Annual summer programs led by GA-PCOM students and faculty acquaint local high school students with careers in science and medicine.
A lot of learning has been occurring at Georgia Campus – Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (GA-PCOM) this summer. Not only have our physician assistant and inaugural physical therapy students been in class, but a number of high school-age youth, shepherded and taught by GA-PCOM students and faculty, have been inspired and informed about health care as a career.
Patience Mason, director of the center for student affairs, said, “GA-PCOM has several pipeline programs, held throughout the year, that are coordinated by our graduate and professional students. The students see first-hand the healthcare disparities that exist in our nation and they are committed to supporting, encouraging and mentoring future generations to get engaged, get involved and consider a career in the healthcare professions.”
For the past four years, GA-PCOM has been the only medical school in Georgia to serve as host for the nationally recognized Camp Neuro and Camp Cardiac programs. The camps are designed for high school students across Georgia interested in pursuing careers in health care. From June 4-8, more than 50 GA-PCOM students, faculty, and staff members volunteered for these one-week camps that taught 30 bright young people about the brain and central nervous system, and the heart and cardiovascular system respectively. Directed by Akila Raja (DO '21), campers took part in informative workshops, including a career discovery event and a student-led advice panel, experienced simulations in the Sim Center, participated in hands-on sessions in the anatomy lab and worked on case studies that they presented to their peers.
At Camp Neuro, led by Zachary McConnell (DO '21) and Nicky Goldstein (DO '21), the high school students participated in such activities as building a brain using paint, foam balls and pipe cleaners, diagnosing robot patients, and dissecting a sheep brain. At Camp Cardiac, led by Neha Mylarapu (DO '21) and Sivani Nattama (DO '21), the students used their creativity to build a model of the heart, earned CPR certification and dissected a pig heart. Both camps emphasized healthy living and campers practiced Tai Chi and yoga.
And then, from June 18-29, GA-PCOM, under the leadership of Janine Miller (PharmD ‘20) , hosted its second annual Opportunities Academy for local high school students interested in healthcare careers. In partnership with Gwinnett County Public Schools’ Berkmar High School in Lilburn and Meadowcreek High School in Norcross, the Opportunities Academy is a two-week program designed to serve as a pipeline to guide motivated, underrepresented minority students toward careers in the fields of science and medicine.
Thirteen youth, mostly 11th and 12th graders, applied for spots and were accepted into the Academy where volunteer GA-PCOM students, faculty and staff members led the high school students through a varied curriculum. They experienced interactive labs and dissections in the College’s anatomy lab, attended workshops and heard guest lecturers, received tips on applying to college and health professional programs, observed osteopathic manipulative medicine demonstrations and explored a variety of subjects from cardiology to infectious diseases to mental health issues. In addition, they took field trips to the Shepherd Center, Bodies: The Exhibition, both in Atlanta, and the McKesson Corporation, a healthcare company in Duluth.
Opening day featured a keynote address from Dr. Catrina Jones, founder of The Calena Firm which provides consulting services to businesses facing challenges. A graduate of Spelman College in Atlanta where she majored in chemistry, she has served as a scientist at Novartis Pharmaceuticals and a research chemist at DuPont Corporation. Just before “graduating” from the Academy and taking home their own pair of scrubs, students heard a keynote address from Karla Booker, MD, a Marietta-based family medicine physician who resides in Lilburn. Dr. Booker serves on the board of directors for the Georgia Academy of Family Physicians, and as the disparities representative on the newly formed Georgia State Maternal Mortality Review Committee.
She encouraged the students to pursue their dreams of a medical career. “We cannot do this as an island,” she said, adding that “we can change the face of health care.” Aisha DeBerry, JD, GA-PCOM’s director of diversity and community partnerships, explained to the students that “diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being invited to dance.”
“We need you,” she said. “Don’t lose touch with us.”
Companies that provided philanthropic support which made the Academy possible included 3M, Hologic, Inc., Teva and the VWR Foundation.
The following Tuesday, July 3, GA-PCOM hosted 175 participants in the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine which is a national program for high school students who plan to pursue a medical career. The Forum challenges participants to learn about a broad range of topics, including educational requirements, career options, clinical practice and complex issues facing the medical profession.
A full day on the GA-PCOM campus allowed students to get a glimpse of what it’s like to learn in the anatomy lab, how pharmacy students prepare compounds in the sterile products lab, the various types of simulations that can be enacted in the Simulation Center and much more.
Mason said, “As administrators and faculty we are in awe of the time, energy and effort our students put into coordinating these programs and we are equally impressed with the caliber of high school students that participate in them.”
Many thanks to the scores of biomedical sciences, osteopathic medicine and pharmacy students, faculty and staff members who make these opportunities possible.
This article was updated on June 17 and June 18, 2018 to provide additional information on the Camp Neuro and Camp Cardiac programs.
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 which has a storied history as a premier osteopathic medical school. PCOM Georgia offers the doctor of osteopathic medicine degree, the doctor of pharmacy degree, the doctor of physical therapy degree, as well as graduate degrees in biomedical sciences 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 pcom.edu or call 678-225-7500.
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