NeuroNow - For Baltimore students, a taste of medicine
For Baltimore students, a taste of medicine
Date: November 21, 2011
Medicine has a pipeline problem. Although racial minorities make up nearly a quarter of the U.S. population, they comprise only 6 percent of practicing physicians. This disparity isn’t just an unfortunate demographic aberration. According to some studies, minority physicians are more likely to practice in underserved communities, and minority patients are more likely to choose a health care professional of their own racial or ethnic background. Without enough minority physicians and nurses, patients of every race may not receive the care they need.
One way to solve this seemingly intractable problem, reasons assistant professor Amanda Brown, could be to get to students early. By reaching out to students in high school and showing them the real possibility of a career in medicine or medical research, she says, students may be more likely to become doctors or scientists instead of crossing these fields off their lists. And, what better place to find these students than the heart of Baltimore, the home base of Johns Hopkins?
“We have this community right around us,” Brown says. “We thought, how can we identify the brightest students and help them achieve their potential in science and medicine?”
The answer, since 2007, has been the Johns Hopkins internship in brain sciences. Sponsored by local benefactor Suzanne Cohen, the internship brings mostly local minority high school juniors and seniors to Hopkins for eight weeks each summer. Over these two months, students spend their day shadowing neurologists and neurosurgeons in clinics, playing a role in real, ongoing neuroscience research projects taking place in Hopkins’ labs, and lunching with mentors who provide guidance on entering medical and scientific fields.
At the end of their internship, each student gives a scientific talk, presenting findings from his or her own research—a skill every physician researcher needs to master. These talks, a culmination of weeks of learning typical but previously unfamiliar lab techniques and assimilating loads of new scientific knowledge, are an enormous source of pride for students and their families, Brown says.
“This year, we had 80 guests attend the presentation, but it was supposed to be only 40,” she adds. “Students’ entire families came: mothers, fathers, siblings and grandparents.”
The program is making significant headway, Brown says, in steering minority students toward these fields. For example, several alumni from recent years have begun college programs in the biomedical sciences. Erica and Erin Richardson, twin high school seniors who both completed the summer 2011 program, plan on going into nursing based on their internship experiences. Both say the program was challenging, but immensely rewarding. Though the internship is limited to a single summer per student, both wish they could do it all again.
“We’re advocates,” Erin says. “We tell all our friends about it.”
Eventually, Brown says, she and her colleagues would like to expand the internship and offer even more opportunities for students and the chance for a greater number to participate.
“We want to provide these students with every possible avenue for success,” she says. “When minorities make up the same proportion of doctors and scientists as they do in the greater population, that’s how we’ll know we’ve succeeded.”
To make a gift to the Department of Neurology, please call 410-516-6250.
To make a gift to the Department of Neurosurgery, please call 410-516-6234.