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Upstate expands opportunities for students to learn about health care education and careers

Our Kids, Our Future event

Syracuse City School District (SCSD) families will have a chance to hear from two SCSD alumni now working as doctors at Upstate Medical University as part of upcoming events to educate students and their parents on careers in health care.

The physicians will speak at “Our Kids, Our Future” events March 11 and April 2 at two city high schools. The events are sponsored by Upstate’s College of Health Professions as part of the ongoing partnership with the city school district.

About a year ago, the College of Health Professions launched a mentoring program that involves Upstate faculty, students and clinicians working with students at Henninger High School. Henninger is the designated city high school for students interested in medical careers.

Currently, there are 12 teams of one Upstate professional and two to three Henninger students working together throughout the school year. The teams receive guidance as they tackle projects that involve researching health care specialties and diseases, and researching the types of clinicians that work in those fields, said Debra Stehle, director of operations for the College of Health Professions. The student research culminates in formal presentations to all Upstate mentors who evaluate, grade and provide feedback on the presentations.

Students enrolled in the mentoring program are interacting with adults they don’t usually come into contact with, providing a unique opportunity to work on projects with professionals in the health care field, Stehle said.

“There’s an expectation for the students to attend all of the mentoring sessions and produce an ‘end-product,’ while learning how to work with adults and experience mentoring beyond their typical classroom environment,” she said.

The program has proven popular and effective for Henninger students, Stehle said. Organizers decided to bring parents into the conversation as well, which is how the inaugural “Our Kids, Our Future” events were created, she said.

Parents are invited to attend with their interested middle and high school students. (Families from any school district are welcome, childcare will be provided and refreshments will be served.) Once there, parents and students will attend separate programs. Parents will hear from a panel of Upstate staffers about their professions and from Upstate students. Students will rotate among a series of interactive sessions demonstrating a variety of health care fields.

The events aim to be high-energy, interactive and informative evenings to learn more about what a future health care career might look like for a city student, said Katherine Beissner, PT, PhD, dean of the College of Health Professions.

“We hope to create some good feelings about Upstate, that we’re looking out for the best interest of their kids,” Beissner said. “We have all of these opportunities right here in the neighborhood. They can go to school here. They can work here. They can be successful here.”

The event’s keynote speakers are George Stanley, Jr., MD, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Upstate and a graduate of Nottingham High School and Upstate Medical University. Stanley will speak at the event 4:30 to 7 p.m. Monday, March 11 at the Public Service Leadership Academy at Fowler Auditorium. And Daryll Dykes, MD/PhD, an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery and a graduate of Fowler High School and Upstate Medical University will speak at the event 4:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 2 in the Henninger High School Auditorium.

“For more than a year now, the College of Health Professions has been working with students in the Syracuse City School District to open their eyes to the many opportunities for them here at Upstate and in the broader health care field,” Beissner said. “This event will help bring their parents into the conversation, to better understand their student’s future path and potential.

“And to hear from two Upstate doctors who are both Syracuse City School District graduates is incredible. They are proof that students can excel right here at home.”

Krystal Ripa, director of special admissions programs at Upstate, is involved in the program’s activities along with the SCSD and its staff. Stehle and Beissner work with Susan H. Centore, program director for SCSD, and Bob Leslie, director of career and technical education at SCSD. Ongoing programs include the mentoring program; the Medical Education for Diverse Students (MEDS) program; and the Reading Buddies program with Dr. King Elementary School. Upstate also worked with the Syracuse City School District and Onondaga Community College to create a full-color brochure called “Your pathway to a career in health professions,” which helps students select middle and high school classes that lead to two-year, four-year, and graduate degree career pathways at a variety of state schools as well as Upstate.

Families interested in attending one of the “Our Kids, Our Future” events should send an email to [email protected].


Caption: Upstate Medical University professionals work with Henninger High School students in the library as part of the ongoing mentoring program there.