Dec 12, 2019
Brooke Reyes, a Cellular/Molecular Biology major in her senior year, is creating connections between HSU pre-med students and the surrounding medical community.
Reyes, president of the Pre-Medical Society, an HSU club, saw a need for students interested in medicine to be able to shadow medical professionals in the community, and reached out Biology Professor Jianmin Zhong. Reyes’s idea was met with immediate support from everyone that she approached and, with Zhong’s leadership, she created a class curriculum for a pre-med internship that started this fall semester.
Zhong and Reyes.“I had never heard about a student creating a class on their own before,” Reyes says. With help from Stacy Becker and Loren Collins in HSU’s Center for Community Based Learning, she founded the class, helped with course design and syllabus creation, organized the workshops, and promoted the program to the local community. She also runs some of the workshops for the other students.
The first semester of the class is designed to walk students through the process of connecting with the medical community in a professional manner through skills workshops, and helps them fill out the necessary paperwork needed to begin interning. During the second semester, Reyes and Zhong will help students connect with a doctor to shadow that specializes in their area of interest. Shadowing allows students to know if medicine is right for them, as well as what area of medicine interests them.
“A lot of people go into medicine without shadowing and not knowing what to expect,” Reyes says. “A class like this is a great way for them to know what they’re getting into before they are fully committed.”
Many post-graduate programs, like the physician assistant studies program that Reyes is interested in, requires 50 to 200 hours of clinical shadowing, which would have been difficult to achieve prior to this internship.
Reyes was pleased with the response from the medical community. “Numerous doctors approached me and let me know that they were interested in coming to talk, allowing students to shadow, teaching students, and mentoring students. That really inspired me to start this program because, even though we have a shortage of doctors, they are so willing to teach us, engage with us, and mentor us,” Reyes says.
Zhong emphasized that this internship will help the community with its physician shortage and the program will connect students directly to Humboldt County, making them more likely to return here after medical school. Reyes wants to return after she finishes her medical schooling, to make Humboldt County her home.
Many have helped with this project, Zhong and Reyes say, and they thank Humboldt Del Norte Medical Society, Penny Figas, and Caroline Connor because they have been instrumental in volunteering their time and talents to the cause.
Currently, there is no funding for the class, but Zhong is hoping that in the future funds will be available to help students with the expenses that are involved in setting up their internship. Getting fingerprinted, background checks, and transportation to and from the internship cost money and could be a barrier for some students.
Zhong will continue to teach the pre-med internship class in a volunteer capacity during his upcoming sabbatical so that it can continue to thrive. The program is small this semester with five students, but there are plans to expand after this first year is complete.
Reyes says there will never be a shortage of shadowing opportunities because there is a pool of nearly 40 doctors that have offered up their time, and each doctor can have five to 10 students shadowing. This program has the potential for students to not only make lifelong connections with the medical community here in Humboldt County, but to also be competitive when applying to postgraduate schools. It has the potential to increase enrollment, improve retention among pre-med students, and bring more medical professionals into our community permanently.