Youth in Medicine gives Bay Area kids a chance to shine

Appeared in: Oakland Tribune

By: Katherine Jarvis

Instead of sitting around and watching TV all summer, Jasmaine Gomez is taking part in Alta Bates Medical Center and Samuel Merritt University's free Youth in Medicine program.

Jasmaine, 15, who attends BASE High School in Alameda, is in her second year of the program, which exposes 11- to 15-year-old students to careers in medicine, as well as academic resources. There are two programs over the seven-week period, one for boys and one for girls. The 22 boys and 29 girls started the program June 22. The program ends Aug. 6.

Twenty-two Samuel Merritt University nursing students and podiatric medical students help teach classes and coordinate programs for the youths Monday through Thursday. The youths spend time on the university campus and at the Emiliano Zapata Street Academy. They expand their knowledge of science and medicine in the program while working on their English and math skills.

The youths get a chance to use the Health Science Simulation Center at Samuel Merritt University, giving them a chance to experience what it is like to treat patients and test for vital signs. They learn anatomy and understand what different symptoms mean for patients, which are simulated by dummies.

Jasmaine said she has learned more about the simulation center her second year in the program, including how to gauge the health of a baby. Although she has taken on more of a mentor role as one of the older students, she is still learning so she can have a career in medicine.

The program made her respect herself more, as well as others, she said. She has tried to get people she knows in Oakland to be part of the program because it's a better thing for children to do during the summer, she said.

Youths who want to be part of the program for additional years have to keep up their grades; otherwise, they can't return. The Youth in Medicine program checks in with students throughout the year.

Students also get a chance to look at human cadavers and further explore anatomy. Many students appreciate the experience, especially Memrie Royal, 12, who wants to conduct autopsies when she gets older.

"It's been really cool to get the chance to do this," she said. She plans to return to the program next year.

The Youth in Medicine program was started three years ago as an extension of the Youth Bridge program, which focuses on getting high school students interested in medicine.

Paul Castro, 15, is in his second year in the Youth in Medicine program and plans to be part of the Youth Bridge program next year. He said he wants to be a veterinarian but could see himself becoming a doctor.

The program "gives you a bunch of opportunities and opens a lot of doors," Paul said.

It also helps the medical students who are working with the youths. James Taunson, a podiatric medical student, said teaching anatomy and other subjects reinforces what he has learned.

Nishi Singh, another podiatric medical student, hopes to help prevent violence by getting youths involved in activities, especially those related to medicine.

"These kids are really smart, and it gives them a chance to shine," she said.


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