In the Clinical Learning and Simulation Skills (CLASS) Center at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), rising high school senior Elizabeth Lozano bent over her manikin, carefully performing her first intubation. When she straightened, second-year MD student and mentor Damani Mcintosh-Clarke complimented her technique with a “good job!”
“I was the first to do it,” Lozano said proudly. “I did some research at home, [but] they showed us [here] first. It’s pretty cool.”
Lozano was one of more than a dozen seniors from Washington, D.C.-area public and charter high schools participating in the SMHS Office of Diversity and Inclusion DC Health and Academic Preparation Program (DC HAPP), which gives qualifying students the opportunity to explore a career path in medicine. Students must receive two recommendations from teachers or guidance counselors and demonstrate an interest in pursuing health care to be accepted into the program.
“I’ve always been interested in science and medicine. Since the start of third grade, I’ve wanted to be more than just a doctor; I want to be a surgeon,” said to Ezechinyere Njoku, a senior at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School. “I want to learn as much as much as possible about the medical field and the medical world because there are so many things you can do that I still don’t know myself. Everything in this program is learning.”
Njoku, like Lozano and fellow cohort member Djibril Fall, a senior at Woodrow Wilson High School, embraced the array of learning experiences DC HAPP offers: guest speakers, a community health project, college preparation seminars, lectures on career paths and health conditions, and hands-on training.
“I’m open to everything and trying to take as much as I can in of all the things we do,” Fall said, later adding that the hands-on approach “is the best way to learn.”
In addition to intubation, this year’s DC HAPP cohort learned how to take blood pressure, draw blood, suture a wound, deliver a baby, and perform CPR, among other skills. They also received white coats, a rite of passage that typically marks a student’s entry into the health care profession.
“As you put on these white coats, I want you to … think about how you are beginning your journey toward your dream,” said Yolanda Haywood, MD, RESD ’87, BS ’81, associate dean for diversity, inclusion, and student affairs and associate professor of emergency medicine at SMHS, who leads DC HAPP with Grace Henry, EdD ’12, director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and adjunct assistant professor of medicine at SMHS, and Jinny Jang, MA ’12, associate in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
Haywood helped each student into DC HAPP-emblazoned white coats, and at Fall’s turn, straightened the collar of the jacket symbolizing his future potential goals.
“I think a lot of jobs in medicine can save lives and change the world, which would be something I would hope to someday accomplish,” he said.