Youth in Medicine enables students to discover new world of possibilities

Appeared in: Oakland Business Review

Like most kids her age, Jacqualyn
Black, 14, didn't want summer to end.
But that's not because she'd been
hanging out with friends or watching
TV. Instead, Jacqualyn was enrolled in
Youth in Medicine, a free summer
camp created by Alta Bates Summit
Medical Center in collaboration with
Samuel Merritt University and the
Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation.
The program, now in its third year,
gives at-risk students between the
ages of 11 and 15 the opportunity to
improve their academic skills, learn
about careers in medicine and -
perhaps most significant - develop relationships with student teachers, physicians
and administrators who serve as positive role models and mentors.

Jacqualyn, one of 29 girls and 22 boys who attended this year's Youth in Medicine
camp, is an inspiring example of the transformative impact this program can have on
young people's lives. "The difference we see in these kids is amazing," says Greba
Jackson, youth program coordinator at Alta Bates Summit. "Our kids come from some
of the most in-need schools in Oakland. And these students are so excited about
putting their brains to use and learning how to study better."

Bridging the gap

Youth in Medicine is an offshoot of Youth Bridge, a job training and mentorship
program for high school students. Youth Bridge was founded 20 years ago by Deborah
Pitts-Cameron, Alta Bates Summit's public affairs manager. Jackson has played a key
role in the program's evolution since Day One. Over the years, she saw a growing need
for a program that would reach even younger students.

As a result, in 2007, Youth in Medicine was born, with generous support from
donors and incredible partners such as Samuel Merritt University, the Jonas
Foundation, Oakland Fund for Children and Youth, and the East Bay Physicians
Medical Group.

Youth in Medicine runs for seven weeks, Mondays through Thursdays, and consists
of several integrated educational components. Students start by honing their
math and English skills at Oakland's Emiliano Zapata Street Academy High School,
where classrooms are provided free to Youth in Medicine. Students work with
credentialed teachers for a few hours a day. They also spend considerable time at
Samuel Merritt University, where medical students teach them about science and
health and coordinate activities for them, such as visiting the university's Health
Science Simulation Center. In the afternoon, the older kids head over to Alta Bates
Summit Medical Center, where they make rounds with participating physicians.

Many students thrive in the program, but they are not the only ones who benefit.
"It was always a dream of mine to have a mentorship program for middle school students
at the hospital," says Sarita Satpathy, M.D., an internal medicine physician at
Alta Bates Summit and co-chair of the community outreach program at Sutter East Bay
Medical Foundation. "I wanted to get younger children interested in medicine, so I
begged a few doctors to mentor the kids. Now, the doctors love it because they realize
the difference they are making." Currently, more than 10 doctors participate in Youth
inMedicine, including nephrologists, cardiologists and internal medicine specialists.

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