Cairo and Moultrie Students Attend Opportunities Academy
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Cairo and Moultrie Students Attend Opportunities Academy

July 16, 2019

PCOM South Georgia conducted summer programming to introduce high schoolers to careers in science and health care.

Sixteen 10th, 11th and 12th grade students from Cairo High School in Cairo and Colquitt County High School in Norman Park recently attended a week-long Opportunities Academy designed to familiarize them with healthcare careers.

According to Aisha DeBerry, director of diversity and community partnerships, “The Academy, held June 24 to 28, was intentional in reaching surrounding high school students for summer programming to expose them to both healthcare education and the healthcare industry.”

The first four days of the camp were held at the high school in Norman Park, while “graduation day” was held at PCOM South Georgia. PCOM South Georgia, a new, four-year medical campus in Moultrie, will welcome 55 first-year Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) students to classes on August 12.

PCOM South Georgia Chief Academic Officer Michael J. Sampson, FAOASM, said, "The Opportunities Academy served as a pipeline program aimed at providing a spark to students in underserved communities encouraging their interest in medicine and sciences.”

With the week divided into segments on microbiology, neurology, cardiology, skeletal systems, muscles and primary care, students were taught by faculty members and staff from the Moultrie campus, as well as faculty and student mentors from PCOM Georgia in Suwanee. Guest faculty members also participated.

Ekuase Ogunbor, who graduated from PCOM Georgia in May with a Master’s degree in Biomedical Sciences, served as the academy director. She said, “On behalf of the Opportunities Academy mentors, we are very proud of all of our high school students. We hope that they see the importance of coming back to serve their community as young professionals.”

She added, “We believe that the early exposure to healthcare from the Opportunities Academy will encourage the students to ignore the naysayers and accomplish their dreams.”

According to Justina Mason, PCOM South Georgia assistant director of student affairs, “The high school students seemed to thoroughly enjoy their experience in the program.” She noted that the student mentors “stepped up every time” to provide guidance.

Academy attendees learned about such topics as handwashing techniques, the functions of the brain, the effect of recreational drugs on the brain, exercise and the heart, as well as concussions and sports. In addition, they took field trips to the Vereen Rehabilitation Center which offers physical, occupational, speech and aquatic therapies and a wound care clinic, Turning Point Care Center, and Colquitt Regional Medical Center, all in Moultrie.

Co-Director Denise Kathy Onukwue (MS/Biomed ’20) said, “A nice, but welcome surprise was how instrumental the Moultrie community was in making sure the program was a success. Many vendors and small business owners helped us with last minute details and resources and we are extremely grateful.”

The graduation ceremony held at PCOM South Georgia featured greetings from Moultrie Mayor Bill McIntosh, Cairo Mayor Booker Gainor, and a keynote address by Linda Walden, MD, FAAFP.

Dr. Walden, who practices family medicine at the VA Clinic in Valdosta, is a recipient of the Distinguished Service Medallion Award from the Georgia State Medical Association given for her years of leadership, service, commitment and dedication.

She practiced family medicine in Cairo for 20 years and was the first black chief of staff at Grady General Hospital. Dr. Walden has received many other honors and awards, including being selected as the National Medical Association Physician of the Year, and being recognized as having the Most Outstanding Rural Practice in Georgia by the Georgia Rural Health Association. In addition, she has served on the Composite Board of Medical Examiners responsible for licensing physicians in Georgia.

DeBerry said, “The PCOM Offices of Diversity and Community Partnerships and Student Affairs have and will continue to be involved in the community to start partnerships early with a shared commitment to move the face of healthcare in a positive and accessible direction.”

Sampson said, “The students of the inaugural PCOM South Georgia Opportunities Academy class were energetic and showed incredible interest and potential. I look forward to building more pipeline programs throughout South Georgia - from the region’s hometown medical school.”

Student mentors for the Academy included Ekuase Ogunbor, Denise Onukwue, Adriana Guevara (DO ’22), Colin Morris (MS/Biomed ’20) and Holli Parker (DO ’22).

Valerie Cadet, PhD, an associate professor in the department of Biomedical Sciences at PCOM Georgia, was the academy’s faculty advisor.

Other faculty and staff members who participated included Sebastian Egberts, Stacie Fairley, PhD, Joanne Jones and Kristie Petree, DO. Other residents and students who helped with the program were Kayla Batchelor, DO, Silpa Benny (DO ’20), Jessica Brumfield, DO, Catie Duskin, DO, Austin Gillespie (DO ’20), Marcos Hur, DO, Robert Jeter, MD, Giselle Pineiro, DO, Valerie Sherrer, DO, and David Thompson.

Updated July 2, 2020 to adjust list of student mentors for the academy.
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About PCOM South Georgia

In 2019, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM), a premier osteopathic medical school with a storied 125-year history, extended its commitment to the Southeast by establishing PCOM South Georgia. An additional teaching location in Moultrie, Georgia, PCOM South Georgia offers both a full, four-year medical program leading to the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree and a Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences. PCOM is a private, not-for-profit institution that trains professionals in the health and behavioral sciences fields. Joining PCOM Georgia in Suwanee in helping to meet the healthcare needs of the state, PCOM South Georgia focuses on educating physicians for the region. For more information, visit or call 229-668-3110.

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