Faculty help students envision careers in health sciences

USF Health faculty members were greeted by enthusiastic and engaged students when they spoke recently for the career days at two same-gender magnet middle schools in Hillsborough County.

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Kevin Sneed, PhD, dean of the USF College of Pharmacy, chats with students at the Franklin Magnet Middle School career day.

About 30 faculty members representing all four USF Health colleges talked about the successes and challenges of their career paths.  They spoke Jan. 31 at Boys Preparatory Academy Franklin Middle School in East Tampa, and Feb. 5 at Girls Preparatory Academy Ferrell Middle School.  The USF Health doctors were joined by other speakers from the community, including the Tampa Police Department, Tampa Fire Rescue and MacDill Air Force Base.

Catherine Lynch, MD, associate vice president of women’s health, associate dean of faculty development, and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, spearheaded the career day three years ago at the girls’ school (Ferrell) and added the boys’ school (Franklin) two years ago.

“One of the fascinating things about the all-boys and all-girls schools is how willing the students are to ask questions and engage in the learning process,” Dr. Lynch said.  “They’re paying attention to what’s happening in the world, the state and locally.”

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USF Health’s Dr. Catherine Lynch, who spearheaded career success days at the same-gender middle schools, listens while Mark Schreiner, producer for WUSF University Beat, captures an enthusiastic student’s comments with a microphone.

USF Health faculty members fielded insightful questions about everything from the proposed medical marijuana amendment in Florida and what to look for on food labels to whether algebra is ever used in a health sciences career.

The community service opportunity benefits both the students and the faculty role models, Dr. Lynch said.

“It’s so important for us to gain a footprint in the community.  We want to engage these students so we can keep the best and brightest in Tampa to help build and grow our community,” Dr. Lynch said. “Hopefully, some of the young men and women we help inspire may one day be students at USF Health…or perhaps even someday join our faculty.”

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Dr. David Kotun, founding director of USF’s Physician Assistant degree program, discusses the career path for becoming a PA and their vital role as professionals on a healthcare team.

Among those sharing their career stories with the boys at Franklin was Kevin Sneed, PharmD, professor and dean of the USF College of Pharmacy.

“I hope they’re inspired by seeing an individual they can relate to and hearing the message that hard work, being a good citizen and focusing on goals will make a difference,” Dr. Sneed said. “I want to plant a seed for them to begin thinking about a career in pharmacy or another health profession.”

Lauri Wright, PhD, an assistant professor and registered dietitian at the USF College of Public Health, brought along props – including a food pyramid model and food labels, a blob of plastic fat and test tube filled with sugar – to help illustrate her presentation to the girls at Ferrell.

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“I discussed nutrition, the difference between a dietitian and nutritionist, where dietitians practice and the tools they use,” Wright said. “I feel experiences like this help make the university and its professionals ‘real’ and exciting.  Further, it’s important for girls to know the potential health careers available to women, as well as the importance of math and science in helping achieve those careers.”

Franklin and Ferrell are Title I schools, and both sibling magnet middle schools have developed a college preparatory culture that promotes character development, academic rigor and student achievement.

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Photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Communications