STEM Summer Program Introduces High Schoolers to Healthcare Careers
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High School Students Exposed to Healthcare Careers

July 6, 2022

PCOM South Georgia faculty and staff pose with Opportunities Academy participantsPCOM South Georgia faculty, staff and students mentored local high schoolers during the weeklong Opportunities Academy STEM summer camp.

Twelve regional high school students spent a week at PCOM South Georgia’s Opportunities Academy during their summer break immersed in science, exploring careers in health care while building relationships with medical school faculty and student mentors.

The week-long program allowed students the opportunities to participate in clinical skills simulations in the simulation center, participate in sheep heart dissections, become CPR certified and more.

Each day students received a crash course in medical subjects including microbiology, pathology, physiology, pharmacology and osteopathic manipulative medicine led by faculty members Stacie Fairley, PhD; Savita Arya, MD; Jason Walker, PhD; Sandeep Vansal, MD; and Kristie Petree, DO, respectively.

They also took a hands-on approach to their learning. Guided by Shiv Dhiman, MD, associate professor of anatomy, the teenagers dissected sheep hearts alongside their student mentors in order to better understand the anatomical role of the heart. Additionally, they learned suturing skills and how to control an active bleed.

Christin Zipperer, LPC, NCC, provided students with resources to develop foundational skills which they can use to enhance their well-being as a student. Later in the week, Megan Presley, PCOM South Georgia admissions counselor, spoke to the group about their future educations including college applications and how to get to medical school.

Stacie Fairley, PhD, director of interprofessional education and assistant professor of microbiology and immunology served as the faculty lead for the program and has done so since its inception three years ago.

“The conversations, the connections formed and the content discussed will be profoundly instrumental in their journey to achieving success,” she said. “The students gained knowledge of the healthcare field, participated in activities that focused on career and relationship building and added skills such as CPR certification to their resume. Ultimately, it is our hope that they are better prepared to be successful in ascertaining their healthcare goals/aspirations and that, as they matriculate in life, there will be an affinity to pour into others what has been poured into them.”

During their time in the program, hosted by The Office of Diversity and Community Relations, the high school students explored career opportunities in medicine and health care and practiced critical thinking skills and collaboration by engaging in problem-based learning. They built their research, public speaking and presentation skills through innovative experiences and developed self-confidence to apply for college and successfully navigate undergraduate study. The participants also engaged in leadership and professional development throughout each stage of the program while networking with physicians, researchers and other healthcare professionals.

PCOM South Georgia’s regional partnerships also allowed students the opportunity to hear from local physicians about their journey into health care as well as become CPR certified through the Area Health Education Center (AHEC).

Jennifer Mitchell, PhD, assistant director of diversity and community relations, said the connections that students made are exciting for their future careers in health care and that the program is crucial to the Southwest Georgia region in order to fill the needs in health care. 

“These kinds of opportunities are essential to our region because many students who are traditionally underrepresented in medicine are usually not exposed to many different careers in medicine and health care,” she said. “During the Opportunities Academy, the AHEC provided a great workshop where students were exposed to many health careers in Georgia. They received resources that included information on various healthcare professions, which provided insight into different healthcare work environments, academic requirements, education programs within Georgia and much more.”

The academy culminated with a graduation ceremony on Friday, July 1, in which students presented case studies in fun and creative ways and received white coats, stoles and certificates. Keynote speaker Daryl Crenshaw, MD, FACP, FASN, FASH, provided inspiring words to the young students, sharing his path to medicine and the five F’s he said were key elements in achieving success: faith, family, friends, foundation, and focus.

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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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