SMU students mentor at-risk teens about pursuing career in healthcare

Appeared in: Oakland Business Review

Since mid-June, several Samuel Merritt University (SMU) students enrolled in the Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) and Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs have spent their summer tutoring more than four dozen middle and high school students from the Oakland Unified School District.

Youth in Medicine is a free summer program created by the Oakland-based Alta Bates Summit Medical Center (ABSMC) in collaboration with Samuel Merritt University and Sutter Health East Bay Medical Foundation. The Monday through Thursday program allows at-risk students between the age of 11 to 15 to have an up-close look at how simulation based education, human anatomy, and clinical skills are integrated into academic programs at the university.

The teens spend part of their day at the Emiliano Zapata Street Academy where they work on their English and math skills, tutored by SMU students. Then the entire group goes to the university's main campus in Oakland to learn about basic vital signs, treating patients, diabetes, anatomy, and healthy living. One of the workshops includes the use of the nationally-recognized Health Sciences Simulation Center.

"The teens learn anatomy and understand what different symptoms mean for patients by working with the simulated human-like mannequins at the center," explains HSSC Director Celeste Villanueva, CRNA, MS, director of the university's Program of Nurse Anesthesia.

The three-year-old Youth in Medicine program was created to provide an opportunity for students living in low income areas to get acquainted with different careers in healthcare and to encourage them to pursue college.

"The majority of students involved in Youth in Medicine are considered 'at-risk' teens," explains program director Greba Jackson. "If it wasn't for a program like this many of these kids would be at home in front of a TV, computer, or somewhere unsafe."

The program not only benefits the youth, but also SMU students. Nishi Singh, a second-year DPM student, says working with the teens and explaining anatomy, podiatry, histology, and operating room situations allows her to practice her communication and teaching skills.

"Many of us can relate to these kids and their background," says Singh. "They are all very intelligent and curious about what has led us to study podiatric medicine; I know by exposing them to all of this at their young age we are having a positive impact."

Simone Smith, 11, agrees. She says the summer program and the opportunity to work with SMU students will allow her to be better prepared when she returns to school in the fall. "My friends think it's cool that I am doing this, because some of the things we're learning they won't be able to do until they get to college," she said. "The university students help explain things a little easier and show me it's okay not to be afraid to go to the doctor's office."

"I like learning from the university students because they don't lecture or make me feel dumb," says 15-year-old Mimi Le. "They help explain things a little easier then I would in a regular classroom and it's more personal."

Alejandra Jacqueline Rubio de Ochoa, BSN student, says teaching content material such as anatomy to the teens has been a great experience. "I feel that the teens want more from life but they have not been given the chance and this program gives them that hope. I hope that the time we as tutors give them will make a positive impact in their lives and help them realize they are individuals worthy of an enlightening future," adds Rubio de Ochoa.

Paul Castro, 15, is already considering a career in medicine. This is his second time in the Youth in Medicine program. "It's great because it gives you a bunch of opportunities and opens a lot of doors."

Despite the costs and time investment, faculty and staff at Samuel Merritt University say the program is well worth the effort. "This is the only way I know how to teach," explains Villanueva. "If you love what you do - and I do - you want to share it with someone that has the possibility of blooming in the healthcare field. Helping to inspire these young kids is very rewarding."

Youth in Medicine is a component of Youth Bridge, a 20-year career development program that enables East Bay adolescents to complete high school, gain meaningful employment experience, learn about health-related careers, and pursue further academic and vocational education. The program ends Aug. 6.

Samuel Merritt University, located in Oakland, is celebrating 100 years of educating health science practitioners who are committed to making a positive difference in diverse communities. The DPM program is part of the California School of Podiatric Medicine (CSPM) at Samuel Merritt University. The university offers an undergraduate degree in nursing; master's degrees in nursing, occupational therapy, physician assistant; and doctoral degrees in physical therapy and podiatric medicine.


Source: /files/publications/obr_aug_2009.pdf

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