Summer Pipeline Program bolsters students’ interest in science, careers in medicine

Summer Pipeline Program
Twenty-eight high school students took part this summer in Early Introduction to Health Careers II, a two-week initiative that is part of the medical school's Summer Pipeline Program.

When she thinks about life after high school and college, Lexi Julien-Mouton doesn’t know yet what she wants to be or where she will work. But whatever the job, she says she knows she will be doing something in the medical field.

Given those aspirations, Lexi, 15, was in her element earlier this month as she took part in Early Introduction to Health Careers II, a two-week initiative that is part of WMed’s Summer Pipeline Program.

“I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to learn about things in the medical field,” Lexi, a junior at Loy Norrix High School, said of the time she spent in EIH II and the medical school’s Saturday Science Academy in the spring. “I love helping people. If I were to be a doctor, I would get to save lives and that is such a good feeling.”

EIH II is one of two pipeline programs at WMed and is made possible through a partnership with Kalamazoo College and grants from the Harold and Grace Upjohn, Dorothy U. Dalton and Irving S. Gilmore foundations.

At the heart of EIH II is an effort to stoke an interest in biomedical science and health careers among underrepresented minorities and disadvantaged high school students from Kalamazoo Public Schools and the Kalamazoo area. In the end, the hope is that EIH II will serve to build a more diverse student population that will enter the biomedical sciences and healthcare fields, reducing the disparities that exist.

“Our students in EIH II tell the story of what I consider the true vision for the pipeline program, which is to create, for high school students, inspiration to aspire for a career in science or healthcare that they may not have known about, and to help give them confidence that they can be successful now and in their future,” said Cheryl Dickson, MD, associate dean for Health Equity and Community Affairs. “The program gives students an opportunity to meet healthcare professionals in a variety of fields and to learn science in an engaging format with a healthcare lens. Students learn from each other, medical students and faculty in an environment that is safe, stimulating and fun.”

Lexi was one of 28 high school students who took part in EIH II this summer and the Saturday Science Academy in the spring. At the Science Academy, students spent their Saturdays at WMed and were presented with several opportunities to hear about healthcare careers and learn more about science through a healthcare lens. They also took part in a skills-based component in the medical school’s Simulation Center and learned about study skills and financial resources for college.

Summer Pipeline Program
The high school students in EIH II spent a week at the medical school's W.E. Upjohn M.D. Campus and a week at Kalamazoo College.

“This program has helped teach me more about going to college and what you need to do,” Lexi said. “Everyone that I’ve met here loves what they do because they’re saving lives and I would love to be one of those people too because not everyone can say they’ve saved a life.”

The students in EIH II this summer spent one week at K-College where they got hands-on experience working in a chemistry lab at the Dow Science Center. The next week was spent at WMed where the students worked in the medical school’s anatomy lab learning about the heart and lungs. They also spent time with Stryker engineers learning about some of the company’s latest innovations.

“The program taught me a lot of things about medicine and companies,” 15-year-old Josh McKissic, a junior at Loy Norrix said. “It just gave me an enlightenment into my own city … I want to be some type of engineer. “Biomedical, mechanical, something that’s good.

“Not only good for myself but good because I know I’m making a change. I don’t want to do something where I don’t have any passion.”

Josh said he enjoyed the time he and the other students spent in the anatomy lab at the medical school’s W.E. Upjohn M.D. Campus during EIH II. Specifically, he said he valued the knowledge he gained while working with Dr. Wendy Lackey, an assistant professor of Anatomy in WMed’s Department of Biomedical Sciences.

Shante’ya Scott, 15, a junior at Kalamazoo Central High School, said EIH II opened her eyes to the numerous career options that there are in the field of medicine. She said she also enjoyed and valued the time she and the other students got to spend with different physicians, including surgeons. 

“I enjoyed a lot of different parts of the program,” Shante’ya said. “I liked learning about the different careers and I really enjoyed the “Day in the Life” sessions in the (team-based learning halls).”

Lexi, meanwhile, said she knows after going through the EIH II program that her pursuit of a career in medicine won’t be easy, but the hard work it will require will be “totally worth it.”

“These people worked so hard for what they do but they love what they do,” Lexi said. “There’s no way I’m not going to college. I’ve got the Kalamazoo Promise, I’m going to use it.”