University of South Florida

Pre-health scholars culminate summer studies with poster presentation

Six weeks of intensive study recently culminated June 19 with a poster presentation by 12 undergraduate pre-health students at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine (MCOM).  The students — 11 from USF and one Tampa native currently enrolled at Smith College — participated in the 2015 Pre-Health Scholars Program (PSP) offered by the MCOM Office of Student Diversity and Enrichment (OSDE) and the USF Area Health Education Center (AHEC).

PSP is a multi-year academic enrichment and career exploration program for pre-health students that provides support and services to students as they move through their undergraduate experience. Each year new academic enrichment and experiential learning opportunities are added.

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Incoming undergraduate students in the Pre-Health Scholars Program 2015, pictured here, will receive academic enrichment, experiential opportunities and ongoing mentoring as they continue to pursue health career paths.

“Recent participants have earned paid research positions, internships and work experiences while still undergraduates.” said OSDE Director Shirley Smith. “This year alone, some of our previous students got accepted to medical school as well as podiatry, DPT, and MPH programs.  Another recent graduate is serving areas of need with AmeriCorps.”

Neil Manimala, a fourth-year medical student helped judge the scholarly posters.

“As a current student, this gives me great confidence in the next generation of health professionals. The presentations were fantastic, and really got to the heart of some of the issues at the core of our practice,” Manimala said.  “These types of (pre-health) programs are critical.”

Now in its 12th year, PSP four years ago began an early intervention model providing intensive support and resources to freshmen, sophmore and junior undergraduates interested in a health career path, rather than waiting until the senior or post-undergraduate years.

“These students put in a lot of work, and we love seeing what they are able to accomplish,” said Program Coordinator Kevin Casey.

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Paul Al Francois is a rising USF junior pursuing a biomedical sciences degree with minors in public health and biomedical physics. His poster addressed the ethical dilemma of keeping a patient alive despite the patient’s own intentions suggesting otherwise.

This summer, the 12 new PSP students were mentored by rising second-year medical students Ricardo Rendel, Chris Kaul, and Peeraya Sawangkum.  They worked eight hours a day, five days a week, becoming acquainted with the diverse fields within the health sciences, learning basic science concepts, and shadowing health science professionals in academic and clinical settings.  They also worked on developing critical reasoning skills in a class on the biomedical ethics of death and dying taught by MCOM staff member Jamie Cooper.

The capstone experience of the class was the poster presentation – with topics ranging from end-of-life treatment and quality of life to medical aspects of persistent vegetative state to advance directives.

The atmosphere at the Friday event was electric as the students enthusiastically presented their posters to a diverse audience including medical students, other undergraduates, PSP alumni, USF Health staff, parents, guests, and even Dr. Bryan Bognar, vice dean of Educational Affairs at MCOM.

“Overall, I was incredibly impressed, not only with the presentation skills of these young men and women, but also with their deep understanding of the content,” Dr. Bognar said. “The topic areas that they chose to address would be challenging for an experienced clinician.”

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Barbara Sanchez, a rising USF Honors College sophmore majoring in exercise science, explains her poster entitled “Does Having a DNR Order Mean You Would Not Be Treated?”

Photos by Rebekah Wright, USF Health Morsani College of Medicine photographer

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