MedAchieve: Inspiring Youth, Building Futures

Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine's Mini Medical School Nurtures the Next Generation of Healthcare Heroes

March 29, 2024
TouroCOM student doctors sitting in lecture hall with their high school student mentees.
TouroCOM student doctors join their high school student mentees in the lecture hall.

“One, two, three – Go! One-One-Thousand, Two-One-Thousand…Can you salsa?” asked Dr. David Colbourne, clinical professor at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine (TouroCOM) Harlem, as high school students gathered round to see him demonstrate on a mannequin how to get oxygen into the trachea of someone in respiratory arrest.

It was one of the year’s last sessions at MedAchieve, TouroCOM's two-year mini medical school for 11th and 12th graders aspiring to work in medicine or other health science fields.

The students - 104 this year – traveled to TouroCOM in Harlem from all over New York City after school to soak up lectures and engage in labs taught one-on-one by their Touro medical student mentors.

On March 14, they celebrated their achievements at a graduation ceremony where they received accolades from faculty and their medical student mentors. Each student received a mini “white coat” - the garb traditionally worn by physicians and given to matriculating medical students as a symbol of professionalism.

Focus on the Underserved 

“Our goal is to create an applied understanding of basic science in medicine,” said Dean of Student Affairs Dr. Nadege Dady. “MedAchieve is a natural extension of our mission, which is to focus on connecting underrepresented minority (URM) students in underserved communities such as Harlem.”  

Since its inception in 2011, 1,000 high school students have participated in MedAchieve, over 40 percent of whom are URM.

Martha Bangay, a junior at the Institute for Health Professions at Cambria Heights in Queens, said she already knew she wanted to be a pediatrician, likely because of time spent in the hospital as a child. But at MedAchieve she discovered she wants to do emergency medicine.

“I learned I can be a pediatrician in the ER. That really interests me,” she said. “I’m very good with kids and I like to help people.”

Bangay said she plans to return to MedAchieve next year, and also enroll in a pre-professional program at her high school that leads to certification as an Emergency Medical Technician. After that she plans to volunteer at a children’s hospital and apply to college.

She said of her mentor, first-year medical student Ronald Lontchi, “He’s cool, chill, and funny. A lot of kids are shy and afraid to ask questions. But if you have a good mentor, you can ask right there and they’ll help you.”

Lontchi said he plans to come back next year too.

“It’s been a great experience for me,” he said. “Some come not knowing where they want to go, while others come in and say, ‘I want to be a doctor, or a scientist.’ They’re outspoken and excited. I wish I had been able to participate in such a program when I was in high school.”

Curriculum Mirrors Medical School

The curriculum mirrors that of the medical school. There are sessions on primary care, cardiology, anatomy, surgery, infectious diseases, genetics, microbiology and pathology. Students learn about health disparities and present cases “Grand Rounds” style, just as medical students present actual cases on hospital floors.

At another recent session on “Professionalism” students got the lowdown on skills they’ll need down the road. They broke into small groups and learned how to write resumes and e-mails, make an elevator pitch and dress appropriately for an interview.

Afterwards, they cruised tables set up at a “Career Fair” by the medical student clubs, where they learned more about specialties. In addition to practicing emergency medicine, they experimented doing breast exams using silicone models. At a psychiatry exhibit, they examined color images of brain scans that contrasted a normal brain with scans showing depression, schizophrenia and other disorders.

MedAchieve alumni who eventually pursue medical school or another health science field may be granted interviews to enter TouroCOM’s Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine or Master of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies in Biological and Physical Sciences programs, as well as other Touro graduate and professional degree programs including pharmacy, physician assistant, dentistry, pathology assistant and mental health counseling.