KC career program is just what the doctor ordered

Cholesterol looks good.

Gotta get that blood pressure down, though. And you might want to buy a shorter belt in the next few months.

These are the kinds of things that 63 students from nine Kansas City-area high schools could someday find themselves saying to their patients while making a good living and helping those patients live healthier lives.

The students, who are considered to be at risk because of low family income and other factors that could impede their progress, took part in “Med Student for a Day” on Friday.

The event was hosted by the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences with support from local organizations Higher M-Pact, which serves high-risk, inner-city youth, and Awesome Ambitions, which serves young women.

The goal was to give the students a hands-on look at what it takes to study in medical school in hopes of eventually wearing a white coat and stethoscope, wielding a scalpel or working in a growing number of other medical specialties — many of which are increasingly technology-intensive — or deciding to take another academic direction altogether.

About 50 KCUMB students and roughly 20 faculty members participated by leading and assisting in hands-on workshops.

“Whoever wants to be the patient first, go ahead and lie down on your stomach,” physician Josh Cox, an associate professor and chair of family and community medicine, told students during a workshop on osteopathic manipulative medicine.

The students saw, touched and listened to functional descriptions of human organs and a skeleton.

“We’re gonna scramble up the bones, ’cause you guys are gonna tell me where they go,” Anthony Olinger, associate professor of anatomy, told a group of students surrounding him while he stood at a gurney with a dismantled skeleton on it.

The students also heard presentations on subjects including clinical tools, pathology, microbiology and human patient simulation.

Imani Hill, a junior at Hogan Preparatory Academy, said she attended because she had been interested in the medical field. She wasn’t squeamish in the anatomy lab.

“I like it,” she said. “I could do this.”

Crishon Jones thinks he could, too. He’s a junior at Northeast High School.

“I’m interested in doing something along this path, as a psychiatrist,” he said.

All this learning was the fruit of an idea that had occurred to Kameelah Rahmaan, a 33-year-old, fourth-year student at The Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences. Rahmaan started the program in 2011, with enthusiastic support from her fellow classmates and the school’s faculty, she said.

She grew up in Pomona, Calif., didn’t finish high school, got a GED, had a baby at 20, was a single mom, went on to community college and finally made her way to KCUMB.

“For me it’s a personal thing,” Rahmaan said of having founded the program. “When I was their age, I didn’t have a lot of focus, so I have similar experience. If success does not look like your experience, then it’s even more distant.”

That kind of distance in the minds of young students is what physician Bruce Dubin, the medical school’s executive vice president for academic affairs, wants to shorten.

“Becoming a doctor is about fulfilling a dream,” Dubin said. “I’m taking care of someone’s mother, father, brother, child. It’s an oath to care for loved ones.”

The doctor as role model has changed, he said, largely because of managed care and the pressure it puts on doctors to take less time to do more work, leaving them with less time to spend with each patient.

Programs like this give young students a closer look at doctors and students who will become doctors, he said.