Charles Lopresto, OMS-II, TouroCOM-Harlem, volunteered with the American Medical Association's Doctors Back to School program at a Chicago middle school, inspiring students about careers in medicine.
How did you get involved with the AMA’s Doctors Back to School program?
I attended the Medical Association's House of Delegates Meeting in Chicago, IL this June as a member of the Medical Society of the State of New York - Medical Student Section Resolutions Committee. While at this meeting, I was able to participate in the student-led community service project Doctors Back to School (DBTS), a program whose main goal is to increase the number of minority physicians. The program sends minority physicians and medical students into the community as a way to introduce children to professional role models and to show kids of all ages, especially those from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, that medicine is an attainable career option for everyone. Of the physicians and medical students who volunteered for this event, we were split up between one middle school and one high school. I was assigned to the middle school.
What did a typical day look like?
Medical students and physicians from around the country volunteered together for most of the day. Activities included educational games and quizzes about exercise, nutrition and healthy lifestyle. Additionally, we were able to have question-and-answer sessions with the students regarding their potential career interests, and guide them through the steps they would have to take to pursue a career in medicine. Our goal was to provide a positive impact to these students through education, inspiration and mentoring.
What was the most rewarding part of the summer experience?
What surprised me the most about this experience was how the cultural values and current interests of middle-school aged urban youths defined their future career interests. When I (and a physician I was volunteering with) inquired about the student's career goals, the most popular answer was—to become a professional basketball player! A value we tried to instill in these students was to have an alternate plan for when their basketball career would be complete at a young age. The most rewarding part for me was to be able to talk to some of these students about my past experience when I was in their shoes. I explained that I was very interested in music and playing my saxophone for many years throughout middle school and high school, but at one point, I had to make a decision to also focus on my academics to ensure I would have other career options in my future. I expressed the importance of finding out what they are passionate about academically, and taking that excitement and allowing it tomotivate them not only now, but far into the future. I retold the story of how when I was in middle school, I was first exposed to cellular biology and fell in love with the idea. I developed this passion and allowed it to guide my studies in college, becoming a biology major and eventually becoming a medical student. So I suppose the most rewarding part for me was to be able to inspire students to get excited by the education they are receiving now, as it has the ability to guide your future interests and career.
The Doctors Back to School program inspires new generation of physicians. Who inspired you to become a doctor?
The experience that solidified my interest in becoming a physician was working as a student volunteer in the Emergency Department of Jamaica Hospital in Queens, NY.
As a high school student, I knew very little about medicine, but observing the practice of medicine taught me more about the special role a physician plays in society. What inspired me the most was the ability of a physician to gain the trust of a complete stranger, and then completely transform their situation by eliminating pain, suffering and anxiety. This ability and relationship between physician and patient still amazes me, and continues to inspire me throughout my current studies. I expressed all of this to the middle school students and encouraged them to seek out opportunities to observe careers of their interest during summer internships.