Students get a glimpse of a future in medicine

Mar 1, 2013

Credit Nicole Haley / Nicole Haley Photography

Credit Nicole Haley / Nicole Haley Photography

Credit Nicole Haley / Nicole Haley Photography

Detroit has plenty of smart, talented kids who could have a bright future in medicine. But the few who do go into the field often don’t stay in the city after they graduate.

According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, fewer than eight percent of Michigan’s doctors are black or Hispanic.

The University of Michigan School of Medicine hopes to spark a change with its “Doctors of Tomorrow” program. 

A group of ninth-graders from Detroit’s Cass Technical High School is gathered around a gurney at U of M’s Clinical Simulation Center.

They’re watching and listening to Sim-Man, a robotic mannequin that breathes, talks, and complains a lot.

Dr. Suzanne Dooley-Hash is guiding the teens through a series of hands-on, life-saving steps.

"You're doing it! I got a pulse. What this does is it keeps him alive until the ambulance gets there or until you get them to the hospital or somebody is able to get him medications or shock him."

Twenty Cass Tech freshmen -- the schools's science stars -- were chosen for this four-year pilot collaboration funded by U-M's Department of Surgery.

The students are paired with U-M medical students who serve as mentors. And the kids are getting an up-close-and-personal look at what it takes to become a doctor.

Ajene Hines is clearly enjoying the experience, and she’s thinking about what she’d like to do with her life.

"I'm not really sure. I think I still want to go into anesthesiology, because I'm a little squeamish about blood," she says. "I'm trying to explore and get over that so I can see each different career option, so I can still be open-minded about it."

The Simulation Lab also has a Da Vinci Robotic Surgical System. It lets doctors operate through tiny incisions using a camera and robotic arms.

It’s tricky and it takes practice, but some of these kids are surprisingly adept, thanks to growing up with video games.  Jordan Gregory sailed through the practice.

"I really like it. It's a lot of fun," he says. "And they're also getting us prepared for anything doctor-related if we choose to be a doctor or anything in the medical field."

Doctors of Tomorrow was the brainchild of U-of-M surgeon Jonathan Finks. He wants the Cass Tech students to learn about more than state-of-the-art technology. 

"One of the things we also want to bring home to them is they're  not just examining a human body; they're examining a person," Finks explains. "So we want them when they take a blood pressure, they tell the patient what to expect, that they're going to feel a little tightness on their arm. And we want them to understand the whole experience of taking care of another person as a physician, and that's what we want them to get out of it today."

Students who have the right stuff can apply for the U of M’s summer science academy – a two-week residential program for high school sophomores and juniors. It’s a tough program from the moment the kids wake up until they fall into bed at night.

Just like being a real doctor.

Velma Snow  is Cass Tech’s vice principal.

"And this gives them an opportunity to talk to people who have come from where they come from, and have had similar experiences, and have made it," Snow says. "And it gives them a chance to know that they have that opportunity as well."

If the Doctors of Tomorrow program is a success, Dr. Finks hopes more high schools will be included, and that more doctors will take their skills back into the communities that need them.