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Bringing Early Opportunities to North Philadelphia Middle Schoolers with Health Careers Exploration Day

News March 29, 2024

A Temple doctor makes a presentation to middle school students during Careers Day

Do you remember dreaming about what you wanted to be when you grew up, back when you were in middle school? Maybe you thought you’d be an astronaut, or the president. Or maybe you already knew you wanted to work in healthcare.

If you were thinking about a career in the medical field, it’s probably because you were inspired by someone close to you, like a relative or a family friend. Role models like these allow children to imagine themselves in these positions, and to know that these opportunities are open to them.

“I think most of us get our ideas about what we’re going to do with our lives from the people around us,” agrees Abiona Berkeley, MD, JD, FASA, Interim Senior Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Professor of Clinical Anesthesiology at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine, and Medical Staff President at Temple Health. “If a child doesn’t grow up around people who work in healthcare, they might not think these are careers they can have. Unfortunately, that’s the case for a lot of the children in our North Philadelphia community.”

A Temple doctor gives a hands-on Career Day presentation

But Dr. Berkeley and the Temple Health Community Advisory Board—led by Katherine Levins, JD, MBA, Vice President of Public Policy and Government Affairs, Susan Akinyi-Okumu, DNP, MPA, BSN, RN, CPXP, AVP, Patient Experience, and Amelia Price, Corridor Manager of Called to Serve CDC—were determined to change that. While Temple Health has a long history of working with local high schoolers to prepare them for careers in healthcare, this team wanted to start earlier, and reach middle school students.

“If you have certain goals, like being a physician, you have to begin preparing pretty early in life,” Dr. Berkeley explains. That’s why they decided to work with Kenderton School—which serves children from fifth to eighth grades, and sits just one block from TUH-Main Campus—to host a Health Careers Exploration Day.

Dr. Goldberg poses with two practitioners in front of a Lewis Katz School of Medicine banner

Hands-On Healthcare

This event, which was sponsored by Temple Health, the Lewis Katz School of Medicine’s Office of Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, and the School District of Philadelphia, was designed to introduce participants to job opportunities in multiple healthcare fields and to build connections between students and our Temple Health team members.

“The school let us know that they didn’t just want doctors to attend,” Dr. Berkeley says. “They wanted representatives of all of the job opportunities that are available within the Health System. So in addition to Nursing and the School of Pharmacy, we brought Anesthesia, Surgical Techs, and volunteers from Transport and Environmental Services. Several of our PhD students were there as well.”

Dr. Amy J. Goldberg, The Marjorie Joy Katz Dean

Dr. Berkeley and her team were also mindful that middle schoolers were unlikely to want to listen to a lecture, so they made sure that the day’s events would consist instead of a series of activities. “We wanted to have fun!” Dr. Berkeley laughs.

That’s why, instead of sitting quietly in their seats, the approximately 125 student participants cycled through a series of 30-minute workshop stations, exclaiming in delight or calling out in excitement over a new discovery. Topics included CPR, ultrasound basics, airway management, knot tying and physical exams, surgery tech instruments, vital signs basics, patient transport, hospital environmental sciences, DNA in biology, and prescription brands and reading labels.

Inspiring the Next Generation

Ultimately, Dr. Berkeley hopes that Health Careers Exploration Day will leave a lasting impression on the students. “We wanted these workshops to inspire them intellectually, and also to get them thinking about their futures,” she says. “If they start thinking about healthcare as something that’s accessible to them, then maybe they’ll consider it as a career. It was heartwarming to have physicians like Jocelyn Edathil, MD, PhD, FACP, Co-Chief Patient Experience Officer and Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine, say that a program like this is why she’s a physician today, and to have students express their desire to grow up to be like our volunteers.”

And with role models like Dr. Berkeley, it wouldn’t be a surprise if those students eventually decided to join our Temple team.