This week, the MERIT Sophomore Scholars were brainstorming ideas for our USAEF booth. Some of the ideas they thought of were having a social determinant simulation where they would have colored papers that coded for things like patients with disabilities, patients with no health insurance, and patients that come from low income community. With this simulation, the scholars would have participants pick a color and with that the scholars would discuss the health disparities regarding the chosen color.

Another idea the scholars discussed was having a myth vs truth game about diabetes. When asked about how she felt about the USAEF booth ideas, a scholar mentioned that she was, "learning a lot through this project because for example, before I thought diabetes was something you get from eating too many sweets but now I know that there are two different types of diabetes and many different ways, other than eating too many sweets, to get diabetes." Another scholar exclaimed, "I'm very excited to be a part of this science and engineering fair because I've been to conventions and other science engineering fairs but I'v never presented in one before. It will be a new experience and I'm looking forward to it!" MERIT applauds this kind of energy and excitement and we are very happy to see scholars be passionate about the projects they are working on. We look forward to seeingthis kind of energy consistently throughout the MERIT program. 

This week, we also welcomed Dr. Gauda to the MERIT to our Health Equity Leaders Speaker series. A scholar said that the speaker series has helped him, "see the different journeys that our speakers have taken to get to where they are. It is inspiring and encouraging to see that they have gotten to where they are through different paths. It is just like what our first speaker said (Dr. McQuay) about how getting to medical school is not a straight path!" It is exciting to see that our scholars have been enjoying our new speaker series and quote previous speakers. We hope to continuously see this engagement with our new speaker series!

Dr. Gauda began her talk with a couple interesting statistics about health disparities. She talked about how populations that are under represented have a higher incidence of disease than our majority race. For example, an African American women that is educated and has a high paying job has an equal chance of having a premature baby as a caucasian women that is uneducated and with a low paying job. Dr. Gauda stated that this showed that resources are not the only factor that is contributing to this statistic and said that "everything we do has to be based on a few important principles: we wat to make a difference in these statistics, we want to be successful, be in a position of influence, and be a role model for others locally and globally." She closed her talk with her "formula to be successful in life and career: Passion, Perseverance, and Partnership- Passion, because you enjoy doing things you are passionate about and what makes you happy makes you successful, Perseverance, because it is easy too show up and live up to whatever you are passionate about, and Partnership, because no one does it alone." We hope that the MERIT scholars take Dr. Gauda's wise words to heart and use them as a guidance in continuing their path in having a successful future!  



Today was the Kick Off event for MERIT and the Armstrong Educational Building was with the Junior MERIT scholars, the newly selected Sophomore scholars, and the mentors.       

The newly selected scholars and mentors started off the day with a keynote address on health disparities, by Dr. Cheri Wilson from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. After, the scholars, the parents of the scholars, and mentors were put into different rooms for breakout sessions. Something that is important to note is that MERIT is not only relying on the scholars and mentor involvement, but also the parent involvement with the program. Parents work as a bridge between the scholar and the mentor and it is important for parents to build a stronger understanding of the program and create a strong community of parent support for the scholars. 

After the breakout session, the scholars were finally able to meet the mentors. "I've been looking forward to this all week!" one scholar excitedly commented. One of the challenges the mentors were concerned about was working through differences and conflicting areas of interest with their scholar. Thus, the mentors and their scholars created Venn diagrams illustrating their similarities and differences. "I know that growing up in a small town, I may have different ideologies and ways of interacting with just people in general than my scholar. But that is something that I am actually excited about. I think it'll be interesting for not only for my scholar but also for myself to interact with someone that may have grown up from a different background: we can learn from each other," one mentor explained. The mentors and scholars departed after arranging their next meeting for them to be looking forward to. 

        Meanwhile, the Juniors continued their SAT preparation as their SAT exam dates are coming up. Today, they covered the important topic of "traps" on the SAT where the test writers purposely put a false answer choice that they "want" the test takers to select. Identifying these "traps" will allow our Juniors efficiently eliminate the incorrect answer choices and increase their chances of picking the correct answer. What a busy and very exciting day for MERIT! 



2014-02-22 0117MERIT welcomed back prospective scholars for their final week of the Medical Leadership Course. Scholars started off the morning with their poster presentations they had been hard at work on for the past three weeks. Each scholar chose a health disparity like diabetes, asthma, or hypertension to name a few, and presented their findings to their fellow scholars and to the MERIT leadership team. Besides gathering basic facts and statistics about their health disparity, scholars were also asked to create a viable action plan to address and alleviate the issue. Many scholars related the issue back to their own personal spheres and came up with creative, yet practical initiatives to make a change in our immediate Baltimore community. Throughout the presentation, scholars were judged based on criteria like creativity and subject knowledge. Our fellow junior scholars who had gone through the same process just last year also helped scored performances.


