Fort Worth

Fort Worth elementary students get early start on medical careers

Star-Telegram

Jaylin Allen, a fifth-grader at Greenbriar Elementary School, can race through a math problem in long division like nobody’s business.

That’s, in part, why she wants to become an obstetrician — “a doctor who delivers babies” — when she grows up, she said.

“I’ve wanted to do that since a long time ago when I was still playing with babies,” Jaylin said. “I would just love those babies, but, of course, I know the job is the most important part.”

Jaylin, who is among the district’s 10 to 12 percent of gifted and talented pool of youngsters, added: “I think I have to go to college for six years, but I’d like to do that because it’s my dream job.”

She is one of dozens of fourth- and fifth-graders in the Fort Worth school district who are taking part in the “Pre-Med Club,” an effort by a group of local physicians to inspire socioeconomically disadvantaged youngsters to pursue medical careers.

We feel it’s very important to teach students early. The students have to have the right educational background.

Dr. Deonza Thymes

The pilot program, which kicked off last week, is backed by curriculum and lesson plans developed by the Association of American Medical Colleges, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit organization of medical schools and major teaching hospitals in the U.S. and Canada.

“We are dedicated to helping the next generation consider careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, and part of this is medicine,’’ said Dr. Myiesha Taylor, who is president of the Artemis Medical Society, a Fort Worth-based group of female doctors who work to improve diversity among doctor ranks in the U.S.

‘Very eye-opening for them’

Early Thursday, a group of about a dozen fifth-graders, including Jaylin, worked on activities as part of the Pre-Med Club at Greenbriar Elementary.

As more club meetings occur, students are expected to handle a stethoscope, recite the Hippocratic Oath, wear lab coats and do hands-on lab activities. Artemis Medical Society physicians are also expected to visit the classroom to speak with students. The curriculum is made up of eight modules, which cover an array of medical terminology, different medical specialties and other related topics.

“I love the program,” said Matt Slayter, an educator who works with gifted and talented students in the Fort Worth school district. “It’s very beneficial for kids to be exposed to things that they wouldn’t normally be exposed to in the regular classroom environment.

“This is going to be very eye-opening for them,” said Slayter, who is leading the club at Greenbriar.

For years, public school systems focused on students’ curiosity in medicine during high school years. But it’s been discovered that students who wait until high school may be losing out on academic opportunities that pave the way for later success in college and medical school, said Dr. Deonza Thymes, a vice president of the Artemis Medical Society.

“We feel it’s very important to teach students early,” Thymes said. “The students have to have the right educational background” to be ready for a career in medicine.

‘Let me educate you’

The need for more minority physicians is growing, the physicians said.

As the U.S. population becomes more diverse, more African-American and Hispanic doctors will be needed to serve minority patients, said Taylor, who is an emergency room physician in Tarrant County.

“We have a very diverse nation and a very diverse state,” Taylor said. If a physician doesn’t have a grasp of patients’ “cultural literacy,” it will affect the quality of care.

Many African-American and Hispanic patients can be skeptical of the healthcare system. As a result, they may be less willing to follow doctor’s orders, such as the need for insulin, dialysis or flu shots, she said.

“The physician needs to speak their language, understand them, get down in there with them and say, ‘I understand [your fears]. Now let me educate you,’” Taylor said. “That physician needs to be culturally sensitive.”

Yamil Berard: 817-390-7705, @yberard

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