Earlier this month, SLU medical students and physicians volunteered at the Mini-National African American Youth Initiative (NAAYI) medical scholars program for high school students who are considering a career in medicine, an event hosted on SLU's campus. The two day program for tenth and eleventh graders is designed to increase the pool of African-American health care professionals.
|Michael Railey, M.D.|
The weekend included field trips to Saint Louis University and Washington University's medical schools and talks from health care professionals. The program was sponsored by the Auxiliary to the Mound City Medical Forum (AMCMF) and the Auxiliary to the National Medical Association (ANMA) and coordinated by East Central Missouri Area Health Education Center (ECMO AHEC).
SLU first year medical student, Tiffany Adams volunteered for the program because she valued the support she herself received as she prepared for medical school.
"I decided to volunteer with NAAYI because I think that it is very important for high school students who have an interest in the field of science and medicine to receive early exposure to the discipline," Adams said. "When I was growing up on the south side of Chicago, there were not many opportunities like the NAAYI medical scholars program."
"Personally, I believe that it is important to pay forward all of the support and dedication that I have received from family, friends and mentors throughout the years in my journey to become a physician. I want to extend a helping hand for those generations behind me."
Michael Railey, M.D., associate dean of multicultural affairs and associate professor of family and community medicine at SLU, saw the weekend as a good opportunity for high school juniors and seniors to interact with and be mentored by SLU faculty and medical students, as well as with doctors, pharmacists and physical and occupational therapists from the St. Louis community.
"I hope that high school students who participated in the medical scholars program left with a motivation to stick with health care," Railey said. "And, I hope we dispelled myths like ‘it's too hard,' ‘there's too much blood' or ‘it will take too long.'"
"Some students worry about the length of time it takes to earn an M.D. But, I try to help them understand that they'll still be in their 20s when they finish."
Having a mentor can make all the difference, Railey believes.
"One of the biggest obstacles for some students is the lack of mentoring and encouragement," Railey said. "Many high schoolers do not know people in a health care field to encourage them. This program is a chance to come together with encouragement and knowledge from people sharing the truth with them.
"It's great to welcome these future doctors here on campus."
In addition to helping high school students navigate the path to medical school, Adams found that the experience was a good reminder about why she chose medicine in the first place.
"From the volunteer experience, I was able to see how passionate some of the students were about medicine at such a young age," Adams said. "Although I was there to be a volunteer for the students and to answer any questions that they had, the NAAYI medical scholars program weekend was also a motivational experience for me.
"To see all of the successful physicians living out their life dreams of serving the community helped to reinforce my reasons for wanting to become a physician and helped me to keep my eyes on the dream."
Established in 1836, Saint Louis University School of Medicine has the distinction of awarding the first medical degree west of the Mississippi River. The school educates physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health care on a local, national and international level. Research at the school seeks new cures and treatments in five key areas: cancer, liver disease, heart/lung disease, aging and brain disease, and infectious disease.