Against the Odds: From High School to Medical School

TouroCOM’s MedAchieve Program Helps Minority Students Succeed in Careers in Medicine

January 25, 2018

Jordan’s career goal was formulated largely during his two years participating in a popular afterschool program for underrepresented minority high school students at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in Harlem - and more recently launched in Middletown - the MedAchieve Scholars Program. 

The four Co-directors for  MedAchieve TouroCOM Harlem, L-R Saagar Sheth, Grace Neshiewat, Srilatha Eadara and Sarika Riemann
The four Co-directors for MedAchieve TouroCOM Harlem, L-R Saagar Sheth, Grace Neshiewat, Srilatha Eadara and Sarika Riemann

According to the Journal of the National Medical Association, African Americans comprise 13 percent of Americans but only four percent of U.S. physicians. MedAchieve, a medical science enrichment program serving mainly black and Hispanic students interested in the medical sciences, is attempting to change that. The Harlem program, begun at the school in 2012, has over 100 students enrolled. In Middletown, MedAchieve launched in 2014 when the campus opened and currently has about 50 students.

In both locations, the program spans two years, with the high school students paired alongside TouroCOM student mentors with similar interests and academic backgrounds. During the first year, dubbed “Med Start”, students learn the foundations of medicine – human anatomy, physiology and genetics. The second year, “MedExcel”, the focus is on how the body responds to stress, injury and disease.

Both years, the high school students attend simplified lectures so the material is easy to understand and digest. Interactive, complementary lab sessions taught by the medical students and in some cases faculty are incorporated to keep the students engaged while applying the sciences they’ve learned.

The four Co-coordinators for MedAchieve TouroCOM Middletown, L-R David Afienko, Tina Yang, Rina Joshi and William Barlow
The four Co-coordinators for MedAchieve TouroCOM Middletown, L-R David Afienko, Tina Yang, Rina Joshi and William Barlow

The programs are run on both campuses by four medical students, who plan the lectures, labs and other special activities, like medical fairs put on by the medical student clubs and year-end graduations.

Each year brings its new set of goals. For Harlem, a more seasoned program, the focus is on maintaining its strong curriculum and mentoring, said Saagar Sheth, one of the Harlem co-directors. For example, mentors and mentees can now share ideas and information on a Facebook group page, and the students have been sorted into “houses’ named after noteworthy figures in medicine and science.

In Middletown, the focus is on growth. “This year we placed more effort in fostering interest in the medical students and local schools, resulting in almost double the admissions,” said David Afienko, a co-coordinator in Middletown. “We hope to continue to grow. Longer term, we hope this program inspires the young students to pursue their dreams, whether it be medicine or another career all together; we hope to instill in them pride and appreciation for their education.”