Group of medical studentsWhile faculty in The Ohio State University College of Medicine are focused on training the next generation of medical leaders, our students are looking to mentor the generation after them. Despite coursework, exams and clinical work, second-year medical student Evans Osuji leads a student organization whose goal is to mentor and teach elementary, middle and high school students about being a doctor.

“It is humbling to look out and see the faces of children that remind me of myself at that age, many of whom have aspirations of being a physician like myself,” says Osuji. “I hope seeing medical students and physicians from many different cultures, ethnicities and socioeconomic statuses, who look like them, helps them envision being in our shoes.”

Osuji is president of the Ohio State student-run organization Health Education and Development Services for Underprivileged Populations, also known as HEADS-UP, which works with local nonprofits and schools to develop health literacy curriculums for students interested in medicine, improve health care literacy through education, mentor and offer resource support for children who are in educationally, socially and economically disadvantaged positions.

The organization’s 10-member executive board, along with their faculty advisor, enlists the help of medical students, residents and faculty physicians to present on various organ systems and other aspects of the health care field, so students understand the many options available.

Through an annual summer camp, a week-long diversity week at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Wexner Medical Center, and Nationwide Children’s Hospital that focuses on education/grand rounds, training, career development, and community building, and through a partnership with LeBron James’ I Promise School, leaders of HEADS-UP ignite a passion for medicine and provide a road map to students whose paths are far more uncertain and uncharted. HEADS-UP specifically designed a curriculum to teach I Promise fourth-grade students about the brain, bones and heart.

Chris Pierson, MD, PhD (external link), associate professor of Pathology in the Ohio State College of Medicine and staff pathologist in the Department of Laboratory Medicine at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, especially enjoys volunteering with HEADS-UP during the summer camp held at Ethiopian Tewahedo Social Services. 

“Watching them see a human brain for the first time is an unforgettable experience,” says Dr. Pierson. “They are amazed that this soft, squishy object is also what each of them uses to experience everything about their life.”

In addition, a newly organized mentoring program with Northland High School pairs HEADS-UP medical and graduate students and faculty from different specialties with high school students who’ve expressed interest in pursuing a career in medicine. Mentors advocate, guide and empower students to reach specific goals and reach their fullest potential. In addition, each month different faculty members present lectures and customized presentations and answer student questions. 

Rosevine Azap, a third-year medical student and past-president of HEADS-UP, says having a multitude of mentors early on in her education changed her life and helped her take actionable steps toward pursuing her dreams.

“Knowing at a young age that I wanted to be a doctor cleared a path for me,” says Azap. “My mentors rooted for me every step of the way. I’m forever grateful for their support and encouragement. I couldn’t have made it this far without them.”

Azap adds that educational disparities often begin in elementary school. HEADS-UP believes their work will make an impact on the diversity of students trying to enter the pipeline into medical school.

“It's going to take more than a few quick fixes to create a medical workforce reflective of the general population,” says Osuji. “That is why it is so important for us to share our passion and possibility.”

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