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OUT OF OFFICE Mini Medical College

By: Richard Evans, MD, FACS, Westchester Medical Center Health Network, Suffern, New York | Posted on: 04 May 2023

I am grateful for the opportunity to provide an update to the original article published in the July 2021 edition of AUANews. For those readers who are not familiar with the program, allow me to briefly review my current role, and the Mini Medical College program.

I am a clinical urologist with administrative responsibilities for the Bon Secours Charity Health System in New York. These roles include the Administrative Director for Robotic Surgery and Director of the Bloodless Medicine Surgery Program.

I developed the Mini Medical College program in 2017. The concept behind the curriculum is to bring medical school to high school junior and senior students. The program is available for students of all racial and economic backgrounds. I do not accept any form of renumeration from the schools or students.

When the initial article was published in AUANews, I hosted the program for 3 high schools located in 3 New York counties. The program has since expanded to include 2 additional high schools, for a current total of 5 high schools located within 4 New York counties. The Mini Medical College has been featured in 3 regional newspapers and several social media platforms, prompting inquiries from varying regions of the United States (see Figure).

A photograph of Richard Evans, MD
Figure. Richard Evans, MD, a urologist with the Bon Secours Charity Health Systems, WMC Health Network, is pictured at the Chester Academy in Chester, New York, October 8, 2021. Evans started a Mini Med School and travels to various schools in the region to talk to teens about various medical careers. Reprinted with permission from Mark Vergari/The Journal News/USA Today Network.

This program is unique in that it is integrated into the schools’ curriculum throughout the academic year. The classes are held onsite in the actual classroom. Students are exposed to new and exciting content that has previously been reserved for medical school students.

The program is offered to all high school juniors and seniors, and is not solely for the advanced placement or high academic achievers. There are many students who have the potential to become health care providers, but not all of them have had the same exposure or nurturing home and academic environments.

The goals of the Mini Medical College program are to challenge the students, increase their vocabulary, teach new hand skills, and motivate them for life. If they become interested to explore the medical field—even better.

A series of 20 sessions is provided over the span of the school year. I provide a session at each school on a rotational basis. The course content is custom designed specifically for the high school student. Medical school didactics are combined with clinical practice and presented in an engaging and stimulating format.

Since last year, I have added lectures and refined course material to remain relevant. Students are encouraged to share their thoughts on the course material and to contribute their ideas. I often query students about their interests and compose presentations to align with their thoughts.

The Mini Medical College curriculum includes the following topics:

  1. Health Care Career Options
  2. Medical School Admission: Build a Pathway
  3. Interviews: Create and Relate
  4. Patient Engagement: Building Trust
  5. Physical Examination
  6. HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act): Medical Law and Ethics
  7. Learn to Interpret Chest X-rays
  8. Learn to Interpret CT Scans
  9. Bloodless Medicine and Surgery
  10. Kidney Stone Presentation: Prevention, Management, and Treatment
  11. Interpret Blood and Urine Test Results
  12. COVID-19: Microbiology; Vaccines
  13. Dermatology: Appearances and Pathophysiology of Rashes
  14. Blunt and Penetrating Trauma: Injuries and Management
  15. Medical Apps: Concept to Market
  16. Robotic Surgery: Joints to Kidneys
  17. Learn to Suture and Tie Knots
  18. Common Illness: Definitions, Pathophysiology, Prevention, and Treatment (strokes, myocardial infarction, pneumonia, vaping and lungs, appendicitis, poison ivy, and kidney stones [Part 1 and Part 2]

The schools are always amazed how the suture/knot tying sessions engage the students more than any other class. We have yet to observe any student glance at their mobile device during these classes. Throughout my own years of education, beginning with high school, student engagement was not at the core of education. A teacher/professor would present a topic for 45 to 60 minutes, and we were trained to listen and copy what was displayed on the blackboard or screen. We did not know what engagement was, nor were the classes oriented as such. However, today’s high school students spend the majority of their lives constantly stimulated and engaged, whether it be on their personal mobile device or computer. The “old school” style of education is not applicable to the current high school generation. If we are to have an impact and influence the students, we must evolve teaching methods to engage them. I continue to modify the presentations to promote interactive education and encourage student involvement.

