I wanted to be a doctor since the age of 6 inspired mostly by the television character Marcus Welby, MD (from the ’60s television show) and my pediatrician, Albert Gaskins, MD. However, without someone to guide me personally along the path to achieve my dream, the journey was challenging. I was fortunate to have a village of supporters — my parents, educator, neighbors, church members — who helped me along the way. However, many young people today struggle to navigate the distractions of society, to find opportunities to enrich their experiential learning and to develop a network of supporters.
I have practiced Emergency Medicine in one of the nation’s busiest urban Emergency Departments in the Bronx, N.Y., for 22 years. I am also co-founder and president of a nonprofit organization called Mentoring in Medicine, Inc. (www.medicalmentor.org). The mission of Mentoring in Medicine is to engage, educate and empower the next generation of health and science professionals from elementary school to career through school based programs, community events and virtual programs. We have helped over 500 students have achieved their dream of becoming a biomedical professional.
As I reflect on my journey, there are many strategies I would have used to better navigate my path. However, there are three that are essential and I wish that I would have known in preparation for a health and science career.
Time management is key. It is critical to get into the habit of setting and maintaining a structured schedule accounting for activities during all twenty-four hours. Find out more at http://www.educationcorner.com/effective-time-management.html. The schedule should be easily accessible and reevaluated every week. Where could time be better utilized—too much television, getting in bed too late? Is there enough time allotted for studying including the weekends? Is there time included for a hobby or fun activity? Is there time for breakfast, lunch and dinner? What about family time to discuss the events of the day? Students should be encouraged to put upcoming tests and projects on their calendar. Long term assignments should be divided into smaller manageable chunks. Students should complete a little bit each day and to not to wait until the night before. If your child is planning to take the college admissions exam (SAT or ACT), encourage him/her to sign up for a daily practice question beginning in freshman year. The College Board (makers of the SAT) will send an SAT practice question a day (http://sat.org/qotd). Although preparation for such standardized exams is necessary, Khan Academy has developed free preparation materials and students should be informed of the need to complete and then review many, many practice questions and full length mock exams to learn the language of the test.
Pursue year-round learning opportunities inside and outside the classroom. First, even though each of us is a mixed model learner, the predominant type (visual, auditory, reading or kinesthetic) can be identified and specific successful strategies offered by taking a 10 minute quiz at www.vark.com. Students should incorporate specific strategies into their study routine. Secondly, create a space conducive to studying. This space should be quiet and clutter-free with minimal distractions. Thirdly, encourage learning outside the classroom. Encourage reading. Allow students to pursue a hobby. Students should participate in activities after school, on the weekends and especially during the summer. Visit free museums, tour colleges, attend weekend enrichment programs and participate in educational fairs. Find out about local opportunities at https://www.dcstemnetwork.org/. Older children should be encouraged to volunteer in their community. It cannot be emphasized enough-summers should be used to gain additional experience in a field of interest. Lastly, caregivers should get involved in their child’s academic journey. Every voice counts!
Strive for good mental and physical health. First, communicate with your child routinely. Listen to the concerns and address them in a timely fashion. Children are dealing with many distractions (bullying, drugs, etc.) and need help navigating their world. Next, it is important for children to eat a healthy diet, get plenty of rest and adequate exercise. Visit https://www.choosemyplate.gov/MyPlate for more information. Excessive sugar and salt should be eliminated. Meals and snacks should incorporate mostly fruits and vegetables. Whole grains should be encouraged. Water from safe sources should be consumed limiting soda and drinks containing high fructose corn syrup. Each morning should begin with a healthy breakfast to ensure that the brain has enough fuel to function at its best. For children and adolescents, 60 minutes or more of daily moderately intensive exercise has proven to increase both mental and physical health as described on https://www.choosemyplate.gov/physical-activity.
We-parents, educators, neighbors, church members, etc.-are the village that it takes to raise the next generation of health and science leaders in our society. There are nearly 200 health and science careers for children to consider https://explorehealthcareers.org and https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-engineering-careers. Our biomedical leaders have to display academic, social and emotional intelligence. At each stage of the educational journey, there is fundamental preparation that is necessary—and that preparation begins now.
To find out more about Mentoring in Medicine, Inc. programs and events, visit www.medicalmentor.org.