Rynita Bohler had her small group of elementary school students eating out of the palm of her hand. In her other hand, she held a human brain.
Bohler, a first-year medical student at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, was one of dozens of students who volunteered to show urban children the world of medicine and science during the annual Reach Out to Youth Day on Feb. 11.
“It’s cool to give back and help these children explore different careers in the medical field,” said Bohler, of Detroit.
That’s the mission of Reach Out to Youth Day, now in its 28th year at the School of Medicine.
Presented by the School of Medicine’s Black Medical Association chapter, the event seeks to present children ages 7 to 11 in underrepresented populations in science and medicine to careers in those fields. Reach Out to Youth provides urban youth a window into the world of medicine and an understanding that they can develop careers in that world. Students explore medicine and science through workshops and activities presented by WSU medical students and faculty.
“I attended Detroit Public Schools up until the sixth grade, which is why I am especially passionate about this program,” said Zoe Smith, a second-year medical student and president of the WSU School of Medicine chapters of the Black Medical Association and the Student National Medical Association, the sponsors of Reach Out to Youth. “I see a part of myself in every student that participates. Reach Out to Youth is important to BMA/SNMA because it gives us an opportunity to give back to our community. You can't be what you can't see. It is important for us as medical students to be role models for disadvantaged students.”
This year’s theme was “Play it Safe: Brain Safety.” Visitors explored the anatomy of the human brain and heart using real organs. They also listened for heart auscultations and conducted pupillary reflexes in a clinical skills area. A segment on self-esteem also was added this year.
While the hundreds of student visitors delved into medicine and science, their parents attended workshops on topics ranging from preparing children for careers in medicine to learning about the FitKids360 program. A “Parent to Parent” panel saw parents of current medical students share their experiences with parents of the young attendees who have aspirations of medical careers for their children.
Smith, who is from Detroit and plans to pursue a career in Dermatology with a special interest in skin of color, served as chair of this year’s parent program.
“The parent program is especially important to me, because I believe we must educate and empower parents as well. By providing parents with resources and guidance, we can ensure that their children reach their full potential,” she said. “Reach Out to Youth not only lets children live their dreams of being ‘doctors for a day,’ but it inspires curiosity and builds confidence in our youth. It is particularly important during Black History Month, which is a time of historical reflection, celebration and service. Hosting the event in February allows BMA/SNMA to celebrate the successes of those who came before us, while inspiring future generations.”