HEADS UP shows youth there’s a place for them in medicine

student taking blood pressure

Even though it’s a cold winter day, high school students from Northland High School meet warmth and energy as they file into the Clinical Skills Center at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. They’re here for a career connection workshop as part of their partnership with the medical student organization called Health Education and Development Services for Underprivileged Populations, or HEADS UP.

Led by a diverse group of current medical students, HEADS UP provides health care literacy and mentorship to students who might not see a clear path to college or a career in medicine or health care.
“We’re showing students how we got to where we are and at the same time, teaching them to become their own health advocates,” says Brielle Davidson, a second-year medical student who just completed her term as president of HEADS UP.

In addition to getting hands-on experience, the students hear presentations on topics designed to empower them to think about their long-term goals.

Today, the morning begins with a presentation, “Setting Yourself Up for Success: College Edition,” led by Sanjana Kothari who served as one of the HEADS UP curriculum coordinators.

What follows is advice that goes beyond getting good grades, studying hard and becoming active in clubs and organizations. The presentation centers on the importance and steps to take to find a mentor, and specific steps students can take as undergraduates to prepare to apply to medical school. Many students raise their hands and ask questions about how to get financial aid to attend Ohio State. 

“They need access to resources,” Davidson says. “That’s why Bangudi, another previous HEADS UP curriculum coordinator, included a presentation on financial aid.”

Seeing is believing

doctor presentingAs part of the program, the students from Northland interface with HEADS UP programming on a monthly basis either at their high school or on campus. They hear from college faculty from a variety of medical specialties on what their field entails and what their careers look like.

Shelby Jordan, MD, assistant professor of Pediatrics at the Ohio State College of Medicine sees patients at Nationwide Children’s Hospital talks about her path to becoming a pediatrician and what she loves about working with young patients.

“I get to see them grow up,” Dr. Jordan says. “And build relationships with them over the years.”

When it’s time for the hands-on activity, students are quick to circle up with medical student volunteers. One half of the room covers how to use a stethoscope and the other the basics of the mechanisms of blood pressure and taking a manual blood pressure.

After a demonstration and practice with two medical students, Patience Ogundare and Madelyn Dumashie take turns taking each other’s blood pressure.

Patience wraps the blood pressure cuff around Madelyn’s arm, puts the headpiece of the stethoscope into her ears and inflates the pump.

“I’m surprised by how loud the sound is in my ears,” Patience says.

What she’s hearing is the sound of blood pulsing through her partner’s arteries.

When it is Madelyn’s turn to repeat the procedure on Patience, she comments on the detail and technique necessary to properly wrap the cuff around her partner’s arm and locate the brachial artery in her upper arm.

“You have to be very coordinated,” Madelyn says. “It’s a delicate process.”

Throughout the programming the students are exposed to even more delicate parts of anatomy such as cow hearts, brains and bones. Davidson says that they are always excited to learn and participate.

“The UP in HEADS UP is for ‘underprivileged populations,’ meaning that our reach is to communities and schools that may be under-resourced or have fewer opportunities than their counterparts,” Davidson says. “The program provides early exposure to the field of medicine and shows students there is a place for them.”

HEADS UP programs in the community: 

HEADS UP Week. HEADS UP partners with Columbus City Schools and Ohio State’s College Mentors for Kids to bring youth to campus for fun, health-related activities, including stations on health disparities, the heart, the brain, bones and how to perform vitals.

Career Connections Northland High School (NHS). A monthly career connection workshop with high school students from Northland High School. With the help of donations and grants, students were recently provided ACT/SAT books, planners and school supplies.

The I Promise School in Akron, Ohio. This is a special curriculum delivered to fourth-grade students at LeBron James’ I Promise School to empower underprivileged youth, and arm them with knowledge, determination and, most importantly, opportunity. 

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