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SLU's Summer Scholars Program Prepares Next Gen for Careers in Medicine

by Bridjes O'Neil on 07/13/2021
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Bridjes O'Neil
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Rising high school senior Dyamond Clay was seeking a way to diversify her resume when she applied for Saint Louis University (SLU)’s School of Medicine Summer Scholars Program

The School of Medicine has hosted the program for more than 10 years. Program Director Javonda Quinn said it's an opportunity to expose minority students in grades 9-12 to careers in medicine and health care. The program recently concluded and was expanded this year to include a second session at no cost for students from low-income families. Typically, the program costs $250. 

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University President Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D., led students enrolled in the School of Medicine's Summer Scholars Program on a tour of SLU's campus. Submitted photo by  Javonda Quinn, program director of  SLU's Summer Scholars Program.

“It is a social and medical imperative that our health care systems, including academic and training settings, be diverse and inclusive for people from all backgrounds,” said Daniel Blash, Ph.D., vice dean of diversity, equity and inclusion and chief diversity officer at SLU's School of Medicine. “Our credibility and trustworthiness within the community become a point of critique when our Black and brown patients do not see health care providers who look like them.”

Each session lasts three weeks and this year was conducted virtually and in person. Students met with a variety of physicians and health care professionals in specialties that included emergency medicine, neurology, psychiatry and pathology.

Highlights included a hands-on learning experience in the simulation lab, a tour of SLU’s campus led by University President Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D., ACT prep, an AIMS Cadaver Lab demonstration, and a culminating breakfast for students and their parents or guardians. 

After high school, Dyamond plans to study physical therapy or sports medicine but said she discovered a newfound interest in nursing during a tour of SLU’s School of Nursing. 

Raymond Vollmer, education specialist for SLU’s Adventures in Medicine and Science (AIMS) program, led students through an interactive discussion on human anatomy via Zoom. AIMS is a youth community outreach program that also teaches medicine, health education and wellness to students, both at the University and online through distance learning programs. 

“Having worked for years in health care, I recognize how little the average person knows about the makeup and function of their bodies,” Vollmer said. “If we are going to address the challenges facing us in health care, it must start with people learning about, and appreciating, what an incredible piece of engineering each of their bodies is. It has to start early, which is why the AIMS program presents such a great opportunity.”

In 2020, AIMS was honored for the twelfth consecutive school year with a Pinnacle Award from the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration for distance learning programs. In addition, AIMS won the first annual Pinnacle Hall of Fame Award last year. This award is presented to educational content providers that have been recognized for 10 or more years of quality programming.

“We try to make it a little more clinical than what you get in the classroom with a focus on major functions, diseases, and injuries,” Vollmer told the students during the demonstration. “Things you’re likely to come across to make a bit more pertinent to you.”

Vollmer walked students through the impact of a stroke on the human brain. In her junior year, Dyamond took an anatomy class at Rosati-Kain High School and said she fell in love with learning about the human body. She was one of the most engaged students and often the first to raise her hand to answer one of Vollmer’s questions. She was most intrigued with learning the purpose of the mesentery, which Vollmer described as a tough sheet of connective tissue that attaches the small intestines to the posterior wall of your abdominal cavity.

Dyamond said she recommends that other students participate in the Summer Scholars Program because it’s a “step forward in the right direction on the path to success.”

Eligible students must have at least a 2.5 G.P.A., submit an application, write an essay, and obtain a letter of recommendation from a science teacher or school counselor. For more information, visit the website or contact Javonda Quinn at javonda.quinn@health.slu.edu or 314-977-7564.

Saint Louis University School of Medicine

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 diseases.