Students of color meet med­i­cal men­tors

Pro­gram part­ners kids with doc­tors for role mod­els

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - CITY | STATE - By Mar­i­aluisa Rin­con

Abi­gail Sapp’s Satur­day morn­ings are usu­ally re­served for bas­ket­ball prac­tice, but the op­por­tu­nity to meet with pro­fes­sion­als do­ing the work she as­pires to do was tempt­ing enough to draw her off the court.

“I want to be a doc­tor to help peo­ple,” the 12-yearold said.

Abi­gail’s mother, An­gela Hig­gins, of­ten brings her daugh­ter to work with her at her job as a pro­gram man­ager at MD An­der­son Can­cer Cen­ter. Abi­gail also ac­com­pa­nied her mom as Hig­gins cared for her ag­ing par­ents, in­clud­ing her dad who died ear­lier this year.

“I’ve sac­ri­ficed a lot to make sure she rises above any stereo­type or dis­cour­age­ment she’ll find,” Hig­gins said.

Abi­gail was among 160 mid­dle and high school students who at­tended the Men­tor­ing to Medicine pro­gram at Bayor Col­lege of Medicine on Satur­day. The event, hosted by the Hous­ton chap­ter of the African-Amer­i­can ad­vo­cacy group 100 Black Men in part­ner­ship with MD An­der­son, aimed to pair

young students of color with physi­cians and men­tors.

MD An­der­son on­col­o­gist Vi­vian Har­ris Porche, a na­tive of the Third Ward and an alumna of La­mar High School, said the lack of black role mod­els is just one of many ob­sta­cles these young schol­ars will face pur­su­ing ca­reers in medicine.

“Even though it’s 2017, we still have racism and sex­ism — but it’s also clas­sism and a lack of eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties,” said Har­ris Porche, who earned her med­i­cal de­gree at the Univeristy of Texas at Austin’s McGovern Med­i­cal School be­fore be­com­ing the first black woman pro­fes­sor at MD An­der­son.

Porche’s three chil­dren at­tended St. John’s School, Strake Je­suit and Hous­ton ISD’s La­mar High and DeBakey High School for Health Care Pro­fes­sions, but the pub­lic school sys­tem in which she came up, Har­ris Porche said, is tilted against eco­nom­i­cally dis­ad­van­taged chil­dren — es­pe­cially mi­nor­ity students.

“Send­ing my kids to pri­vate school, I was pay­ing for the priv­i­lege of pick­ing up the phone and hav­ing some­one lis­ten to my com­plaints,” she said. “These kids need to see peo­ple that look like them suc­ceed.”

A 2014 study by the Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tion of Med­i­cal Col­leges found that the num­ber of black men ap­ply­ing for place­ments in med­i­cal schools dropped since 1978 — spurring 100 Black Men to cre­ate men­tor­ship pro­grams for black and mi­nor­ity students look­ing to pur­sue a med­i­cal ca­reer.

“We want these kids to see a med­i­cal school; we want them to see physi­cians who look like them,” said Karif Car­roll, 100 Black Men’s health and well­ness com­mit­tee chair.

African-Amer­i­cans lead sev­eral racial groups in health dis­par­i­ties, Car­roll said, and all too of­ten have poor ac­cess to qual­ity health care. By put­ting them on a pipe­line to a med­i­cal ca­reer, the gap could be closed by mem­bers of the af­fected com­mu­nity.

Above all, Car­roll said, the pro­gram by 100 Black Men is put­ting students face to face with black men­tors, some the first physi­cians in their fam­i­lies or the first to at­tend col­lege, and gives them some­thing vis­i­ble to as­pire to.

James Phillips, a for­mer Navy medic at Case West­ern Re­serve Uni­ver­sity, was brought to Baylor Col­lege of Medicine in 1993 to im­prove di­ver­sity in a school where no black stu­dent had com­pleted the com­bined Med­i­cal Doc­tor/ Ph.D. re­search pro­gram.

Phillips, now the di­rec­tor of di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion at Baylor Col­lege of Medicine, brought the rate up to nine grad­u­ates in his ten­ure there, with three cur­rently en­rolled in the pro­gram.

Men­tor­ing to Medicine looks to grow in the fu­ture. The pro­gram will con­tinue to part­ner with MD An­der­son and Baylor in the com­ing years, Caroll said.

“This can have a pro­found im­pact,” said speaker Ge­orge Williams, an anes­the­si­ol­o­gist at Me­mo­rial Her­mann Hos­pi­tal. “They want to see peo­ple of color do­ing what they dream of. It makes the dream tan­gi­ble.”

Marie D. De Jesús / Hous­ton Chron­i­cle

Yandy Zam­brano, cen­ter, 13, lis­tens to a pre­sen­ta­tion dur­ing the “Men­tor­ing to Medicine” pro­gram on Satur­day.

Marie D. De Jesús / Hous­ton Chron­i­cle

Drs. Vi­vian Har­ris Porche and Abe­naa Brew­ster em­brace each other at the Men­tor­ing to Medicine pro­gram on Satur­day.

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