Sinai ‘Graduates’ High School Students
Joan Baum, Ph.D.
is unique, there’s nothing else like it,” beamed Dr. Nathan Kase,
Dean Emeritus of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine (MSSM), captivated
by the graduation of the latest group of youngsters from the Secondary
Education Through Health (SETH) program and the Bioscience Studies
These two programs are part of the Center for Excellence in Youth
Education, MSSM’s successful public school outreach and medical
recruitment initiative to attract youngsters from poor and disadvantaged
neighborhoods to learn about and pursue careers in health care—medicine,
nursing, biological sciences and technologies. The program functions
by hosting an annual group of approximately 160 select high school
students and their teachers to “advance, enrich and expand” the
students’ “academic and workplace knowledge base.” Those selected
take courses for credit with MSSM faculty, nurses, senior technical
staff and with their own high school teachers. This is not an
after-school program but a year-long curricular initiative integrated
into the student’s general schoolwork.
Originally conceived as a dropout prevention campaign with the
New York City Board of Education in 1968, the Center now boasts
an extensive and expanding association with New York City non-magnet
high schools. Kase points out that the Queens Gateway school came
out second in city-wide ranking of non-magnet schools.
In bringing greetings to the graduates and their families and
friends, Center Director, Dr. Lloyd Sherman, marveled at the quality
of this year’s oral and written presentations, significant not
only for what they showed of student interest in science and technology
but reflective also of a “broader sense of education.” What’s
really “unique” about the MSSM programs, he added, is that they
“emanate out of an academic medical center,” a prestigious “cauldron”
that attracts an impressive array of funding organizations.
Other speakers continued the theme of success. Dr. Larry Smith,
Dean of MSSM Medical Education, emphasized the difference between
“success” and merely “high test scores,” noting that students
who “believed in themselves” and who saw others as people, not
merely as data or names, were the ones who went on to be successful.
Welton Sawyer, Superintendent of Manhattan High Schools reminded
the audience, by way of an amusing, personal anecdote, that professional
advancement proceeds slowly; that one builds to a Master Card
by way of Macy’s Card, thus earning credit and respect. Leonard
Achan, recipient of the Board of Trustees Excellence in Nursing
Practice ’01, challenged the students to “invest” in themselves.
While all wonderful speakers, these were all trumped by guest
speaker, Brunilda Estrada, Vanderbilt University Class of ’01,
and a Center graduate. In a passionate and focused overview of
her recent college work, Brunilda, a ’95 SETH participant, who
won a full-tuition scholarship to Vanderbilt, gave ample evidence
of how the Mt. Sinai program honed her early desire to be a doctor
and deepened her sense of commitment to humanity. She wound up
doing original research with aboriginal populations in the Outback
in Australia, and though her father said she was “loca,” for wanting
to work in a deserted region so far away, he did come around to
be proud of her dedication to helping better health care for those
whose cultural traditions and geographical isolation kept them
far from mainstream assistance. The graduating students in the
auditorium listened to her story with rapt attention.
The ceremony ended on an appropriate note. Sherman read Robert
Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken,” expressing challenge and risk,
and an implicit reminder of the ideal coexistence of science and
the humanities. #
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