Friday, August 28, 2009

The next generation of health care workers

A FUTURE IN MEDICINE: From left, Supervisor Monica Whitlow of General Surgery with Summer Jobs participants Evonte Owens and Tre Fernandez at the Student Celebration

"It was an awesome experience," says 19-year-old Aris Medina of his internship at the MGH through the ProTech Program. Medina was one of nearly 150 students who worked at the MGH this summer through the Summer Jobs, SummerWorks and ProTech programs. The students and their MGH supervisors were recognized at the MGH Center for Community Health Improvement (CCHI) School Partnerships 2009 Student Celebration.

Medina, who graduated from Health Careers Academy this year, worked in the Radiation Oncology Department helping to create devices to protect the healthy organs of cancer patients during treatment. In the fall, he will study biology at Fitchburg State College with plans to become a physician.

The celebration, held Aug. 19 in the OÕKeeffe Auditorium, opened with remarks from Galia Wise, manager of MGH School Partnerships. Several students also spoke, sharing details of their experiences at the MGH and their future goals.

"The staff of the Summer Jobs program and my supervisors in my current department, Partners Health Systems Human Resources, quickly became my mentors," said Nathalie Merida, one of the student speakers who has taken part in CCHI's programming since 2004. "My experience here at the MGH has become the foundation for my future career." Merida will attend Boston College on a full scholarship this fall.

Keynote speaker Elliot Melendez, MD, a former MGH physician who currently works at Children's Hospital Boston, shared his story of perseverance. As a teen, Melendez dropped out of high school due to personal and financial stressors. But after a close encounter with gang violence, he knew he needed to obtain an education to turn his life around. He worked toward his GED, attended college and later Harvard Medical School, where he earned his medical degree in 1995.

"Never give up -- the more you are pushed down, the more you should stand up," advised Melendez.

Following the speaking program, the 12 seniors who recently graduated from the ProTech program, including Medina, were honored. Each will be pursuing higher education in the fall. Certificates were presented to four of the graduates who received the Edward M. Kennedy Health Career Scholarship, a $1,250 scholarship given to high school seniors who have demonstrated excellence in school and in an internship position. Two other students are Posse Foundation scholars and will receive four-year, full-tuition leadership scholarships.

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