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.
For more information, visit www.altabatessummit.org/youthbridge or call (510) 869-8225.