“If you want to do it, you can do it,” says Dr. Preetpal Grewal, OBGYN, to the high school members of Burrell’s Youth Medical Explorers’ Program (YME) during one of their program meetings. In the meeting, Dr. Grewal provided high school students insight into her career in medicine, the challenges she faced, and advice that helped her along the way. An immigrant to the United States, Dr. Preetpat Grewal has worked as an OBGYN in both rural and urban settings. Currently, Dr. Grewal is a Burrell faculty member and a shift hospitalist in El Paso, Texas.
There was no shortage of questions for Dr. Grewal as the high school students asked her everything from, “what to do during a premature delivery” to “what was the strangest experience you had with someone in labor?” The meetings, which were migrated to a virtual platform in the wake of the pandemic, allows high school students interested in pursuing medicine to meet with practicing doctors to learn more about the profession and their specialties.
The Youth Medical Explorers’ Program is a coordinated effort between Burrell medical students and faculty. Their mission is to identify local high school students interested in a career in medicine and provide them with resources and knowledge to encourage them to pursue a career in medicine after they graduate and head to college.
The YME Program meets one to two times per month during the academic year. Each meeting involves a meet-and-greet with a healthcare professional. Students have the chance to ask questions regarding the work involved in their specialty and their advice for pursuing that specialty. The YME Program works with all the local High Schools in Las Cruces, such as Onate High School, Mayfield High School, Centennial High School, and more. The YME Program seeks speakers with diverse backgrounds in order to increase their student member’s understanding and exposure to different areas in the health field. As well as physicians, the program has also brought in speakers from the field of nursing, emergency services, and even pre-health advisors to answer student’s questions about medical school. “Our virtual session enabled the local high school students to learn more about the different professions in healthcare. We had nurses, EMTs, and doctors talk about their fields. This is a unique opportunity I wished I had back when I was still pre-med!” exclaims Lena Feng, OMS-II & YME Lead Mentor.
The YME Program was founded in 2016 by Dr. Selinfruend, Associate Professor in the Department of Physiology & Pathology at Burrell College. As the program evolved, Dr. Adela Lente, Associate Dean of Clinical Education, and Justin McHorse, MS, Assistant Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion, joined the effort and contributed their knowledge and skills to the betterment of the program. The 2021-2022 Burrell student co-chairs are Jiwon Kim & Annika Stanley, Alexandra Gruzinova & Han Lu, Dominic Bewley & Matthew Wilson. The past co-chairs are Annette Reyes, Arabela VirataKim, and Lena Feng.
Through the YME Program, the Native American Explorer’s (NAE) Program was also founded, whose goal is to provide knowledge and expertise to Native American students with an interest in the field of medicine. The NAE Program had approximately seven members during its inaugural run in 2016 & 2017. Members of the Class of 2020 Student National Medical Association (SNMA) mentored these students until the program was eventually incorporated into the Engaging Latino Communities for Education (ENLACE) program, run by SNMA, that involves underrepresented minority students at all the Las Cruces High Schools. “Dr. Selinfreund has really put tremendous effort to get this program started. Once the program was started the medical students just carry it forward every year. Without the effort that the medical students and high school students put into the program, this would not work,” Feng emphasizes.
Since its inception, the YME program has grown significantly. The student members have had many varied learning opportunities, including Wilderness First-Aid Training, Osteopathic Manipulative Therapy, an introduction to medical instruments, and more. Student members have benefitted greatly from the positive environment fostered by Burrell medical student mentors. The closer age range between the mentors and the student members helps students to believe in the possibility of a career in medicine. Student mentors have shared their personal experiences as to what sparked their desire to pursue medicine as well as their future aspirations following graduating medical school. “The Burrell students that take over each year are so enthusiastic and add something new each year. They are what is making the program thrive,” says Feng.
When asked what the highlights of volunteering in the Youth Medical Explorers’ Program are, the members had no shortage of answers. Across the board, the consensus is that the best moment for volunteers is when they see the look in their student member’s eyes as they start to believe that a future as a medical professional is possible for them. The Burrell mentors love to see the “a-ha moment” in their student members and the excitement they express as they learn something entirely new to them. Feng says, “The enthusiasm from the high school students is undeniable and contagious. It reminds us why we chose this path in medicine.”
Burrell students who are interested in getting involved with the YME program can contact one of the YME Lead Mentors listed below to sign up to be a mentor.
Highschool Junior and Senior students who are interested in joining the YME Program can apply in early fall. For more information about the application process may contact one of the YME Lead Mentors for more information.
Lena Feng, OMS-II, firstname.lastname@example.org
Annette C. Reyes, OMS-II, email@example.com
Arabela Viratakim, OMS-II, firstname.lastname@example.org