The annual program raises understanding and interest in science and medicine careers for minority high school students.
On Friday, July 19, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) hosted a graduation ceremony for its Math and Science Summer Academy. Since 2016, PCOM has welcomed students from Olney High School and Esperanza College to participate in this intensive, two-week program.
The Summer Academy is designed to raise awareness of, and interest in, STEM+M (science, technology, engineering and math, plus medicine) careers for minority high school students. These students are given the opportunity to augment and accelerate their STEM+M skills, learn about the college and medical school admissions process, explore career possibilities, and learn interactively in PCOM’s clinical simulation and anatomy labs and through field trips to the Franklin Institute and GlaxoSmithKline.
“I’m so impressed with how the students have blossomed in the program,” said coordinator and student leader Sheeva Norooz (DO ’22). “It’s amazing to see them apply what they are learning. One day they learned about the immune system and since that day I’ve watched them washing their hands profusely.”
Ms. Norooz went on to share that the students’ interest in working in healthcare has grown since entering the program. “Before the program started we interviewed the students and about half of them expressed an interest in working in healthcare. Now, all the students want to pursue healthcare in some form whether that’s research or even medical school.”
Rising 10th grader Maliya Combs shared her experience as one of growth. “At first, I thought it would be like school, but as the week went on I really came to like it.” When asked if she would now consider a career in medicine, she said she had already made up her mind. “I want to be a neurosurgeon,” said Ms. Combs. “We studied the brain one day and that was the definitely the most interesting day for me.”
The Summer Academy aims to create a pipeline to foster interest in STEM+M careers among minority students. In the U.S., minorities continue to be widely underrepresented in STEM+M fields. A 2018 study by the Pew Research Center found that blacks represent 9 percent of STEM workers, despite making up 11 percent of the workforce. Hispanics account for only 7 percent of STEM workers but make up 16 percent of the U.S. workforce.
Denah Appelt, PhD, professor, neuroscience and program coordinator for the Math and Science Summer Academy spoke about how the program, now in its fourth year, has grown.
“The students we’re getting are much more interested in medical training and view this program as more than a summer camp. Students want hands-on lessons and we have done our best to incorporate them. We want these students to feel that they are supported even beyond the program. We want to make sure they are on the right track to college and hope to someday see them back here at PCOM.”
During the ceremony, graduates were presented with certificates of completion and were addressed by guest speaker and PCOM alumnus David Addley, DO ’96, a cardiologist with Trinity Health Mid-Atlantic. In his speech, Dr. Addley shared his personal journey to medical school with the graduates.
The PCOM Science and Math Summer Academy serves as the cornerstone of a year-round academic partnership between PCOM, ASPIRA, Inc. of Pennsylvania (which oversees Olney Charter High School) and Esperanza College.
Funding for the Summer Academy was provided by the San Diego Foundation and the 3M Foundation.
Founded in 1899, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) has trained thousands of highly competent, caring physicians, health practitioners and behavioral scientists who practice a “whole person” approach to care—treating people, not just symptoms. PCOM operates three campuses (PCOM, PCOM Georgia and PCOM South Georgia) and offers doctoral degrees in clinical psychology, osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy and school psychology, and graduate degrees in biomedical sciences, forensic medicine, mental health counseling, organizational development and leadership, physician assistant studies, school psychology, and public health management and administration. PCOM students learn the importance of health promotion, research, education and service to the community. Through its community-based Healthcare Centers, PCOM provides care to medically underserved populations. For more information, visit pcom.edu or call 215-871-6100.
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