August/September 2017 Guest Editorial

Going 'Back to School' Helps Inform, Inspire Teens

students -- about 130 of them. I have to admit, I was nervous.

Sleepy teenagers in my first class didn't help, but as the day went on, the students became more receptive, and I got better.

After that first class, I tweaked the presentation to make it more interactive and gave it a "Jeopardy" format.

choice exam is designed to assess a student's problem-solving,

A: This standardized, multiple- critical

thinking and knowledge of science concepts and principles.

Q: What is the Medical College

Admission Test (MCAT)? We put the students in teams of

Tougaloo College Natural Sciences graduate Marshala Lee, M.D., talks to Greenwood, Miss., high-school students about careers in medicine. Lee, a second-year resident in the University of Maryland Family and Community Medicine Residency Program, will be piloting the AAFP's version of the Doctors Back to School program this spring.

BY MARSHALA LEE, M.D I've always respected teachers. My mother is one. It was my mother who encouraged

my interest in science, who built my confidence and helped me realize my dream of becoming a doctor.

My respect for teachers has never been greater than after spending a day in their shoes or, more specifically, a day in my mother's classroom. A decade after I graduated from high


I recently went back to Greenwood, Miss., to talk to students at my alma mater about careers in medicine.

Doctors Back to School(www. is an AMA program that has been around for more than 10 years. Its goal is to increase the

number of minority physicians and eliminate disparities.

racial and ethnic

AMA's permission, has developed its own version of the program, adding information specific to careers in family medicine.


My residency at the University Maryland

plans to pilot the

program at middle schools and high schools in Baltimore this spring. The trip home to Mississippi was a dry run.

My previous teaching

experience was limited to tutoring in college and working in my residency's program (funded by an AAFP grant) aimed at curbing childhood obesity. On this day in early April, I made six presentations to 11th- and 12th-grade

science health The AAFP, with the

four or five, and the team with the most correct answers earned bonus points toward their next science tests. What I found out is that if you want to keep a teenager's attention, you'd better keep it fun and relevant.

were smart. These were advanced science classes -- anatomy,

The students I met in Greenwood biology,

chemistry and physics -- that I was talking

with. But they also face obstacles. Roughly 90 percent of students in this school near

Mississippi Delta are black teens from socioeconomically


backgrounds. The majority of them qualify for a free lunch program. The community's teen pregnancy rate is high, detouring many bright kids from college and a better future. They need encouragement and inspiration. Family physicians can provide both.

For my discussion, I used a PowerPoint presentation provided by the AAFP, but I added slides about black pioneers in medicine, such as

• Jocelyn Elders, M.D., the first black surgeon general;


The HBCU Advocate 13

• Ben Carson, M.D., the first surgeon to successfully separate conjoined twins; and

• Mae Jemison, M.D., a primary care physician who became the first black female astronaut.

Again, make it relevant. Often, teens don't know what

they want to do until they see it for themselves. We

can be that role

model. I told the students that 10 years ago, I was in the exact same spot they are in now.

"I come from where you are,"

I said. The message is that careers in medicine are not far-fetched, regardless of circumstance. I did it. They can do it. We talked about scholarships,

the importance of

doing well on standardized tests and the availability of financial aid.

So how did it go? The students'

evaluations of my presentations showed that

91 percent of them learned

something new, 41 percent

already were

interested in careers in medicine and remain interested, and

26 percent were not interested in careers in medicine before the presentation but are now.

I look forward to seeing if

we get similar results in Baltimore schools that have similar minority populations.

If the AAFP moves forward

with this program, would you be willing to go Back to School?

a second-year resident

Marshala Lee, M.D., is at


University of Maryland Family and Community Medicine Program.


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