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Mentors help high school students prep for future in health sciences

by Luanne Williams

A white lab coat is much more than a uniform for health science professionals. For a group of local teens, the coats are a symbol of what their future may hold.    

Nearly two dozen students at Forest Hills and Monroe high schools are getting a sneak peek at what it takes to become a pharmacist, thanks to a new mentoring program that targets health-science classes. The teens got a glimpse of their future selves Saturday during a White Coat Ceremony at Wingate University’s Levine College of Health Sciences.

A group of high school students stand in a room wearing white lab coats.

“The white coat is significant in many healthcare professions. For us, it signifies trust, knowledge and professionalism,” says Eva Baucom, program compliance director for the School of Pharmacy. “We want the mentees to start thinking of themselves as future healthcare professionals, and the white coat is a symbol of their future goals.”

Funded by an Excellence in Diversity grant that Bob Supernaw, dean of the School of Pharmacy, was awarded last year, the mentoring program kicked off last month with goals aligned to the high schools’ Health Sciences II curriculum.

“For example, our first meeting emphasized professionalism and educational and career goals, which are pieces of the first module of their pacing guide,” Baucom explains. “Our students led a panel and answered questions about their path to pharmacy, spoke about overcoming challenges, and about college life in general. Then, our pharmacy-student mentors reviewed resumes and cover letters that the high school students prepared.”

The seven mentors have been meeting with students at least once every two weeks.

A group of students in white lab coats stand at a table.

On Saturday, School of Pharmacy students joined with high school students to man a booth outside Irwin Belk Stadium before Wingate’s home football game. There, they answered healthcare questions from fans. To prepare for the event, Wingate volunteer mentors helped Forest Hills and Monroe students research information on a wellness topic of their choice and create a professional poster. Dubbed “Healthcare Huddle” and also involving the University’s physician assistant, physical therapy, nursing and occupational therapy programs, the event was organized by Courtney Callahan, assistant athletic director for marketing and promotions. It coincided with an admissions visit day that included campus tours and a tailgate tent.

“Mentors ran through mock sessions prior to the actual event so students could practice their communication skills and troubleshoot any difficult questions they may be asked,” Baucom says. “Students shared this information with football fans on Saturday, and they plan to do the same at their respective schools in the near future.”

Pam Lanier, who teaches Health Sciences at Forest Hills, says the newly “coated” students presented information about exercise and heart-disease prevention as well as diabetes prevention and care. Lanier and Monroe High teacher Josette Goings say they have already seen the program’s positive impact on their students.

According to Baucom, the next step will be to immerse the high school students in campus life so they can began envisioning themselves as future healthcare students. In addition to campus tours and informational sessions, the teens will get to hone skills that they can put to use next February during the University’s annual community health and wellness fair.

Oct. 18, 2018