May 3, 2010

Emory Pipeline Project's budding scientists are college-bound

A group Atlanta high school students gathered at the Emory School of Medicine April 21, eagerly waiting for their diplomas.

The students, seniors at South Atlanta High School, were part of the Emory Pipeline Program, an educational program designed to improve academics and foster interest in the sciences among Atlanta area high school students. 

Launched in the fall of 2007, the program utilizes interactive cases that are developed and facilitated by medical students with the assistance of residents and faculty. Each year has an assigned curriculum and associated themes that center around concepts in preventative medicine. The students start in their sophomore year of high school and continue until graduation.

Emory medical students Samuel Funt and Zwade Marshall started the program, modeling it after one that Funt participated in as a University of Pennsylvania undergraduate.

“We’re hoping to make a real difference in the lives of these students, teaching them to love science and inspire them to be all they can be,” says Funt.

The South Atlanta School of Health and Medical Sciences (SASHMS), one of four divisions of South Atlanta High, was selected as the partner school for the Emory Pipeline because 95 percent of the students are affected by generational poverty and, according to the program overview, come to school with limited expectations for their academic success.

“We know that surrounding these students with teachers and role models — people invested in their future — will not only inspire them to continue on in their education but will also help them develop healthier lifestyles,” says Marshall.

With the help of Robert Lee, associate dean for multicultural medical student affairs, Funt and Marshall contacted the Atlanta public school system and got the go-ahead to launch the program at SASHMS. Then they recruited other medical students and undergraduates from Emory to guide the students.

The Office of University-Community Partnerships provides transportation for the program and that the Center for Science Education provided teacher training and curriculum support.

At the graduation ceremony, 200 guests from Emory and the Atlanta Public School system gathered on campus, including the parents and guardians of the high school students and 45 Emory undergraduate mentors and 35 medical students, faculty and residents involved in the program.

“We are very excited that every one of the senior high school students at the graduation ceremony — all 16 — are headed to college and many are planning careers in the health sciences,” says Lee.

“This work, this effort is a testament to the value of investing in young people, believing in young people, and developing vehicles for change that will positively affect their lives,” adds Lee.

The students presented their final research projects in the Emory School of Medicine Building where most of the program sessions take place throughout the year.

Afterward, everyone congregated in a nearby auditorium for the graduation keynote address by David J. Malebranche, assistant professor of medicine at Emory School of Medicine and a HIV specialist at Grady Memorial Hospital. An award presentation and reception followed the address.

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