A ‘White Coat’ Graduation

Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine event celebrates high school students aiming for careers in medicine

| 15 Apr 2022 | 09:32

Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine recently held a “graduation” ceremony for NYC high school students enrolled in their after-school STEM program, MedAchieve.

MedAchieve, which runs for two years, teaches high school students the basic foundations of medicine and focuses on the body’s responses to disease and stress. Touro College’s medical students teach the MedAchieve students and manage their curriculum. High school students attend weekly two-hour sessions, which the medical students create based on the material they themselves have been learning.

At the graduation ceremony, MedAchieve mentors joined the students and gave them stethoscopes and white coats. Together, they celebrated the culmination of their two-year commitment and the next step towards their collective goals.

About 100 students are enrolled in MedAchieve this year. More than half are underrepresented minorities, and many will be first-generation college students. Over 80% of the students are female. Thirty-three high schools were represented in this year’s class, 19 from Harlem. They include Manhattan Center; the High School for Math, Science & Engineering on the City College of New York campus; and Bronx High School of Science.

Role Models

Many of the students said they felt their communities lacked role models for the career they wanted to pursue. MedAchieve provides them with those role models as well as guidance toward the path to a career in medicine.

“If there were more people of color in the medical field, people of color would be more prone to come in and be diagnosed,” says 15-year-old London Francis, who attends Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics in East Harlem. “MedAchieve has made me more aware I can be one of those people that other people can look up to and can feel comfortable with.”

In 2021, MedAchieve was awarded the “Inspiring Programs in STEM Award” from INSIGHT Into Diversity Magazine, for the third consecutive year. It also received a $5,000 grant from ConEd that year to help fund its programming.

MedAchieve students say the program has helped them see their goals as a reality. “Since I was a child, I dreamt of becoming a doctor one day,” says Anduena Toci, a junior at Manhattan International High School. “Although no one in my family attended medical school, this was a childhood dream that is still part of my long-term goals.”

Of MedAchieve’s teachers, Toci says, “They are always ready to support a student, not only in academic work but also assist them in thinking about their futures, especially as high school students who are looking forward to attending college.”

Cadaver Lab

Sophomore Amber Brennan, who initially joined the program because of an interest in forensics, says “[I] got to learn more about human anatomy, visit the cadaver lab and view real organs and bodies, which made me even more interested in medicine and forensics too.”

“I first became interested in medicine in 8th grade, when I would sometimes watch Grey’s Anatomy on television and saw the doctors’ abilities to help people,” says senior Kylee Rivas. Currently, she is looking forward to an experiment in her science research class focusing on how different spices can affect the bacterial growth of E. coli. After graduating from MedAchieve, Rivas plans to pursue the pre-med track in college to continue on the path to becoming a doctor.

At a reception following the awards, Emmanuel Olushki, a junior at Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School downtown said he wants to become a hematologist, a career he became interested in from talking with his own doctors.

“Getting to know them made me want to do what they’re doing,” said Olushki, who has sickle cell anemia. A highlight of the program, he said, was visiting the cadaver lab. He said his two years at MedAchieve have been “a lot of fun. I’ve met a lot of nice people and gotten some advice on career goals.”

Those interested in supporting MedAchieve may donate to the program’s scholarship fund at https://tourocom.touro.edu/giving/tcom-harlemmiddletown-medachieve/.