Filed Under:  Health & Wellness, Local, News

New Orleans hosts its first ‘Mentoring in Medicine’ Day

7th May 2012   ·   0 Comments

By Kelly Parker
Contributing Writer

Despite the dark clouds and drizzle, the theme on Saturday, April 21, was the sky’s the limit; as area high school students took part in the first annual Mentoring in Medicine Day in New Orleans, at the LSU Heath Sciences Center.

NOLA’s Mentoring in Medicine Day kicked off in typical Big Easy fashion with entertainment provided by the Big boys Brass Band. The day was filled with speak­ers, anatomical specimen demonstrations, exhibits and tours of simulation.

Dr. Dereck Rovaris, co-chair of Mentoring in Medicine New Orleans, applauded the group of youngsters’ efforts for coming out, despite the weather. “This is testament to your dedication,” he said to them. “I’m sure some of your friends would have been here, but saw the rainy weather and said, no. Some may have seen the advisement and noticed it was on a Saturday and said no. As you continue your careers, many people will say no, but we’re here to say yes.”

Rovaris is Associate Vice Chan­cellor for Academic and Multicul­tural Affairs at LSU Health Sciences Center.

The group’s mission is to diversify the workforce by mentoring and exposing underrepresented students to careers in health care. It originated in New York and allows high school students to hear personal stories of success and encou­rage­ment from minority physicians and graduate students in allied health.

Along with New Orleans, Phila­delphia, The Bronx, Atlanta, New York City and Detroit hosted mentoring events last weekend.

“This will be the first of many,” says Dr. Lisa Moreno-Walton, Mentoring in Medicine New Orleans Chair, and Director of Resident Research/Associate Resi­dency Director at LSU HSC.

Moreno-Walton is simply passing on the message of Dr. Lynn Holden, president of Mentoring in Medicine, Inc.

“We should not only establish a pipeline; starting in elementary school, but we must nurture people through medical school and residency to help ensure their success,” she stated.

Dr. Moreno-Walton told those in attendance of the important role her support system played in her life as a medical student.

“I would not have survived medical school if I did not have a Latino study partner, and the support of the minority affairs,” she said. “There were six Latinos and 13 African Americans in the program.“

She shared that she was told she “didn’t’ belong there” by some while in medical school back in 1990.

When Dr. Holden asked Moreno-Walton to bring mentors in medicine to New Orleans, she emphatically said yes.

She wasted no time in signing Dr. Rovaris on as a partner, realizing the importance of minorities to serve as role models in the city.

“The ethnic composition of the physicians in the community should be the same as the ethnic composition of that city,” Moreno-Walton told the audience. “We know that, but that’s something that we have to move towards. People are happier when you as a physician speak that same language; they understand (instructions) better when you understand their culture.”

Attendees got to hear testimonies and words of encouragement from young allied health professionals, who were not long ago in the shoes of many of the high school students in attendance.

“The most important step is the first step; which is your decision to come out this morning,” LSU dental student Brandon Mack, told the audience.

Mack was raised by a single mom and didn’t have many professional role models, but found one in a chemistry teacher, who always challenged him.

“She said to me, ‘You’re the only one here that looks like you; it’s important that you make a statement for yourself as well as the people who’ll come behind you,’” he said.

“Surround yourself with people who are doing things that you want to do,” Mack also told the group. “Surround yourself with positivity. “If you want to be the best, you’ve got to work the hardest—and it all starts now. I’m really proud of each and every one of you and I know you’ll be successful.”

Nursing student Shaina Stampley told students in attendance that she always loved math, but hated science. The Edna Karr High alum graduated from LSU with a degree in physical therapy, though still unsure of her career path.

It wasn’t until she worked in a plastic surgery clinic that she realized her calling.

“Nurses are an integral part of the medical team,” Stampley said. “It’s something that you have to love and be dedicated to. My first semester was crazy, but it was well worth it. And a support system is key, because there will be times when you’ll struggle, but you can do it. Whatever field you choose, you have the tools; you just have to use them.”

Brittney Moore; a junior at Eleanor McMain leaning toward a career in pharmacy, was told about the event by her Chemistry teacher. “I loved the stories the students told,” she said. “When they talked about it being hard, it was a little scary, but I was encouraged by their stories.”

Mentoring in Medicine New Orleans has also partnered with the (LSU) School of Dentistry, and area high school outreach programs; to help establish SAT boot camp for high school students, tutoring along with volunteer opportunities, and MCAT boot camp for college students. “We want to expand this project to the entire city, so that every single kid who has a dream of becoming a doctor, nurse, dentist or x-ray technician can achieve that dream,” Dr. Moreno-Walton stated.

“My mom signed me up for the program for the exposure and I’m glad she did,” Warren Easton student Andrew Baker said. “Listeni­ng to their experiences made me realize that if they could succeed, I could do the same.”

“When we realize our dreams, not only are we happy, but we’re able to serve the community of people in which we come from. We hope to see your faces many times and they you see us—and that we will become your mentors and help you achieve your dreams,” Dr. Moreno—Walton told the young attendees.

Deadlines for summer programs have passed, but students are advised to inquire about possible opportunities for programs this fall. Dr. Moreno-Walton informed The Louisiana Weekly that a follow-up event (Dinner with the Doctors) which would allow students to talk more with minority health care professionals is slated for June.

This article was originally published in the May 7, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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