Medical school outreach aims to help N. Phila teens

The Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities holds monthly workshops.

Born to teenage parents in a crime-ridden North Philadelphia neighborhood, Dr. Ala Stanford Frey, director of the Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities at Temple’s School of Medicine, knows first-hand the challenges inner-city teens face.

CMHHD and the Allegheny West Foundation, a nonprofit community development corporation, have created a program designed to reach out to local teens.

“Hopefully, these kids see someone who grew up in an inner-city neighborhood like them and realize they can make it,” Frey said.

Each month, guest speakers will host youth discussions with high school students as part of an after-school program at the Panati Playground at 22nd and Clearfield streets.

The monthly meetings are designed to provide students with information about healthy lifestyle habits.
On Nov. 19, Dr. Raul A. DeLa Cadena, assistant dean and director of recruitment and retention at the School of Medicine, met with 15 students to discuss career opportunities in the healthcare industry.

Cadena tested teens’ knowledge about professions within the medical field and awarded them with prizes, including a set of scrubs and a stethoscope.

He offered insight on the many different types of doctors, nurses and therapists.

Current students from the School of Medicine accompanied Cadena, sharing personal experiences and tips about college with the teens.

“By being here today, you are already ahead of all your peers,” said Andrea Murray, a second-year medical student.

Murray informed students about her personal interest in child psychiatry.

She said she keeps an open mind about her career choices and advised teens to do the same.

James Rough, a third-year general surgery resident who is originally from Tijuana, Mexico, also provided guidance to the students.

“Get the best grades that you can,” Rough said. “[Medical school] is such a long road. Take it piece by piece.”

Murray encouraged students interested in pursuing a career in the medical profession to get involved in programs that would prepare them for college.

She told them to strengthen their personal weaknesses, define their study habits as early as possible and explore subjects they might not have considered.

“Statistics show that for girls growing up with a single parent, you’re more likely to be pregnant than to finish high school,” Frey said. “For a guy, you’re more likely to have a serious run-in with the law than to graduate high school.”

Michelle Davis-Sims, a freshman at Parkway Northwest High School for Peace and Social Justice, attended November’s youth discussion.

She said she plans to become a psychologist.

“It was real helpful,” she said about the discussion on healthcare careers.

Davis-Sims said she appreciated the advice Murray offered students and said while she earns good grades in school, she could study more.

Deloris Washington, a sophomore at City Center Academy, said once she is finished with high school, she would like to study pediatric medicine at an out-of-state medical school.

After last month’s discussion, strengthening her weaknesses is what Washington said she will focus on.
The speakers also provided students with the estimated time it takes to earn certain degrees in the medical field. They answered questions about starting salaries and stressed to students the importance of being passionate about the careers decisions they choose.

“No matter how much money you earn,” Rough said, “it’s important to enjoy what you do.”

Chelsea Calhoun can be reached at

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