The high school students have minimal medical knowledge since the standard school curriculum is void of medical education. Therefore, students do not yet have the medical fund of knowledge to answer clinical questions. However, they are encouraged to listen, think, and discuss the possibilities. This always leads to fun and stimulating conversation.

In the Fall of 2021, I implemented a new dimension to the Mini Medical College program. I developed a clinical internship. Students are invited to accompany me during clinical office hours for a semester, and earn school credit for their initiative.

All patients are asked in advance if they approve of having a student observe their visit. The majority of patients agree. Those patients who object have their wishes respected.

The internship provides the students with the rare opportunity to observe patient-physician interaction, including the art of performing a physical examination. They observe how the physician must focus on listening, and how to provide a trusted platform for the patient to be heard. The skill of asking questions is learned in real time, and how probing questions can elicit important information. They are exposed to the electronic medical record system, and observe how technology and medicine intertwine. After each patient encounter, the student and I review the highlights of the encounter and define medical vocabulary/terms.

The personal satisfaction for providing the Mini Medical College program is the appreciation expressed by the students, and school leadership. Recently, one of the high school professors forwarded me one of their high school senior’s college essays. It was at this moment that I realized the true impact we can have on high school students. The essay included how her experience with the Mini Medical College made her realize how a physician can impact lives in ways she never realized before. The sense of accomplishment upon seeing my name in her college essay has been a motivating force to build and expand the program.

I encourage high schools to offer the program to students of all backgrounds and academic achievements. The more schools that can incorporate the Mini Medical College program into their curriculum will enable us to enhance the educational experience for students of varied economic and racial backgrounds.

It is imperative that we support the effort to diversify the physician workforce. In October 2022, New York state announced it is doubling its spending to $2.4 million on a variety of college and medical school programs. However, we must start even earlier in the education process to engage and motivate students to enter the health care field. If we leave it until the college years to motivate students to enter the medical field, it will remain a challenge to redirect students’ interests.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) 2022 data, there was an 18% spike in medical school applications across the United States in 2022. The COVID-19 pandemic’s uneven toll in communities of color across the nation motivated many people of color striving to remedy health inequalities.

In New York, for example, more than 30% of the state’s population is Black or Hispanic, but only 12% of physicians represent those demographics. Studies have revealed that people of color are healthier when treated by physicians of color.1 The Mini Medical College program has been integral in engaging the students and allowing them to open their minds to a medical career. Waiting to influence college students to pursue the medical field might prove to be more challenging than initiating the process in high school.

My role as the course instructor has allowed me to entertain candid and frequent conversations with students of varied backgrounds. The medical field is often seen by many students as an unattainable profession and thought of as a pathway only for the wealthy and privileged students. Through these classes, they are enlightened that with hard work, sacrifice, and direction, they can compete with anyone and pursue a medical career. I provide information and options to improve their preparedness in order to realign their high school goals.

I encourage my fellow colleagues to join me in bringing medical school to high school students. Urologists have always been at the forefront of technology and continue to lead in the advancement of medical care. If we can initiate the movement to connect to high school students, others will follow our direction.

The journey starts with reaching out to just one high school, and forming a program to fulfill your personal vision. University hospital programs are in a position to provide a more vigorous curriculum by enlisting multiple providers to visit neighborhood schools. This will provide a benefit to the students, but will also help to strengthen relationships within the community.

The Mini Medical College program affords us the opportunity to be a physician, teacher, role model, and guidance counselor. The ultimate goal is to shape lives for the future—an opportunity we should not overlook or pass on to someone else to ensure the viability of the medical field.

Leadership through education—a wonderful win for everyone.

  1. Alsan M, Garrick O, Graziani G. Does diversity matter for health? Experimental evidence from Oakland. Am Econ Rev. 2019;109(12):4071-4111.