On Monday, 15-year-old Justine Owusu was a student. By Friday, she was a doctor.
Justine did not actually earn a medical degree — at least not yet. But the Clarksburg High School junior left a weeklong program sponsored by the Asian American Center of Frederick equipped with a better understanding of the medical field and a potential career path.
The Science, Service, Medicine and Mentoring (S2M2) program is a national program started through the Navy and the Uniformed Services University. The program has been around for 14 years and run locally through the Asian American Center for the past five years, said Elizabeth Chung, the center’s executive director.
The goal of S2M2 is to introduce students with diverse backgrounds to the medical field, said Dr. Cynthia Macri, who started the program. The hope is that increasing the number of medical professionals from different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds will help address some of the disparities in medicine.
The program in Frederick is held for the first four days at Tuscarora High School, which was picked because of its diversity, and at Frederick Community College for the last day. The connection with FCC helps give students a path to earning a degree without a cost barrier, Macri said.
On the first day, students learn about medical privacy laws and medical ethics. They are also assigned research projects that they work on the entire week. The research part of the program is meant to teach the students how to use credible resources, she said.
From there, it gets more hands-on. The students learn how to tie surgical knots, to take vitals, to conduct laparoscopic surgery. They get to put casts on each other, stitch a banana’s skin and deliver a robotic baby.
Justine loved suturing, she said, and after the weeklong program, she was able to narrow down a future career. She is interested in obstetrics or orthopedic surgery.
Suturing was popular among the students, including Nisha Thope, 16, a student at Frederick High School.
“I learned how to suture,” she said. “That was pretty cool.”
Suturing could be a little frustrating, but there were mentors — students who had gone through the program or selected by the S2M2 — to help them, Nisha said.
On the last day, they presented their research and learned about ways to pursue a career in medicine. And while they may not get their nursing or medical degree, they do get to put on a white coat and stethoscope and feel like a doctor for the couple of minutes it takes for one of the mentors to take a picture.
Laura Crocker, 16, from Tuscarora High School, presented on asthma. She chose the disease because a lot of people have it. She wanted to spread more awareness of what happens when someone has the respiratory disease and has an asthma attack.
Laura said she wants to pursue a nursing degree.
The program also encourages service, and although it lasts only a week, the students are encouraged to continue to volunteer, whether it’s with the Asian American Center or other health programs.
They can also return to the program as mentors.
Macri said she likes to see the transformation in the students from the first day to the last.
“The kids actually take that to heart, from being a student to a doctor,” she said.