By Wendy Sarubbi | February 14, 2011 1:50 pm

The UCF College of Medicine began its first health leadership initiative with Orlando’s Jones High School Medical Arts Magnet program on Friday, a partnership designed to increase the diversity of students in medical education and better prepare those youngsters to enter the health-care profession.

The partnership will provide Jones students with ongoing mentorship from College of Medicine students and faculty and staff members, academic enrichment opportunities, hands on experiences designed to impact on health disparities, and access to local health-care professionals.

Lisa Barkley, M.D., the College of Medicine’s new assistant dean for diversity and inclusion, announced the Health Leaders Program, saying it will begin with Jones’ Medical Arts Magnet Program and be a catalyst to increase the number of underrepresented minority students from Central Florida who are ready for health careers. “Diversity is a cornerstone value at the College of Medicine,” Barkley said. “Through the Health Leaders Program, we want to improve student success by providing underrepresented minority students with equal access to education, guidance and academic enrichment. This is just one way we are making UCF the medical school that belongs to us all.”

Twenty-five Jones High School freshmen came to the College of Medicine Friday, where they toured the facility with medical students, participated in interactive educational activities and conducted a ceremonial signing of a Health Leaders partnership agreement. As part of their introduction, Jones students explained their dreams for entering the health care profession. Goals included becoming a pediatrician, dentist, Ph.D., surgeon and nurse. “I hear some big dreams in this room,” Dr. Barkley told the freshmen. “That is the most important thing in your career right now: Dream and dream big.”

Dr. Deborah German, vice president of medical affairs and founding dean of the College of Medicine, urged the Jones students to set their dreams higher than what they could currently imagine. “I was the first person in my family to go to medical school and the first person in my family to go to a four-year college,” she said. “What I want for you is the ability to dream beyond what you dream now.”

M-2 medical students Romeo Joseph and Uchechi Anumudu and UCF pre-med students Ram Sharma and Filsan Farah talked about their paths to the medical field and the need for the students to have a support system, mentors and persistence to bring their dreams to life. The medical students then took the Jones students on a tour of the college’s new Anatomy and Microscopy Labs, Clinical Skills and Simulation Center, Student Lounge and the Harriett F. Ginsburg Health Sciences Library.

Romeo explained how the Clinical Skills and Simulation Center prepares medical students to deal with real patients and helps them develop a strong and compassionate bedside manner. “Patients don’t care how much you know, he said. “They need to know how much you care.”

In the Microscopy Lab, M-2 student Rose Dupont showed students how digital slides help teach doctors-in-training what is happening in normal and diseased cells. Noting that the slides look like “abstract art,” Rose explained that College of Medicine students get cases where they must prepare a diagnosis based on the patient’s symptoms and the cells that can’t be seen by the naked eye. “We get to play detective,” she said.

All of the Jones students joined Dean German, Dr. Barkley and Jones Assistant Principal Lisa James in signing a ceremonial poster of the Health Leaders agreement between the two schools. Copies of the signed agreement will be displayed at both Jones High School and the College of Medicine. “We are so honored to be in this position today to join in this partnership,” Ms. James said of the Health Leaders program. “It gives out students the opportunity to dream big.”

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