MOULTRIE, Ga. — Dissections, yoga and CPR were on the agenda for local high schoolers during PCOM South Georgia’s annual Science and Math Summer Academy. 

Cairo and Colquitt County High School students spent two weeks at the medical school in Moultrie receiving medical lectures from faculty members, spending time with mentors and learning about the admissions process from college and university representatives. 

By giving high school students early exposure to these resources, Stacie Fairley, PhD, faculty leader, hopes it encourages them to pursue their goals of joining the healthcare profession.

“This year the academy was in-person, which I think allowed for a much more rewarding experience for the participants,” she said. “I was intentional about recruiting students that could ultimately help to build a more diverse healthcare workforce, which included underrepresented minorities and females.”

Jeanine Garcia (DO ‘24) is a PCOM South Georgia student and one of the lead mentors for the academy. She said having the opportunity to impact students at a young age was a no-brainer.

“I decided to become a mentor for SMSA because it was a great opportunity to share my passion for medicine with the local high school students and potentially make a difference in their lives,” she said. “I had the opportunity to participate in a STEM program when I was in high school, and it changed the trajectory of my life. I was exposed to science in a new light and fell in love with it.”

While at the academy, students heard from faculty members about subjects like pathology, physiology, genetics, microbiology, pharmacology and anatomy in the mornings. After the lecture, they played knowledge recall games then performed a hands-on activity to solidify their understanding. Then, they worked on clinical cases alongside PCOM South Georgia students.

Ogechukwu Ariwodo (DO ‘24) served as a mentor during the summer academy, working closely with the high school students. 

“The attendees have the opportunity to learn diverse leadership and professional skills while fostering camaraderie through different team-building exercises. The academy provides these students with first-hand exposure and advice on the intricacies of life as health professional students," he said.

Each afternoon, representatives from regional colleges and universities spoke to the students about how to prepare for college applications. Afterward, local healthcare employees spoke to the students about their profession and the process it takes to get there. Students also received CPR certification and HIPAA training by the Southwest Georgia Area Health Education Center. 

“SMSA’s ultimate goal is to help the participants discover their interest, think critically and educate them on how to one day serve their patients in the best ways possible...and to have fun,” said Fairley.

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