High school students from the Greater Washington Area listened to science experts like Andrew K. Sanderson II, a specialist in gastroenterology at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as who shared stories about what led them to choose careers in the medical profession during a Mentoring in Medicine [MIM] program in Northwest.
Students from nine high schools who visited the Association of American Medical Colleges on Monday, Dec. 19 found themselves divided into small groups for hands-on work that included the use of a needle and thread to suture, or sew, the peel around a banana. The simulation illustrated how physicians would close the wound on a patient.
The MIM program, which targets high school students throughout the U.S., exposes disadvantaged youth to opportunities within the health care profession. Monday’s session lasted just under five hours.
Given the recent emphasis on regular checkups and early intervention of life-threatening diseases generated by President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, one program participant said she’d like to expand the session to an entire day so there would be time to talk about the importance of preventive care
“I think if this were a full day, we could definitely [talk about preventive care] . . . from a holistic approach,” Donna Grant-Mills, associate dean at Howard University’s College of Dentistry in Northwest, said after participating in a panel discussion. “There needs to be more emphasis all around. We are in a society today where we all take Uber. We’ve gotten away from that combination of exercise, diet and rest that our bodies require.”
Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided data related to childhood obesity which has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.
Lynne Holden, president of the mentoring program and a certified physician, said preventive care and other health topics are highlighted through MIMs after-school programs. This semester students are focusing on the human brain.
“This is just like a field trip for them where they can see different profession that we talk about in the class,” she said.
According to the mentoring website, http://medicalmentor.org/our-programs/, middle and high school students participate for eight to 10 weeks through a STEM-based (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum with a concentration on a particular organ and its system.
And under the guidance of George William Franklin, one group of students learned how to access health information on the Internet.
Franklin, an information technology specialist with the National Institutes of Health’s [NIH] National Library of Medicine, showcased the agency’s website where one can learn more about the ingredients in processed food, download a guide to healthy eating tips and even view pages developed just for children. (See: https://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Kids/default.asp).
Donja Wilkinson, 17, said the amount of information on the NIH website surprised her.
“I didn’t even know all this was available,” said Donja, a 12th grader at Paul Laurence Dunbar Senior High School in Northwest who wants to become an orthodontist.
“When we use Google we have to research much deeper. It seems like the NIH website has the information right there for you to access,” she said.
Donja added that even with her newfound knowledge, she still enjoys eating both healthy and unhealthy foods. However, she doesn’t eat candy anymore because she wears braces.
K’Von Nix, 15, said the way food looks can make a difference on whether he eats it.
“A bakery makes cakes and muffins that are gluten free, but they still look like actual cakes and they taste good,” said the 10th grade student at Dunbar. “If it doesn’t look appetizing, then I won’t eat it.”