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One Hundred and Fifty Participate in Health Career Summer Programs


Getting a summer job took on new meaning for more than 150 undergraduate and high school students who participated in four different health career programs offered by UTHSC.

Getting a summer job took on new meaning for more than 150 undergraduate and high school students who participated in four different health career programs offered by the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC).

Putting aside the usual idea of a summer vacation, these students spent two months experimenting in laboratories, studying in classrooms and shadowing professionals in their dream careers.

“Of course you think about what job you can get to make money,” said Marcus Jennings, 20, when he thought of returning home to Memphis for the summer. “We still make money, but at the same time we are gaining something bigger,” he continued.

Marcus, a senior at Xavier College in New Orleans, spends the day in a research laboratory testing cells for a protein that helps cancer cells get oxygen.

He is one of 20 participants in the Memphis McNair Program, which is designed to provide undergraduates with effective preparation for doctoral study. The Memphis McNair Program offers a nine-week guided research internship with workshops and GRE (graduate school entrance exam) preparation for first-generation, low-income students.

Growing up in a single parent home where his mother had to work three jobs, Marcus said he learned early on that if he was ever going to get anywhere he was going to have do a lot of work. Now with dreams of pursuing a PhD in physiology, he said he is receiving the kind of positive feedback from his summer efforts that is inspiring him to make things happen.

In addition to the Memphis McNair Program, students also are participating in the Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP), the Tennessee Institutes for Pre-Professionals (TIP) and the Memphis Challenge Program. These programs are made available through the Office of Health Career Programs at UTHSC.

Noel Moore, 19, who is a participant in HCOP, described her experience as “priceless” as she gains a head start for classes she will take at the University of Memphis this fall. Much of her first four weeks have been spent in the classroom studying subjects such as biotechnology, chemistry and physics. She will continue learning by shadowing a UTHSC professional for the last four weeks.

“This is like my dream job,” said Noel, who wants to become a cardiologist. “I”ve been thinking about this since I was 10.”

“I am so psyched for med school,” she continued. “Just being here at UT has confirmed my dreams of becoming a physician.”

Noel is one of 37 students to participate in HCOP, which is designed to provide enrichment and preparation for underprivileged students in the Shelby County area who are interested in careers in the health profession. The eight-week summer institute is designed to strengthen basic science competencies, provide standardized test preparation and offer a preview of professional school curriculum.

TIP is a program that offers black residents in Tennessee an opportunity to also learn for life by offering year-round support, advice and activities for those who want to pursue health careers.

Michael Wiggins, 38, is just one of 42 students to participate in the TIP program this summer.

“I am the first one in my family to try to pursue any college degree,” said Michael, who is assisting with research in such topics as health disparities and health policy issues.

Michael, who attempted college in the 1980s but said he was immature and had to learn life”s lessons the hard way, has never lost his interest in science. Falling in love with the microscope, Michael wanted to know more. Now as a senior at the University of Memphis, Michael wants to say “thank you” for his summer experience.

Kenetra Hix, 22, also a TIP participant, has a bachelor”s degree in biology from Tennessee State University. She is spending her summer preparing for the MCAT (medical school entrance exam), which she will take in August. Kenetra, who wants to focus on primary care in her career, said the professors have taught the summer participants such things as how to think more critically, read faster and set-up a study schedule.

“I”m ecstatic,” Kenetra said. “It has opened me up to so much I didn”t know but needed to know.” Not only has her summer class helped in preparation for the MCAT, but it also has been motivational as well, especially as she has talked with medical students and looked at M-4s and thought, “I”m going to be there someday.”

The Memphis Challenge Program is the final summer program that offered 14 students an opportunity to develop as future community leaders from among Memphis” brightest graduating high school seniors. All of these programs are designed to increase the awareness of students to the exciting career opportunities available within the biomedical science community and are enhanced by the willingness of UTHSC faculty to mentor these young scholars.