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Oakland, CA Doctors on Board Program Helps Inspire Students

Program shows African American students how to become doctors

More than 60 high school and college students recently sacrificed a lovely sunny Saturday to meet at the Oakland Marriott City Center for a program geared toward encouraging more African Americans to become doctors and practice in the Bay Area.

 

The inaugural “Doctors on Board” program, sponsored by the Physicians Medical Forum, offered workshops and seminars on a variety of topics — including giving students a step-by-step idea of what they have to do to prepare themselves personally and academically to become doctors — and an insider view of medical school from medical students and residents who described what their lives were like.

“We’re trying to make sure there will be a diverse population of physicians to serve all communities,” said Stalfana Bello, the Physicians Medical Forum executive director.

Doctors from the Oakland-based Sinkler Miller Medical Foundation have volunteered their time to help expose area youth to medical careers. Many doctors from the organization were present during the program as speakers or panel facilitators. Physicians Medical Forum receives funding from places like Alta Bates Summit Medical Center and Wells Fargo to help with the cause of retaining African American doctors in the Bay Area.

 

“The cost of living here is high,” Bello said. “That’s one of the biggest deterrents for physicians. We have kids coming to the program from Oakland, Richmond, Pittsburg, Antioch, Hercules, Pinole and other parts of California. If a student does their residency in the Bay Area and they have family here, they are more likely to practice here.”

The highlight of the program for many of the attendees was a mock case study and medical clinic at the end of the day. Students were divided into small groups and got a taste of what a round during a medical residency would be like. Many of the doctors who were speakers played the part of attending physicians, and volunteers played patients.

Chidoze Ibe, a nursing student at Samuel Merrit University, said he enjoys working in the neonatal intensive care unit so much that he would rather do it as a doctor.

“I love working with the mothers, fathers and babies,” he said.

Next the students performed a mock physical exam. Dr. Michael Charles, an orthopedic surgeon with the Newton Group, patiently guided each student and showed him or her the proper way to listen to a heartbeat and give an abdominal exam among other techniques.

 

Next the students looked at the mock patient’s lab report with guidance from Dr. Glenda Newell, an internist with Newell & Spriggs Consulting, and Dr. Michelle Shute, an internist for Sutter East Bay. After quizzing them on the patient’s medical statistics like glucose and hemoglobin levels, they set them free to solve the medical mystery.

“Many kids haven’t seen African American doctors,” Shute said. “We want to show them that we’re here and that we want to support them.”

 

TeIsleye Smith, a Solano Community College Student who plans to transfer to Sacramento State to do a Master of Public Heath, then go to Duke or John Hopkins for medical school, appeared energized by the mock clinic. She said she really likes emergency medicine and plans to focus on that for her career, but the detective work of an internist appealed to her as well.

Smith asked Shute if this was the sort of thing she does in her practice. Shute nodded, and said, “Each and every day.”

“This is fun to do this!” Smith said.

Ford, who said she has her sights set on Harvard medical school, left the program feeling more confident that she will be able to achieve her goal.

“I’ve been to a lot of medical conferences,” she said. “But now I know how to prioritize.  I know it’s going to be hard and take a lot of work, but it’s worth it. I’m ready to do the work.”

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