(Charles A. Smith/University Communications)

JSU partners with UMMC to give high school students a pathway to medicine

By Rachel James-Terry

On Saturday, March 5, up to 100 Mississippi high school students filled Jackson State University’s College Science Engineering and Technology building for the Exploring Healthcare Pathways Impact the Race Program.

The one-day event is held on participating college campuses throughout the state and allows students to engage and learn about the various health care programs offered at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. JSU, Mississippi State University and the University of Mississippi partnered with UMMC on this initiative.

“Exploring Health Care Pathways Program is significant because it provides students with a roadmap to becoming health care professionals. If we are going to increase and diversify our health care field, we have to start with students in our communities,” said Porscha Fuller, continuing educational specialist at UMMC.

The program was developed, and implemented by the School of Medicine Office of Admissions and the IMPACT the RACE Program with the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Fuller shared that during the preliminary planning, there were two set objectives- to inspire Mississippi high school students to pursue health care careers and to establish the foundational importance of health for Mississippi’s population.

“I think the collaboration is a win-win for all parties involved; high school students and families, and the faculty and staff from the IHL institutions. It’s a great day for Mississippi when we all work together to expose our youth to the plethora of career opportunities in healthcare, and then offer them the pathways to make their career choice a reality,” said Loria Brown-Gordon, Ph.D., associate dean of the Du Bois-Harvey Honors College at JSU and the JSU chair for the program.

In the CSET auditorium, juniors and seniors from high schools as far as Moss Point were greeted by Wilbur Walters, Ph.D., dean of the College of Science Engineering and Technology, who encouraged them to be inquisitive and ask questions.

“Today, you are tigers. The partnership we have here with the University of Mississippi Medical Center gives you access to top-notch medical experts. Pretend you are a student moving into your chosen profession. Ask all the questions that you can today this is why they are here,” he urged.

Alisa Mosley, Ph.D., provost of JSU, was also on hand to welcome the visitors.

“I’m so glad you’re spending some time today reflecting on what you might want to do. This program has been designed with you in mind and is right on point. It has things you may have traditionally thought about, but it also includes some avenues that will allow you to reflect on some career pathways you may have not considered,” she said.

Students were later divided into six groups and rotated from various breakout sessions hosted by UMMC’s different schools of medicine ranging from dentistry to nursing.

Dr. Loretta Jackson-Williams, MD, is the vice dean for Medical Education and a professor of Emergency Medicine at UMMC School of Medicine. Jackson-Williams shared that the program intends to prepare students to enter the medical field.

“The realization is that we spend a lot of time immersed on our campus in what we do and pursuing our profession, but we don’t necessarily get out and talk with the young people about what that looks like,” she said.

Jackson-Williams explained that there is the expectation that if students are interested (in a medical career), they will seek them out. However, she said, they are trying a different approach and meeting youth where they are recognizing that students have to complete an undergraduate program before enrolling at UMMC.

“We wanted to work with the undergraduate institutions in our state to establish better relationships but also serve as a resource for information,” she said.

Ashlyn Tate, a student at Provine High School, said she attended the event because she wanted to learn more about dentistry. Tate said a nice smile boosts people’s confidence.

“Teeth have a lot to do with your appearance. You have a lot of people who need dental work, and I want to help them feel better about themselves,” she said.

Kerriana Moore is undecided about what medical field she would like to pursue.

“First I wanted to be an OB-GYN, then a dermatologist, and now I’m thinking about nursing, but the years of medical school are scaring me a little, so I came out today to find out what it will take to get there,” said Moore, a senior at Murrah High School.

Myia Carter, another Murrah High School senior, has plans to become a physical therapist. “I love the human anatomy and learning about bones and muscles. At first, I wanted to be a teacher and then an OB-GYN, but I can’t deliver babies. Plus, I used to run track and cross country, so a physical therapist is more me.”

Nik Thompson, an 11th-grader from Hillcrest Christian School, found out about the event from his school counselor. “We could choose from three locations, and I chose Jackson State University because I want to go to Jackson State. I’m thinking about nursing, speech pathology and anesthesia. I want to get a good understanding, so I can decide my major,” he said.

Jacori Daniels is a 2021 graduate of JSU. He is also in his first year of medical school at UMMC. Daniels said that he is glad to return to his old stomping grounds and help students determine their career trajectory.

“I’m here to help expose them to the healthcare field a little early. I didn’t necessarily have these same opportunities that they have, and it makes a difference seeing someone that is still young and fresh out of college,” he said. “It helps them to understand that it’s possible. I’m just stepping my foot into the door, so I was in their shoes just a few years ago. It makes them more comfortable to ask questions, and I actually understand where they’re coming from.”

Daniels said it feels good to give back to his university, and he looks forward to future opportunities to connect to students. “Where ever God takes me, that’s where I want to be. And, I’m just grateful for this opportunity.”