Moshe Erdfrocht

Second-year Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine student, Moshe Erdfrocht, shares his path to medicine with Colquitt County High School students during PCOM South Georgia's virtual Science and Math Summer Academy.

MOULTRIE, Ga. — Colquitt County High School and Cairo High School students virtually attended PCOM South Georgia’s annual Science & Math Summer Academy (SMSA) on July 13-18. SMSA is a summer enrichment program for local high school students that encourages them to pursue a career in the healthcare professions.

The students spent the week with PCOM South Georgia faculty and students engaging in activity-based educational opportunities. They explored what it takes to become a health professional and how to make it all possible.

In the past, the academy was held in person, but like many summer camps, it was moved to a virtual setting, something that SMSA faculty lead, Stacie Fairley, PhD, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology, had reservations about.

“I must admit that I initially had some trepidations with doing a virtual summeacademy,’’ Fairley said. “How do we keep high school students engaged? How do you make a virtual summer camp fun? Those thoughts quickly dissipated once the program started. The SMSA scholars were extremely smart and competitive. Every day we recognized an SMSA scholar of the day, and at the end of the week the top three scholars were awarded with prizes. Our SMSA scholars, faculty and mentors brought so much energy to the camp every day that kept the students engaged. We had over 95 percent attendance every day.”

No matter the venue, the goal of SMSA remained the same: to familiarize the students with a wide variety of healthcare career options. 

“We wanted to expose students from underserved populations to foundational science concepts, which can be critical when considering to pursue a career in science or the healthcare field,” she said. “This was accomplished by offering a variety of instructional and enrichment experiences that helped the SMSA scholars to discover and cultivate their potential.”

Students received crash courses on topics in physiology, genetics, microbiology, immunology, pathology and pharmacology led by faculty of PCOM South Georgia. They listened to lectures and participated in activities and clinical cases.

Kathleen Bryan (DO ‘23), a PCOM South Georgia SMSA mentor lead, said that although the academy was virtual this year, students received great information about  the healthcare field.

“For each day of the program, they received a lecture from a PCOM South Georgia professor, which gave them a glimpse at what it's like to be a medical student,” she said. “During these talks, our professors also discussed different career paths in healthcare and S.T.E.M.”

Furthering the attendees’ understanding of how to pursue a career in health care was a one-hour segment called “My Path to Medicine.” Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) students of PCOM South Georgia told their stories, which included their failures and triumphs along the way. From high school to undergraduate programs to graduate programs to medical school, attendees received an understanding of the process.

“My goal was to show them anything is possible when you set your mind to it,” Jasmine Rogers (DO ‘23), a PCOM South Georgia SMSA mentor lead said. “Each of our individual experiences are unique including obstacles and mistakes, which is what makes the journey worth telling. The scholars asked a lot of questions and loved hearing others with stories similar to theirs. These stories gave them more confidence that they too can be in the medical field one day no matter their background and upbringing.”

The high school students also heard from Southern Regional Technical College, Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Valdosta State University and Albany State University when they presented information on how to apply and to college and programs that are related to the healthcare field.

“A lot of colleges have limited or stopped campus tours, so this gave the students a chance to meet admissions representatives and get to know more about the possible colleges they are interested in attending,” Bryan said.

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