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UT Piques Teen Interest in Medicine to Address Doctor Shortage
Participation in UT Houston Medical School's high school anatomy program has tripled since 2006
It wasn't your typical Tuesday morning for Avik Som and his classmates from Cypress Falls High School, who got a chance to revive a "bionic man," inspect the internal cavities of a cadaver and pick the brains of first-year medical school students.
They were participating in a teen outreach program designed to spark an interest in health care professions. Organized by the Admissions Office of The University of Texas Medical School at Houston, the program is designed to address the statewide physician shortage.
"With the physician shortage, it's crucial to reach out to students before they get to college," said Judianne Kellaway, M.D., assistant dean for admissions and the Stephen A. Lasher III Professor in Ophthalmology at the UT Medical School at Houston. "We have programs for high school students and programs for middle school students, too."
The three-hour gross anatomy class is the cornerstone of the Admissions Office's teen outreach efforts, which also include presentations by medical school students at middle schools.
"We are trying to get a message out to young people that the practice of medicine is a fulfilling one, and they need to consider medicine as a future," Kellaway said. "We hope that these efforts will help add to the number of people going into medicine at a time when a dramatic need is predicted as the age of our population shifts toward the Baby Boomer."
According to the Texas Medical Association, Texas ranks 45th in doctors per capita with 43,000 physicians engaged in patient care for a population of about 23 million. There are 5,400 medical students and 6,000 resident physicians, the association reports.
The UT teen anatomy program has tripled since 2006 from 12 classes and 230 students to 35 classes and 700 students. According to Nancy Murphy, director of special programs at the medical school, there is a waiting list for the anatomy classes and there are plans to expand the program. It's limited to 20 students per class and certificates are presented.
Som, a Cy Falls student who has been accepted to The University of Texas at Austin, Rice University and Johns Hopkins University, is interested in a health care career. He is particularly interested in artificial organs and would be the first doctor in his family. "I really like the science," he said.
UT Medical School student and Bellaire High School graduate Gavin Wagenheim is one of the students who teaches teens in the gross anatomy laboratory where they experience the sights and smells of lab work, and in the Surgical & Clinical Skills Center where a "bionic man" groans for help. (Gross anatomy refers to organs and tissue that can be observed with the naked eye.)
Under the watchful eyes of Eric Reichman, Ph.D., M.D., director of the Surgical & Clinical Skills Center at UT Medical School at Houston, the teens get to listen to various heart and lung sounds, practice their cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) skills, and use a defibrillator to restart a heart on a mannequin. "He talks and you can listen to his heart," Reichman said.
Getting into medical school is no easy task, according to Murphy, who said that many of those accepted have grade point averages of 3.7 and scores of 32 or more on their Medical College Application Test (MCAT). A medical school application can be 13 to 14 pages.
By Rob Cahill, Institutional Advancement
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