OUWB students, faculty volunteer to promote medical field to high schoolers

Varna Taranikanti, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor, works with a student during the Future Physicians program

High school students interested in medicine and health sciences are exploring the field firsthand through OUWB Diversity & Inclusion’s Future Physicians Summer Enrichment Program — with medical students and faculty volunteering to make it happen.

The two-week program runs through June 28. More than 200 high school students have participated in the annual event since it launched seven years ago.

The intensive program aims to give students a deeper understanding of medical issues, the multiple systems and processes of the human body, and how they are impacted by current social issues. Students also are provided exposure to careers in the medical field through special guest lecturers, as well as other students who have the same interests.

The OUWB Future Physicians Summer Enrichment Program is interactive in nature, allowing students to interact with socio-medical issues and the human body through technology, demonstrations, and hands-on experiences. Each student has the opportunity to ask questions about form and function, common diseases and illnesses, and widely used diagnoses.

Caryn Reed-Hendon, Ph.D., OUWB director of Diversity & Inclusion and program organizer, said having OUWB faculty and medical students step up and assist with the program is “wonderful for us.”

“It is truly a team effort and I am grateful for all of their expertise in teaching and inspiring our program participants,” she said. “I love that our program participants can see themselves in the medical students and that the medical students come away with a deeper appreciation of the work our faculty put in to teach them.”

•      Kyeorda Kemp, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Foundational Medical Studies, works with students.OUWB faculty and students said they generally view volunteering for the program as a way to pay it forward.

“I didn’t have this (type of program) when I was in high school,” said M2 Grace Kummerfeld, who volunteered in the anatomy lab. “I think it’s great that they can come in here and feel a real human heart. I had to wait until I got in medical school for that.

“And I think that’s how you get people interested in STEM in general,” she added.

Reed-Hendon said the overall intent is to expose students to medicine in a way that connects with “their day-to-day living because we emphasize social determinants of health.”

“It is a fun and interactive way to learn about how the field of medicine and how our social determinants of health impact our lives,” she said.

Students’ days are packed with learning opportunities around campus, covering topics such as histology, immunology, neuroscience, genetics and more. They also visit the Moceri Learning Center at Beaumont Troy.

On Thursday, June 20, students were at the OUWB Anatomy Lab where they took part in five interactive case studies presented by faculty and M2 students.

Two of the case studies were about concussions while the other three covered carbon monoxide poisoning, asthma and cystic fibrosis.

Victoria Roach, Ph.D. assistant professor of anatomy, said case study topics were decided by medical students who were asked last year about what subjects they were most comfortable presenting and that they thought they could cater to high school students.

Case studies included use of video screens and organs that the students could touch as part of the learning and discussion.

“It’s modeled after the clinically integrated labs that the medical students experience where the students are posed these clinical vignettes or case studies that are focused around patient care,” Roach said. “And then we review the anatomy that’s pertinent to that clinical scenario.”

“We’re trying to encourage the STEM disciplines and pursuing that in higher education,” said Roach. “It’s about opening eyes and pointing them on the right path.”

Medical students who volunteered said they were happy to be part of such efforts.

“I came from a very rural high school…I didn’t have a lot of people showing me that it was possible to go to med school and I felt like I was always routed away from it,” said M2 Melany Wiczorek, who presented the carbon monoxide case.

“So I feel it’s important to show that it is possible and you can do it, especially if you have a passion for it,” she said.

M2 Amelia Kruse presented the cystic fibrosis case.

“I didn’t know if I’d ever actually be able to succeed in medicine being a female and being the first woman in my family to go to college at all,” said Kruse. “So I really want to be able to help out. I really like teaching and making sure that this information is available to people that want to learn it.”

Serena Kuang, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, physiology, works with a student.Later in the day, Serena Kuang, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, physiology, worked in the microbiology lab with high school students. Kuang said she feels such programs are important for the future of medicine.

“We want more future physicians,” Kuang said. “By providing this basic platform we hope to cultivate more passion for their future careers.”

Reed-Hendon said such cultivation is exactly why the program is held annually.

“I've loved doing this program since it started seven years ago,” she said. “I see it as transformational for the students who have been a part of it that have gone on to pursue education and careers in STEM and medicine.”

The OUWB Future Physicians Summer Enrichment Program wraps up on Friday, June 28, when students present final projects they worked on during the two weeks.

In addition to those identified previously, other OUWB M2 students volunteering with the Future Physicians Summer Enrichment Program are:

  • Rafey Rehman
  • Zachary Rollins
  • Rossini Batino
  • Tyler Sargent

Pre-medical students who also volunteered to help with the program are Ally Luedtke and Austin Lewis.

Additional faculty who volunteered were:

  • Stefanie Attardi, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Foundational Medical Studies
  • Rebecca Pratt, Ph.D., professor of anatomy, Department of Biomedical Sciences
  • James Grogan, Ph.D., professor, Department of Foundational Medical Studies
  • Kyeorda Kemp, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Foundational Medical Studies
  • Claudio Cortes, DVM, Ph.D., assistant professor of immunology, Department of Foundational Medical Studies
  • Jickssa Gemechu, Ph.D., assistant professor, anatomy and embryology
  • Suzan ElSayed, DVM, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Foundational Medical Studies
  • Celeste Farr, Ph.D., MPH, assistant professor of public health, Department of Foundational Medical Studies
  • Gustavo Patino, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, neuroscience
  • Virginia Uhley, Ph.D., R.D., assistant professor, Department of Foundational Medical Studies
  • Paul Megee, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Foundational Medical Studies
  • Jason Wasserman, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences
  • Sarah M. Lerchenfeldt, Pharm.D., BCPS, BCOP, assistant professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences, discipline of pharmacology
  • Varna Taranikanti, M.D., M.S., Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Foundational Medical Studies