‘MEDS’ program draws city high school students to Upstate

SUNY Upstate College of Medicine

Students from Henninger High School in Syracuse visited Upstate Medical University for "Neurology Day," part of the Latino Medical Student Association's Medical Education for Diverse Students (MEDS) program.

The Latino Medical Student Association at Upstate has launched a program for high school students in the City of Syracuse who are interested in health care careers.

“MEDS” – Medical Education for Diverse Students – has been offered on two Saturdays, focusing on a different topic each session. “Neurology Day” was Nov. 30 and “Cardiac Day” followed on Jan. 11. Another MEDS session, “Respiratory Day,” is set for March 1.

LMSA student organizers say they will continue the program in 2014-15.

“The mission of LMSA here at Upstate and nationally is to promote diversity in medicine,” said Daniella Palermo, fourth-year medical student and LMSA president. “The MEDS program is one way we can identify kids who are interested in medicine but may not have the resources (to pursue a career or attend programs that charge a fee).”

MEDS came about when second-year medical student Caleb Consenstein, LMSA community service chair, discovered last year that Upstate’s College of Medicine has few graduates of the Syracuse City School District.

SUNY Upstate Latino Medical Student Association

Upstate medical student Caleb Consenstein discusses electrocardiograms with high school students in the MEDS program run by Upstate's Latino Medical Student Association.

LMSA leaders learned that Henninger High School in Syracuse has an active health careers program, so they met with Henninger’s health careers advisor, spoke to students and developed a plan for the one-day workshops.

“We want to make ourselves visible in the community and serve as mentors,” Daniella said. Nineteen Henninger students, mostly juniors and sophomores, signed up for the program.

MEDS received funding from Upstate’s CSTEP program, and several Upstate faculty members have volunteered their time on Saturdays.

LMSA treasurer Leo Meehan, a second-year medical student, said the workshops featured modules based on organ systems. The modules have to be interesting enough, he said, to persuade high school students to spend part of a Saturday at Upstate.

Activities have included observing simulated bypass surgery in the Cardiovascular Perfusion lab and watching an electrocardiogram demonstration (Cardiac Day); a visit to the Human Anatomy lab and a demonstration by SUNY police on the effects of alcohol on the brain (Neurology Day).

The one-day workshops aren’t all about academics and medical expertise. “As valuable as the science lessons are,” Caleb said, “it’s also the lunch-hour time we spend with them, when they ask us about life after age 18.”

The LMSA is looking for Upstate faculty from a variety of health professions to help with a one-hour panel discussion March 1 – and beyond. They’re looking for mentors who would be willing to have a MEDS student shadow them.

To help, send an e-mail to upstatelmsa@gmail.com or send a message to LMSA via Facebook (SUNYUpstateLMSA). Working with Daniella, Caleb and Leo are fellow LMSA board members Elaine Rodriguez, Shilpa Agarwal and Susie Agudelo, all second-year medical students.

“A lot of these (high school) students would like to have shadowing experiences,” Daniella said. “These kids need a direct line of communication and interaction.”

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