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Pettit Foundation helps support enrichment programs for high school students

Jane Bradley Pettit Foundation helps support enrichment programs for high school students interested in science and medicine

June 17, 2013 College News - The Jane Bradley Pettit Foundation has donated $100,000 to the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) to provide extraordinary learning opportunities for minority high school youth who have an interest in pursuing a career in science or medicine. The gift supports two pipeline programs at MCW: Apprenticeship in Medicine (AIM) and Research Opportunity for Academic Development in Science (ROADS).

Not only are Wisconsin and the U.S. facing a projected shortage of physicians in the coming years, the underrepresentation of physicians and scientists from diverse backgrounds is particularly acute. Enrichment programs at MCW raise awareness about career opportunities in science and medicine while strengthening participants’ academic skill set to prepare them for success in a four-year college curriculum.

“We saw value in these programs because they expose students, who might not otherwise have a chance, to experiences in medicine and science while, hopefully, inspiring careers in those fields,” said Margaret T. Lund, Vice President of the Jane Bradley Pettit Foundation. “The feedback that we heard from participating students was particularly compelling to us. The programs challenge them and also open up ideas and opportunities for them in the future.”

ROADS to the future

ROADS exists to increase the low representation of researchers, scientists, professors and doctors from diverse backgrounds by providing research experiences to students from Milwaukee County. The program was established in 1990, and 110 students have graduated from it to date.

Over the last three to four years, MCW has seen an increase in the enrollment of students from diverse backgrounds. Educational leaders believe this is attributed to identifying talent at an early age, providing high quality enrichment programs for these students and holding them to the highest academic standards to train them for future challenges.

Students entering ROADS through its competitive selection process complete a research project over a seven-week summer session supervised by a faculty mentor. They attend lectures about research types and processes in addition to preparing a presentation and final written report about their project. The seven students enrolled in 2012 were assigned to laboratories in physiology, microbiology & molecular genetics, pediatrics-hematology/oncology, pharmacology & toxicology, biotechnology & bioengineering, and pediatrics-developmental biology.

Students AIM high

Through hands-on experiences, students in AIM learn basic clinical skills from community physicians and benefit from increased awareness of common medical problems in urban communities. The program intends to heighten interest in medical careers among diverse students. During the six-week summer program, high school participants spend four days a week in an instructional setting and one full day per week in an area clinic, shadowing a physician role model and seeing medicine in actual practice.

AIM students also tour active departments at MCW and its affiliates. Common destinations include the Froedtert Hospital Emergency Department, Flight for Life, BloodCenter of Wisconsin and the MCW anatomy laboratory.

AIM has served more than 183 students in the last 16 years.

“To our knowledge, AIM and ROADS are not duplicated anywhere in the Milwaukee area,” said Joseph E. Kerschner, MD, Dean of the Medical School and Executive Vice President. “The Medical College of Wisconsin is committed to encouraging young people from diverse backgrounds to pursue careers in science and medicine, and we are tremendously pleased to have earned the support of the Jane Bradley Pettit Foundation in this objective.”

Funding from the Foundation primarily supports stipends for students enrolled in AIM and ROADS. The stipends help remove a barrier to participation by providing salary that a student might otherwise earn from a summer job.

“As diversity increases within the medical and scientific workforce, it strengthens the fields and provides greater relevance to the community,” said Dawn Bragg, PhD, Associate Dean of Student Affairs and Diversity and Associate Professor of Pediatrics. “The AIM and ROADS programs are great examples of how MCW is enthusiastically working to alter the norms of underrepresentation in the medical sciences.”

Jane Bradley Pettit established her foundation in 1985 to initiate and sustain projects that promote the welfare of families and children, the elderly and disadvantaged people in Milwaukee. Beyond her death in 2001, the Foundation continues to support people, programs and policy throughout the community.

“Our mission is to help children and the disadvantaged, and these programs help individual students,” said Lund, “but they also help the public because they possibly result in adding doctors and scientists to our community.”

Claire Assana learns how to suture a wound using pig feet in an AIM session.

M1 Papa-Ekow Coleman (left) and AIM student Jazzmine Salaam use one of the medical simulators in MCW’s STAR Center.
© 2014 Medical College of Wisconsin
Page Updated 07/23/2013