MERIT's 5th Annual Symposium was our biggest yet, with over 120 attendees including esteemed professors, government leaders, passionate educators, supportive family members, and others who value diversity in the health professions. As our Scholars presented their laboratory research posters and health care disparity interventions, they showed why they have the intelligence, creativity, and determination necessary to become health care change agents. The program concluded with MERIT Junior Deairra Parker describing how she'll break the chain, which to her means "to stop the recurring theme of struggle in her family and community, and lead an example for future generations that success can be obtained no matter who you are and where you come from." Deairra received a standing ovation and one audience member said, "I know that the future of our City is in good hands with these young leaders."
After the Symposium, MERIT Scholars turned their attention to the Morgan State Youth Health Science Conference. The YHS Conference received presenter applicants from across the city. Due to the consistent high quality of their work, 100% of MERIT Scholars' projects and presentations were accepted!Additionally, after Deairra brought down the house at our Symposium, she was immediately asked to be a keynote speaker at this upcoming conference.
The rising seniors are continuing to learn the science content and lab skills that they need to be successful in rigorous pre-med courses. Last week Scholars used blood agar plates to simulate what happens when a disease enters our body. Additionally, the seniors honed their experimentation skills, investigating the effect of different concentrations of sugar on the respiration and fermentation rates of yeast. In Hopkins labs, Scholars are supporting cutting edge medical research. Savannah, who is pictured above, is working with a team investigating the causes and treatment of prostate cancer.
After over a month of hard work, MERIT juniors presented their projects to a distinguished panel of Hopkins Health Care professionals. Lateshia, Raylene, Kibra and Maryalanna advocated for early detection and preventive measures as a way to reduce high rates of breast cancer deaths in minority women. Scholars are also continuing to build their understanding of what it means to be a health care professional as they shadow doctors. On the third day of Maryalanna’s surgery rotation, she observed a minimally invasive stomach surgery that used microscopic incisions. Lateshia rotated through OBGYN, Internal Medicine and Pediatrics last week. She observed that doctors in various departments balanced empathetic listening with proactive communication. She said, “The doctor would prepare a list of what they needed to cover with patients. But they remained flexible to listen to what the patient wanted to talk about.” Lateshia recognized that she will need to strike this balance when she achieves her goal of becoming a PICU Nurse.
The rising MERIT Seniors spent last week studying genetics. They extracted their own DNA and then analyzed it using gel electrophoresis. Taylor was impressed that a lot of what she was learning in the classroom portion of The Science of Medicine Internship directly connected to her lab experience. Taylor is working with a Hopkins researcher who is testing the effects of a certain drug on HIV cells. While in the lab, Taylor used some of the same DNA extraction methods that were discussed and practiced during class.
In the mornings, Juniors are continuing their rotations shadowing doctors in hospitals, clinics, and labs across the city. During Aron’s rotation in the cardiology department at Johns Hopkins Hospital, she learned about heart murmurs and examined x-rays to learn how the condition affected different areas of the heart. Deairra, pictured above, got hands-on experience analyzing a patient’s blood during her Pathology rotation at Bon Secours.
Last week Junior Scholars fine-tuned their health care disparity research projects in preparation for a careful review by the Hopkins CARE Symposium Evaluation Board. One group is dedicating their summer research to examining high rates of depression amongst LGBTQ teens. They developed a proposal for an intervention connecting teens to counselors through text message. Damaris, who acts as the group’s physician, said, “This intervention will lead to more doctors being used to treat depression in the LGBT community. We think that teens will feel safer discussing their feelings over a computer versus picking up the phone.”
The rising juniors are also hard at work, continuing the Art of Medicine Internship. After spending several days working in emergency medicine, Branecia now sees trauma surgery as her career goal. She said, “They think and make decisions so quickly. It’s hard but I think I could do it.” Julius rotated through dentistry, and was blown away when in just a few days he saw a bridge repair, an extraction, and a gap replaced with 3 new teeth. He told me that this experience, along with his other rotations, deepened his conviction to stay in medicine.