Mentors, Lectures, and Cadavers: Paving the Road to Medical School, Starting Young

Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in Harlem Partners With Mentoring In Medicine (MIM) to Prepare Local Students for Careers in Healthcare

November 17, 2014

If you walked into Lecture Hall-1 at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine (TouroCOM) on November 10th, you probably wouldn’t recognize anything out of the ordinary. Students sat in their lecture seats, listening attentively to a detailed PowerPoint presentation on the musculoskeletal system, which was followed by lectures on the nervous and circulatory systems. Occasionally, someone raised his or her hand to ask a question, give a comment, or clarify an idea. Yet what was different about this particular scene was that the students weren’t actually in medical school—they were in high school. 

This past month, TouroCOM–Harlem hosted its second Mentoring in Medicine (MIM) visit. A total of 60 high school students from Mount Saint Michael Academy, Thurgood Marshall Academy, and Frederick Douglass Academy in the Harlem and Bronx had the chance to get a real taste of medical school when they spent a day at TouroCOM as part of a trip organized by Mentoring in Medicine (MIM), a nonprofit program founded by Dr. Lynne Holden that assists underrepresented minorities and low-income students from elementary, middle, and high schools to pursue careers in healthcare.

During their visits to TouroCOM, these young students participate in an interactive program that includes college-level lectures, anatomical model and skeleton demonstrations, cadaver laboratory examinations, and campus tours, all of which are presented by TouroCOM students and supervising faculty. TouroCOM “mentors” also field numerous questions from the students about residencies, specialties, and ways to finance their medical education.

TouroCOM hosted 90 high school and college students on its campus this past June; next month, they’ll be hosting junior high school students. And it doesn’t stop there. “We expect to host more visits as we continue to work closely with Mentoring in Medicine,” says Dr. Arthur Prancan, TouroCOM’s interim preclinical dean.

On the November 10th visit, Mt. St. Michael senior Kai Cash (who joined MIM in sixth grade) said that the medical students “were really adept at answering questions, and they knew what they were talking about.” Cash, who plans to apply for a combined MD-PhD or DO-PhD program after college and hopes to specialize in nanotechnology and regenerative medicine, acknowledged that “a lot of people don’t get to have these opportunities, to get into the lab... it’s going to be a real benefit to me. Going to college and then medical school, I’ll have a one-up over my peers and am gaining a better understanding of what I’ll be doing in my future career.”

But it’s not just the science-minded visiting students who said they benefit from MIM. Second-year TouroCOM mentor Mike Ward, who delivered the November 10 mini-lecture to the high school students, said that the events are a fun way for him to interact with the community, engage with the participants, and support TouroCOM’s mission. He added that many of the students in his presentation were very eager to learn about medical interventions for coronary artery disease (CAD), since “almost all of them have family or loved ones affected by CAD.”

First-year medical student Jacob Miller, a cadaver lab technician, said the students “came in a little nervous, probably thinking the lab would be gross, but they quickly overcame it and really wanted to see and learn about everything. I think it’s cool that they were super excited, and I hope the program will motivate them to continue their studies to become doctors.”

 Dr. Jay Sexter, TouroCOM’s chief executive officer, says that TouroCOM and MIM’s collaboration is a good partnership since “the fact that they’re here and have interest in medical school, and we’re here and have interest in helping them, is good for both parties. Our mission involves helping underrepresented minorities get accepted to medical school, as there are too few in all the schools in the United States.”

Said Dean Nadege Dady, assistant dean for student affairs, “The medical school involvement is key here, because the high school students are able to see themselves in the future and think, ‘This could be me here, one day.’”