2014-02-22 0169Afterwards, scholars had one-on-one interviews with members of the MERIT leadership team for a final way to get to know the scholars. We hope everyone had a wonderful learning experience at MLC! We definitely learned a lot from many of the scholars’ insightful comments.

Meanwhile, Junior scholars remained focused on SAT practice. Paige led more exercises with reading comprehension, focusing particularly on tone analysis. As long as scholars found a key expressive word or phrase, scholars were able to choose the correct answer!

IMG 0998This week at MERIT, we welcomed back the potential new cohort of scholars for another round of interviews and interactive discussions. Mini-interviews were conducted by JHUSOM students and the MERIT leadership team. Mr. Gadwal led a particularly insightful interview focusing on MERIT’s mission to eliminating health disparities by first observing the socioeconomic makeup of neighborhoods in Baltimore. Students were asked to research statistics on factors like juvenile crime rate, household income, and life expectancy before coming to the interview. Mr. Gadwal opened up a discussion about the varying statistics within the neighborhoods and many scholars were surprised about some of the statistics in their own neighborhoods. Some like Jamie were surprised at how low the life expectancy was in Sandtown, while Talika was shocked at how high the life expectancy was in Cold Springs. Scholars discussed how money can influence and in some cases determine one’s health outcome. Many cited personal examples where less expensive clinics couldn’t provide all the services and resources that most expensive hospitals could. Jamie raised an especially perceptive point, “It’s amazing how it only takes one street to divide so many of these factors.”


To wrap up the day, perspective scholars participated in a round of Philosophical Chairs starting off with a difficult topic regarding whether or not they would want to know if they had the gene for Huntington’s Disease. A majority of scholars migrated to the “yes” side of the room choosing to know sooner rather than later, yet an open debate between the “yes” and “no” side ignited a flurry of discussion. Many cited family reasons for wanting to know soon, which would allow them to prepare for the future care including the various financial costs and emotional burdens the disease would invariably come with. Yet, others followed a more carefree spirit, wanting to live their lives to the fullest without having to worry about disease. What’s more, some didn’t see the point in worrying about a disease with no cure. Other issues like their children’s risk for Huntington’s and health insurance also swayed many scholars from yes to no or vice-versa.

Meanwhile, junior scholars felt bittersweet seeing the new cohort of scholars partake in the Medical Leadership Course. After many scholars expressed interest in helping choose the new group, Mr. Gadwal introduced an opportunity for juniors to get involved, just as long as they completed their homework for the week! Juniors will get a chance to judge the incoming class on their poster presentations that they have been working on for the past few weeks.  

IMG 0999Juniors also continued with SAT prep with Jimmy in the morning and Julie who taught critical reading. Julie emphasized tone questions, and highlighted certain key words like somber, earnest, and condescending, to look out for in reading through passages. Sharron was especially engaged in the lesson and even asked Ms. Julie to send the PowerPoint of the main critical reading points by email! We love Sharron’s enthusiasm and encourage other scholars to follow!


2014-02-01 0229This Saturday was a busy day for MERIT. Being selected as a MERIT scholar is a two step process: there is a paper application and then a selected group of applicants are called back for a second round. This week, the selected applicants and their parents were called back to attend an information session. Afterwards, the applicants attended interactive lectures discussing issues such as what it means to be healthy. During this time, the parents waited anxiously in the lecture room for their son or daughter to return. One parent, when asked what kinds of emotions she was feeling while waiting, talked about how nervous she was about the selectivity of MERIT (only 10 applicants are chosen to be MERIT scholars). "I really want her to be selected and use MERIT as an opportunity to gain better knowledge of what it takes and what she needs to do to be successful in achieving her dream. I believe that MERIT will show and provide her with a snap shot of her potential future and give her the inspiration to continue working hard to make that snap shot become reality," she explained. While the applicants and parents were going through their selection process, the mentor applicants that passed the paper application process were at MERIT this week as well. The potential mentors discussed topics such as what qualities are expected in a mentor and what it takes to be a MERIT mentor, how MERIT should be mentoring the scholars, and how to pull out skills in scholars that allow them to be strong and successful and apply these skills in their futures.

2014-02-01 0016Meanwhile, the Juniors continued with their SAT prep. This week, the Juniors were introduced to Osmosis which is a program that MERIT has created for the scholars to provide more practice for the SAT Math section. With this program, scholars are able to select which topics and level of difficulty they would like to focus on. Each problem comes with a thorough explanation for arriving at the correct answer. "I like that I can pick the level of difficulty I want to focus on. With this, I am going to get the SAT Math score I want!" a scholar commented. Finally, at the end of this week's Saturday session, the scholars were presented with a packet of internship information for the summer internships the MERIT scholars are applying for, such as how to make a resume. As the scholars packed up and left the Armstrong Educational Building, they excitedly discussed the different internships opportunities that MERIT has provided for them.

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Baltimore Sun feature on MERIT Scholars participating in research at Johns Hopkins: 

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