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Village and the U inspire future black medical innovators and doctors by hosting college experience for middle and high school students.

By Kelly Lasher, communication intern, University of Utah Marketing and Communications Office and Nedra Hotchins, women’s education specialist, University of Utah Women’s Resource Center

The University of Utah’s Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute, Office of Engagement, School of Medicine and Women’s Enrollment Initiative partnered with The V(i)llage to inspire future black medical innovators and doctors by hosting a Medicine U college experience for middle and high school students on Feb. 12.

Student participants were members in The V(i)llage, a comprehensive leadership bridge program for self-identifying African, African-American and multiracial black students who attend West, East and Syracuse high schools; Syracuse, Sunset, North Davis, Central Davis and North Layton junior high schools; and Glendale and Northwest middle schools.

Village 2“This is the second year The V(i)llage has conducted a college immersion visit with black students who aspire to achieve degree attainment,” said Nedra Hotchkins, The V(i)llage program co-founder and women’s education specialist at the University of Utah. “Those who participated in the event learned about the benefits of obtaining careers within medical professions where innovation, ideas and practice meet. Participating in hands-on activities served as a catalyst toward students seeing themselves within the field of medicine.”

Medicine U is designed to provide participants with educational experiences that challenge their ability to think critically about innovative medical problem-solving situations that can be applied in the real world. Medicine U was organized to promote an interest in medical innovation and medical professions among black students who might attend the University of Utah in the immediate future.

“In part, the purpose of this experience was to expose black students to STEM fields, specifically, pharmacy and nursing, to get them to determine how innovative approaches to medical problems can result in practical solutions for the betterment of society,” said Bryan K. Hotchkins, The V(i)llage program co-founder and professor in the Ethnic Studies Program at the University of Utah. “Additionally, participants gained valuable rapport building time with University of Utah medical students, which is an added benefit.”

“This event is the reason I continue to support the V(i)llage,” said Barbara Kufiadan, a U student who attended the event. “There aren’t a lot of chances where you are able to experience a room full of minority students, mostly black, enjoying achieving goals and learning about furthering their education together. Why? Because these resources and field trips aren’t presented to them, but the V(i)llage gives them that opportunity.”

During the visit, students also participated in nursing and pharmacy-related, hands-on, observational activities and experienced a medical educational address by Elicia Williams-King, an African-American assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Utah.

“Students got to listen to a powerful keynote speaker, dissect cow eyeballs, make ChapStick, take photos with a sign that they each individualized about what their blackness means to them and had a dance party,” said Kufiadan. “My favorite part of this all, was the excitement that the students had when they were all together. It was as if they felt a sense of power. A sense of power that allowed them to understand each other in a special way and relate to one another from having this single experience.”

The event theme, Medicine U, dared students to see themselves as valuable pieces to medical equations that need to be solved in unique ways. The event concluded after participants participated in four educational tracks hosted by the Lassonde Institute, School of Medicine and pharmacy and nursing colleges designed to highlight the lived experiences of students within the context of medical problem solving.