Inspiring Detroit’s brightest to pursue careers in medicine

May 5, 2016  //  FOUND IN: News
Detroit Health Commissioner Dr. Abdul El-Sayed joins Cass Tech and U-M Medical School students at Doctors of Tomorrow celebration.

Detroit Health Commissioner Dr. Abdul El-Sayed joins Cass Tech and U-M Medical School students at Doctors of Tomorrow celebration.

At the year-end celebration of the Doctors of Tomorrow program, which is designed to inspire minority students’ interest in science and medicine, the transformative impact of pairing first-year medical school students with 9th graders was evident.

“You showed us so many amazing things,” said Cass Technical High School senior Dominique Witten who plans to study biomedical engineering at the U-M. “It changed the way I thought about my future. I now know I can change the world in so many ways.”

All of the nearly two dozen Cass Technical High School students who joined the program four years ago are going to college. But Dr. Jonathan F. Finks, associate professor of surgery, who founded the program says he won’t be ready to spike the football until one of those bright minds is accepted to medical school.

At the May 4 event in the school’s media center, he thanked the University of Michigan Medical School students, Cass Technical School principal Lisa Phillips, parents and teachers for their commitment to the program.

Through mentoring by U-M medical school students and hands-on training in the hospital setting, the Doctors of Tomorrow program is expected to increase racial diversity in medicine by recruiting and nurturing high-achieving students.

But the principal heaped praise on Finks who looked to Detroit to provide a pipeline of talent that will make health care better.

“Maize and Blue, University of Michigan, you deliver,” Phillips said. “Because you followed through you’ve made a difference. Thank you for staying the course with students who deserve it.”

Medical school graduate Steve Weinberg stayed in touch with his mentee Theo Chillis even after that first year and they’re about to face another transition together. Weinberg heads to the University of North Carolina for residency training, as Chillis comes to Ann Arbor to start college at the U-M.

“Everyone wants to see you succeed,” said keynote speaker Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, a U-M graduate and Detroit’s new health commissioner. “While it is hard work, you have a lot of people who know you and the commitment you’ve made. You’re our future.”

El-Sayed, a Detroit native and Rhodes Scholar, described doctoring as more than diagnosing and treating disease.

“Being a doctor is a commitment to your community. A commitment to bettering the lives around you,” he said as he takes on the task of reinventing a collapsed city health department in the great American city.

The event included a poster session and Capstone research presentations by the newest class of Doctors of Tomorrow students.

This year students examined youth violence, obesity, inequality in health care, hunger and nutrition, with the nutrition group building a vertical garden at the high school under the direction of Artesian Farms.