Published May 13, 2014
More than 100 health care role models — including 60 University at Buffalo medical students — engaged teens in hands-on learning during the annual Doctors Back to School event April 29.
They taught hundreds of high school students at Buffalo’s Health Sciences Charter School some basic clinical skills, such as how to splint an arm — practicing on classmates — and how to suture using pigs’ feet.
They also allowed students to handle human organs, including brains and hearts, on loan from the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences’ anatomy program.
And — perhaps most importantly — they spoke to the teens about why they chose career paths in medicine.
Sponsored by the American Medical Association (AMA) and held across the nation, Doctors Back to School is designed to encourage underrepresented students to consider health science careers.
Nearly three-fourths of the high schoolers participating in the Buffalo event are African American, and half are female.
“This program helps pique young minority students’ interest by introducing them to real-life role models and raising awareness about the need for more minority physicians,” says first-year medical student Kiana Guerrero, who coordinated the 2014 outreach event with dental student Arthur Bigsby III.
According to the AMA, African-, Hispanic- and Native-Americans comprise nearly 25 percent of the U.S. population, but only 9 percent of the nation’s doctors.
The goal is to “show our students that you don’t have to be a rich kid from the suburbs to go to medical or dental school,” notes Melina Vamvas, the high school’s college and career coordinator.
Based on feedback from the teens, the message is getting through.
“Many of our students walk out of the event suggesting that one day they want to be just like the UB graduate students and become a medical professional,” says Principal Hank Stopinski.
Looking back on their early influences, participating professionals expressed a desire to encourage a new generation of health care providers.
“I want to see more local students pursue careers in the health sciences — in all its varied enterprises,” he says. “My role models were two dynamic teachers who validated me in my formative years.”
“We believe in enlightening young people about our respective professions,” says Michael Hatton, DDS, clinical associate professor of oral diagnostic sciences, who participated with his wife, Elizabeth Hatton, MD, a family physician in Amherst.
“We lived on a dream and we made it happen,” he says, recalling the couple’s hard road to success. “So can one of these kids.”
Participants also included Steven Abel, DDS, associate dean for student affairs in the School of Dental Medicine, as well as additional dental students, UB faculty members and local physicians and dentists.