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Philly middle schoolers exposed to medical education through workshops

Medical students are hosting workshops for middle school students in the city.

When Jonathan Ragheb attended high school in northeastern Ohio, he shadowed health care practitioners at local hospitals and fell in love with practicing medicine and helping others.

“It was always interesting having such a close relationship with the patients and other people,” said Ragheb, a fourth-year medical student practicing internal medicine. “[I wanted to] actually change their lives for the better.”

Ragheb, the community service chair for Temple Med Student Government, partnered with It Takes Philly and the Opening Doors Foundation. The partnership gives middle school students the opportunity to take a daylong field trip to Temple and participate in a series of five workshops designed to excite them about the possibility of pursuing a career in medicine.

On Jan. 20, 18 middle school students from Dunbar Promise Academy, on 12th Street near Montgomery Avenue, took a field trip to the medical school to try out these new workshops.

Temple had 32 students from Mastery Charter School’s Shoemaker Campus, in West Philadelphia, visit on Wednesday. They plan to host about 30 students from another to-be-determined school on Feb. 27.

Middle school students from Mastery Charter School’s Shoemaker Campus in West Philadelphia practice CPR in the Medicine Education and Research Building on Wednesday. ELENA IWATA FOR THE TEMPLE NEWS

“A lot of the schools in Philadelphia may have a difficult time getting their students exposure to these types of fields or any professional field,” Ragheb said.

The day begins with an introduction to medicine and science by doctors, Ragheb said. After that, students split up into smaller groups and rotate between each of the five workshops. One workshop allows the middle school students to give an ultrasound to a Temple student volunteer.

Additionally, students get to study brains that were donated to Temple for science education. Other workshops help students learn CPR and study skeletal structure, bones and fractures.

Lastly, there is a workshop on the human heart and how students can prevent heart disease at an early age.

It Takes Philly, which partnered with Temple to create the workshops, was created five years ago by Dr. Ala Stanford, who is the first African-American female pediatric surgeon educated and trained in the United States. Stanford was a pediatric surgeon at Temple before the university shut down its pediatric hospital, said Kamau Stanford, her younger brother and an It Takes Philly board member.

“What she sought to do was to find the lowest performing middle school[ers,] particularly eighth graders, and create a program that would put examples in front of them like doctors, lawyers, engineers,” Kamau Stanford said. “That way they might be able to develop a blueprint for success.”

They decided to set examples for eighth graders in particular because they believe eighth grade is the year when many students begin to think about their life and career goals, Kamau Stanford said.

Ala Stanford reached out to Temple to help create these medical workshops in order to give middle school students role models.

“Once you’ve seen somebody who’s actually done it, you can converse with that somebody and they can tell you how they did it, all the ups and downs and what it might take,” Kamau Stanford said. “Kids will say ‘I want to be a doctor,’ so when we work with our students … we talk about what that really means and how to actually make that happen.”

Glen Martin, a first-year medical student, is part of the Opening Doors Foundation. He said that the workshops were a great way to bring the community together and show kids that science education can be fun.

Martin, along with first-year medical students Rebecca Lin, Yangyang Shi and Bobak Pousti, helped create the medical workshops.

“I think it was good because we were able to keep [the middle school students] engaged and they were able to learn a lot and have a fun time while doing it,” Martin said. “They learned some pretty amazing stuff still happens in medical school, so hopefully that part of learning inspires them to pursue a similar path in medicine.”

Martin and Ragheb both said they are eager to continue the workshops and hopefully make them an annual addition to the medical school’s programming.

“That’s my hope,” Ragheb said. “That it will continue for several years after I graduate this year.”

Taylor Horn can be reached at taylor.suzanne.horn@temple.edu.

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