Pittsburgh CAPA student Londyn Davis wants to be a pediatrician. She loves helping people, loves the medical field, and “really loves the environment of a hospital.”
Talk about getting a firsthand look. Davis was among 130 Pittsburgh Public Schools students who spoke directly with physicians and other medical professionals at UPMC Children’s Hospital, Nov. 9, as part of a youth symposium entitled, “Bridge 2 The Future.”
Terry Smith, founder of M-Powerhouse, told the Courier his organization is committed to “addressing the educational, social and economic factors that impact our young people.”
Smith, along with Kashif Henderson, PPS’ coordinator for K-12 gifted and talented students, collaborated on this effort to bring students and doctors together. “The key is trying to challenge the (students’) critical thinking process, and the way we can do that is by acting as a scaffold,” Smith told the New Pittsburgh Courier in an exclusive interview.
“We want to create a cadre of medical professionals for the future,” Smith continued. Under the M-Powerhouse umbrella, Smith said, is a Medical Milestone program, where, in time, Smith is hopeful of “creating a curriculum in which we could actually ensure that our young people go through your basic anatomy, physiology, cardiology, etc., and once the 12-week program is up, they get a certificate and a stethoscope.”
Students at the event heard from African American physicians and other professionals, along with the aforementioned one-on-one discussions with physicians such as Unoma Akamagwuna, a pediatric rehabilitation medicine physician who has been been at UPMC Children’s for two years. “I want to show them that someone who looks like them can also do this,” Akamagwuna said. “It’s important to see people who look like you doing things that you aspire to do, because if you don’t see it, how do you know that you can achieve it?”
Bill Generett Jr., vice president of community engagement at Duquesne University, gave students three main principles to succeed. “Number 1, belief in self,” he said. “Everybody told me I was stupid, but luckily I had enough people who told me I was smart. Number 2, you gotta be smart. (When it comes to) education, you have to be a lifelong learner. You can have all the confidence, all the perseverance you want, but if you’re not smart, it’s not going to work. And number 3, be creative, be determined, and believe in that higher power. That’s what you need to succeed.”
UPMC Children’s Surgeon in Chief Dr. George Gittes told the Courier the interaction between students and medical professionals at the event was “heartwarming.
“When I met Terry, I could feel his passion for doing this,” Dr. Gittes said. “A big group of pediatric hospitals all met in Colorado, and we were discussing the future of pediatric medicine in hospitals, and where are we going with this. And the theme that just kept resonating so frequently is, we need to stop just thinking about sick kids and making them better; we need to really start engaging in healthy kids and keeping them healthy Across America, and this (event) is the perfect thing for that.”
Smith, who began M-Powerhouse in the mid-1990s, said a similar program occurred Monday, Nov. 13 at Allegheny General Hospital, with students from the Sto-Rox school district.
As for Davis, the information she received from the Nov. 9 event at UPMC Children’s is something she’ll take with her on her path to becoming a pediatrician.
“I thought it was very powerful that there were a lot of Black people and doctors up there on stage,” Davis said. “Some people might not think of Black people being strong, doctors and making it in life. I learned that it takes a lot of determination and hard work to get to where you want, and anything’s possible.”
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