Summer Scholars changing lives for high school students

The 35th year of Sumer Scholars at the School of Medicine began on July 10 with orientation for students and their parents.
The 35th year of Sumer Scholars at the School of Medicine began on July 10 with orientation for students and their parents.

Each July, the School of Medicine’s Summer Scholars program provides minority and economically disadvantaged high school students with skills that prepare them for successful careers in health care. This is the 35th year of the three-week program, which opened with an orientation session on July 10.

Vanessa Liddell, a past Summer Scholar participant and recent graduate from the UMKC School of Nursing and Health Studies, says Summer Scholars not only propelled her into nursing, it may have also saved her mother’s life.

Liddell spent two summers in the program following her sophomore and junior years at North Kansas City High School. While on a family trip after her first Summer Scholars session, Liddell provided CPR – a skill learned in the program just months earlier – when her mother began choking and aspirating in the car.

“I remembered the beat they told us to go to and not to stop until help got there,” said Liddell, who is serving as a graduate intern in this year’s Summer Scholars program. “I learned right there that if I can (help) my own family, I could help anybody. That’s why I went into nursing.”

Summer Scholars is largely made up of students entering their junior year of high school. Returning students can participate as an Advanced Summer Scholar, gaining additional experiences such as a rotation in oral surgery and a course in research writing. Fifty students from area high schools are participating in this year’s program – 38 as Summer Scholars and 12 as Advanced Summer Scholars.

Students in the program participate in didactic teaching sessions and clinical rotations at Truman Medical Center Hospital Hill, Children’s Mercy and the Kansas City, Mo., Health Department, as well as the School of Medicine. Daily instruction includes sessions in anatomy/physiology, chemistry and language arts. In addition, students take part in classroom activities in ACT and standardized test taking, verbal reasoning, interviewing skills, medical terminology and understanding health disparities. Clinical rotations include areas such as emergency medicine, intensive care, outpatient and rehabilitation services, and experience in a cadaver lab.

Kenneth Beene, program coordinator, said that 5 percent to 6 percent of participants each year go on to be selected for entrance into the School of Medicine’s combined B.A./M.D. program. And a larger number of Summer Scholars, such as Liddell, go on to enter other health care fields.

“In life, you’re going to face adversity and the best thing you can do is prepare yourself for adversity,” Liddell said. “For me, that was Summer Scholars.”