health sciences academy group pic

Most teenagers sleep in during the summer, but on an early Monday morning in July nearly two dozen Portsmouth high school students were eagerly awaiting their first class.

That’s because they’re taking part in the EVMS Health Sciences Academy, a summer camp that aims to expose students to a broad spectrum of careers in medicine. The two-week, tuition-free program includes lectures, workshops and hands-on activities.

Rachel Tonkollie, an upcoming 10th grader at Churchland High School who has dreams of becoming a doctor, enjoyed every minute.

“I’ve really liked the hands-on stuff, because we get into the action,” Ms. Tonkollie says. “I want to be a global health doctor, because I really enjoyed that and I really want to travel.”

Global Health is one of many subjects they learned about as well as public health, mental health, simulation in healthcare, ultrasound and virtual reality.

While it might seem early to start exposing them to these topics, Portsmouth teacher Jamal Felton says the road to medical school is supposed to start in high school.

“If we know which students are interested in health professions we can better prepare them for the transition ahead,” says Mr. Felton. “We can help them decide which classes they need to take and develop the skills that can help them be successful in undergraduate and medical school classes.”

The Portsmouth pipeline program is an important part of EVMS’ community-driven mission, says Mekbib Gemeda, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion. “EVMS was built by the community, and for the community, to address the need for better healthcare in Hampton Roads,” says Mr. Gemeda. “To see our medical students who look like them, who have come through the journey like them is an important aspect of imaging where you can be and what you can do in life.”

Portsmouth Public Schools officials say it’s been a great experience for their faculty, staff and students.

“The support and energy coming from the EVMS faculty, staff, and students in putting this academy together has been amazing,” says Daniel Lewandowski, Program Specialist of Secondary Science at Portsmouth Public Schools. “We feel very fortunate to partner with EVMS and know that the students, faculty and staff will inspire our students to be a part of the future health-sciences workforce.”