backward taking an egg from its back. The symbol points to the importance of reaching back to knowledge gained in the past, which is useful in order to make progress.

She added, “This is what we strive to do for our students and future health professionals – bring them up and prepare them for the future.”

Camp participants and funding

Participants included rising tenth, eleventh and twelfth grade students from such Gwinnett County high schools as Brookwood, Central Gwinnett, Collins Hill, Discovery, Greater Atlanta Christian, Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology, Lanier, McClure Health Science, North Gwinnett, Parkview, Paul Duke STEM, Shiloh and South Gwinnett. A home schooled student, as well as students from the Georgia Connections Academy, Midtown International School, Clayton, Cobb, Forsyth and Fulton county high schools also attended the camp.

The PCOM Office of Diversity and Community Partnerships provided funding, in addition to grants from the Jackson EMC Foundation and Hologic, Inc., a medical technology company largely focused on women’s health.

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  • About PCOM Georgia

    Established in 2005, PCOM Georgia is a private, not-for-profit, accredited institute of higher education dedicated to the healthcare professions. The Suwanee, Georgia, campus is affiliated with Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, a premier osteopathic medical school with a storied history. PCOM Georgia offers doctoral degrees in osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, and physical therapy and graduate degrees in biomedical sciences, medical laboratory science, and physician assistant studies. Emphasizing "a whole person approach to care," PCOM Georgia focuses on educational excellence, interprofessional education and service to the wider community. 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 or call 678-225-7500.

    For more information, contact:
    Barbara Myers
    Senior Public Relations Manager
    Office: 678-225-7532 | Cell: 770-309-0613

    Connect with PCOM Georgia