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High school students pursue health career goals at summer program

UMass Medical School High School Health Careers Program prepares teens for future in medicine

They came to the High School Health Careers Program at UMass Medical School with dreams of becoming doctors. When the program ended four weeks later, 19 students from high schools across the commonwealth left with the knowledge, insight and confidence to help them pursue their goals.

“Coming into this program, I hoped to gain more knowledge of what I want to study in college and what I want to be in the medical field,” said Christina Jandrow, a rising senior at South High School in Worcester. “We were able to learn from medical students who experienced the journey we will soon encounter. After participating in this program, I finally feel like I am on the right track, a path that will lead me toward a bright future as a doctor.”

With its goal to increase diversity in health care and biomedical sciences, the program offers a month-long, tuition-free educational enrichment immersion to high-achieving Massachusetts high school students who are from minorities underrepresented in health care or are economically or educationally disadvantaged.

“Programs like these are very important to students like me because they don’t see many people in medicine who look like them,” said Besma Nurhussein. “In the program I met many doctors who made me feel that I could get there too.” The rising senior at Worcester Technical High School said her parents brought her and three sisters to the United States so that would have more educational and career opportunities than they might have in their native Saudi Arabia.

(From left) Besma Nurhussein, Christina Jandrow and Aracely Herrera participated in the 2019 High School Health Careers Program.

The program brings likeminded students together to interact with health care faculty and providers in a professional setting. Students are challenged with rigorous academics including intensive SAT preparation, and they learn about contemporary issues in health care. They also gain hands-on experience working as interns in hospital clinics.

Doherty High School rising junior Aracely Herrera’s interest in health care was sparked by family illnesses and how caring for sick family members makes her feel. “Family members in El Salvador barely ever had proper medical care. I was inspired by my family to always help others in many ways,” she said. “The amount of school work we had to get through increased my confidence about being able to handle college and graduate school.” Herrera, one of three children of El Salvadoran immigrants, will be the first in her family to attend college.

The program culminated with research presentations by the student award winners in front of instructors and family members at the closing ceremonies on Friday, July 26. Each student received a certificate of completion, and four were recognized with achievement awards from the program’s biology, mathematics, English and IT instructors. Rising Lowell High School junior Diogo De Souza was honored with the special recognition award from Robert Layne, MEd, assistant dean of outreach programs and director of the High School Health Careers Program.

In his closing remarks, Brian Lewis, PhD, assistant vice provost for outreach and recruitment, bid the students goodbye, saying “We’d like to see you back here as your journey continues.”

Three of this year’s resident advisors took part in the program three years ago. Doherty High School graduates Jessica Atuahene, (UMass Amherst ’21) and Tilda Fredua, (College of the Holy Cross ’21,) and Mavis Dwobeng, (UMass Dartmouth ’20,) are all preparing for graduate school in health-related majors.

2019 High School Health Careers participants

Darren Agyeman, Doherty High School, ‘20

Agnes Chacko, Shrewsbury High School, ‘22

Diogo De Souza, Lowell High School, ‘21

Aracely Herrera, Doherty High School ‘21

Christina Jandrow, South High School ‘20

Vincent Kim, Lowell High School ‘20

Savanna Le, South High School ‘21

Krissy Ly, South High School ‘20

Albert Marshall, Avon Middle High School ‘20

Brenda Nguyen, Leicester High School ‘20

Whitney Nguyen, University Park Campus School ‘20

Nayara Nobrega, Framingham High School ‘21

Besma Nurhussien, Worcester Tech High School ‘20

Nina Phan, Lowell High School ‘21

Jacob Pothen, Worcester Academy ‘20

Dorcas Ruhamya, Worcester Tech High School ‘20

Anna-Lee Thompson, Springfield Central High School ‘21

Grace Tran, South High School ’20

Alejandra Zambrano, Fitchburg High School ‘20