By Wendy Sarubbi | May 29, 2012 1:19 pm

The UCF College of Medicine is partnering with Osceola County high school students to help increase diversity in medical education.  “We’re trying to fire up students about health careers,” Dr. Lisa Barkley, the college’s assistant dean for diversity and inclusion, said of the May 11 Pipeline Research Symposium at the Lake Nona campus.

Five students from Celebration High School and one from St. Cloud High School attended the symposium that included a tour of the college, interactions with medical students and learning about the technological innovations at the Harriet F. Ginsburg Health Sciences Library. The goal of the medical school’s partnership with the Osceola County Education Foundation is to channel information to students about what is needed to enter health care professions. The program is an expansion of  the College of Medicine Health Leaders pipeline with Orlando’s Jones High School and a new program being implemented at Memorial Middle School.

M-3 students Mertalaine Multare and Sharise Richardson told the Osceola students how the medical school’s two-year Focused Individualized Research Experience (FIRE) module helped them pursue  research into issues they are passionate about. Mertalaine investigated obesity in minorities, while Sharise studied racial and ethnic disparities in health care.

They were followed by Ashley Williams, a Jones High sophomore who participates in the Health Leaders program. Ashley presented results of their research into teen health issues at the school, including the fact the vast majority of Jones students only get physicals exams in order to participate in sports.

M-3s Dennrik Abrahan and Avianne Mills joined the other medical students in sharing inspiration for success, including suggestions that the high school students learning good communications skills and prepare for medical school early in their education. Sherise, a first-generation college student, said she was motivated by her mother’s strong support. “Even if you don’t know what you want to do, make sure you do your best,” she said.

The high-school students said the seminar was inspiring.  “It put things in perspective. Next year, I’m going to work eight times as hard,” said Ruben Valera, who will be a senior at Celebration High in the fall.

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