Southern Regional High School, Southern Ocean Medical Center Partner for ‘Mini Medical School’ Program

May 23, 2018
Courtesy of: Southern Regional High School Southern Regional students listen to a lecture on how to get into medical school during "Mini-Medical School," a six-week program to help inform students interested in careers within the medical and healthcare field.

In a high school the size of Southern Regional and with a large diversity of talents among the students, it wouldn’t be a surprise to learn many of them someday want to have a career in the healthcare field. But rather than rely on second-hand information, school district Superintendent Craig Henry sought to bring first-hand knowledge to those students and asked Guidance Supervisor Megan Vile to help guide the ship as an opportunity presented by Hackensack Meridian Health Southern Ocean Medical Center began to take shape.

“The concept for a ‘Mini-Medical School’ was presented to us by Southern Ocean Medical Center,” said Vile, who along with Henry oversaw the development of the program largely operated by a student leadership team comprised of six seniors. “Once we figured out the format, each student of the leadership team was given a role to fulfill. They had to be in contact with the presenters, to make sure they had what they needed, organize student attendance, be the hosts for each session, among other responsibilities.”

The leadership team was made up of Joseph Orrico, Sara Lockwood, Anthony Del Rio, Paul Keyes, Samantha Minafo and Kyra Zdep, and the format was set on a six-week lecture series. The sessions were once per week from 7 to 9 p.m. and headed by medical experts, as the students learned some of the ins and outs of their experiences, took in real-world visuals through hands-on demonstrations, and gained valuable advice through question-and-answer periods.

“Medical school is a dream for many,” said Dr. David S. Kountz, program director and co-chief academic officer of Hackensack Meridian Health. “For students nearing the end of their high school careers who want to find out if the healthcare field is for them, a ‘mini-medical school’ can be the first step on the path to reaching that goal.”

Vile said more than 150 students registered, and each session had at least 100 in attendance. Students who attended a minimum of four sessions received a certification of recognition as “graduates” of the program, which ran from the beginning of March through mid-April.

Kountz opened the program with an introduction of the medical field; the first session also featured an interactive Q&A with a pair of medical students who gave their insights into their experiences. Other sessions featured Dr. Kimberly A. Hogan, Dr. Francis J. Schanne and Dr. Paul Mastrokyriakos. Students also had the opportunity to learn about various heathcare professions during a panel discussion hosted by SOMC’s allied health practitioners.

“By partnering with Southern Regional High School, we are inspiring the next generation of healthcare professionals with informative, interactive sessions taught by our experienced and knowledgeable  physicians and health professionals, who are committed to redefining the future of healthcare,” said Dean Q. Lin, regional president of Hackensack Meridian Health.

Retired pediatrician Richard Goldstein was the speaker for the “graduation” ceremony on April 17, and Vile said the program was invaluable for Southern students.

“What we learned from this is that we have a large population of students interested in a wide range of medical and healthcare professions, and this kind of program helped connect them with what they’re doing now and guiding them toward making informed decisions for their future paths,” she said. “Our guidance counselors do an awesome job in helping prepare our students for their futures, but they’re not in the healthcare field. Now our students have first-hand knowledge from experts in the field.”

Vile expects the program to return next school year, hopefully a bit bigger and with a larger scope, perhaps to include a more extensive range of healthcare professions.

“We didn’t have an oncologist. We didn’t have an orthopedic surgeon. We didn’t have a phlebotomist,” she said. “We’re hoping we can start diversifying the topics even further, and maybe customizing the students’ interactions in accordance to what they’re interested in. I definitely can see this developing bigger legs.”

— David Biggy

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