UAMS Reaches High School Students With Virtual Event

By Kalee Sexton

The UAMS Division for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DDEI) held a four-hour virtual R.E.A.C.H. (Raising Exposure and Awareness of Careers in Health) event Nov. 13 on Zoom. The event is an annual project initiated by the Edith Irby Jones Student National Medical Association (SNMA) chapter at UAMS to raise exposure and awareness and encourage high school students in the Delta region to follow health careers after they graduate. This was the second year the event was held virtually due to COVID-19.

Ten students participated from Central High School and The Academies of West Memphis. The session was open to high school sophomores, juniors and seniors.

UAMS students from the colleges of Public Health, Medicine, Health Professions, Pharmacy, as well as graduate students gave presentations about their career paths, going in-depth about what each field does. Teens were able to get tips on what they should be doing to set themselves up for success in a health career, including what high school classes to take, how to get letters of recommendation from their current teachers and the best undergraduate courses to take before applying to medical school.

Billy Thomas, M.D., a professor in the Department of Pediatrics Neonatology Division, was the keynote speaker for the event. He said everyone has the capability to succeed, adding that he wants to help young people overcome obstacles so they can pursue their passion. He highlighted many UAMS programs available for youths, including the Junior Stem Academy for elementary school children.

Thomas emphasized the crucial importance of increasing the number of health care workers in general and those from underrepresented areas in particular. He informed students about UAMS’s holistic approach during admission processes and all the academic enrichment programs offered at the university. He also shared stories and images of individuals who participated in the enrichment programs and became successful scientists.

He spoke of the importance of staying connected beyond the Zoom event, saying that everyone at UAMS will continue to help high school students achieve their dreams.

Beyond the traditional medical paths that come to mind for high school students, UAMS representatives also gave teens information about career fields they may not have thought about previously.

Brenda Rosales, CT (ASCP), who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Cytotechnology earlier this year, described her job as work that helps save lives behind the scenes. Although she may not interact with every patient, she is able to make a difference in their lives by studying their cells and finding abnormalities that lead to diagnoses.

High school students also learned about speech and language pathology, which is another program offered through the College of Health Professions.

According to the 16 UAMS student panelists’ Q&A sessions and post-event survey responses, high school students gained valuable knowledge about the health care industry.

Delice Kayishunge, a College of Medicine student who is the REACH Delta chair and a member of the SNMA, said 100% of students exhibited a renewed interest in health care careers and stated that they wish to attend one of UAMS’s schools. Students also expressed a desire to view hands-on films showing the daily lives of health sciences students, she said.