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    HOPE Program Offers Exposure to Healthcare Careers for Underrepresented Students

    Program experiences and memories will last a lifetime, students say

    STONY BROOK, NY, May 22, 2012 – Justin Colson, a senior at Longwood High School, found Stony Brook University’s Health Occupations Partnership for Excellence (HOPE) program to be a great learning experience that opened his eyes to a bigger world of medicine than he ever knew existed.

    “In HOPE, the knowledge and experience we gained reached far beyond the classroom,” said Colson, who will attend the State University of New York at Buffalo in the fall, majoring in Biology. “Through lectures and tours we experienced how the hospital is made up of much more than just doctors and nurses.”

    Colson joined a class of 18 high school seniors in a graduation ceremony for the HOPE program on May 8 at Stony Brook University. HOPE is the

    Priscilla King, a senior at Wyandanch Memorial High School, is all smiles after graduating from the HOPE program at Stony Brook University Hospital. She plans to attend SUNY Old Westbury and major in biochemistry. “I feel like I could do a lot of good and my ultimate goal is to come up with a cure or medication for any or even all childhood illnesses,” she said.

    University’s innovative program that exposes underrepresented high school students to health career options. Many of the students come from economically challenged families in the Brentwood, Wyandanch, Riverhead and Longwood school districts.

    The students go through a two-year experience that requires a commitment over 36 weeks on Tuesdays during the school year. Included are educational sessions, hospital tours, mentoring sessions with hospital leaders and an SAT prep course. Since the program began in 2005, 100 percent of HOPE’s 59 graduates have been accepted in college, said Yvonne Spreckels, Director of Community Relations at SBUH, who coordinates the effort.

    “That is a remarkable track record of success,” said Fred Sganga, Interim Chief Executive Officer at Stony Brook University Hospital. “These students are receiving a tremendous boost to their academic careers and an insider’s look at healthcare career options that few high school students have the privilege of receiving.”

    For Colson, his mentorship experience gave him a valuable glimpse into how hospitals operate.

    “My enriching experience ranged from observing several surgeries to knowing how the computers are maintained in each department,” he said. “I learned that there’s a lot of nooks and crannies where some impressive behind the scenes things occur. I’ve also learned that the hospital is a system that requires every part to work together.”

    The experience didn’t convince Colson that he wants a career in medicine, however. That decision will come later, he said, after he starts college this fall.

    “These experiences have proved to me that my stomach isn’t as strong as I thought it was and that the medical field may not be for me,” he said. “However, I enjoyed each experience and have taken some knowledge with me…. I will be studying Biology as my major to help me determine what I want to be in life.”

    For Elijah Conklin, it’s a different story. After completing the HOPE program, the Longwood senior decided he wants to become a doctor. He has applied to several City University of New York schools and plans to study Pre Med and Biology. Initially he plans to become an RN.

    “All of the information that the doctors and physicians have provided gave me the foundation of the knowledge gained about the medical field,” Conklin said. “One of the best experiences in the classroom was becoming CPR certified,” and learning about research in the area of genetics.

    He cites his mentorship with various healthcare professionals at SBUH as the best experience of the program. “From the burn unit, to the cancer center, along with the heart center, the doctors that mentored me and my peers provided us with hands-on information that has been more than useful,” Conklin said. “My most memorable mentor experience was in the OR, watching different operations and procedures.”

    Melissa Granados, another Longwood senior, has also decided to become a doctor. She earned a $12,000 scholarship to St. Joseph’s College, where she will study Pre Med and Biology as she pursues her dream of becoming a pediatrician.

    “Overall my experience in the HOPE program has taught me to take up challenges and it has motivated me to fight for what I want,” Granados said. “I’ve always wanted to be a pediatrician ever since I was seven years old, and being in the HOPE program was like a dream come true.

    “My experience allowed me to get a better understanding of what being in the medical field is really about,” she said. “Coming here was always so much fun because there was always something new that awaited us. These memories will last a lifetime.”

    Colson had parting words of advice for juniors in the HOPE program. “It goes by fast, so just enjoy yourself,” he said. “Try to learn all that you can, because the smallest amount of knowledge will go far.”

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    About Stony Brook University Hospital:

    Stony Brook University Hospital (SBUH) is Long Island’s premier academic medical center. With 597 beds, SBUH serves as the region’s only tertiary care center and Level 1 Trauma Center, and is home to the Stony Brook Heart Institute, Stony Brook Cancer Center, Stony Brook Long Island Children’s Hospital, Stony Brook Neurosciences Institute, and Stony Brook Digestive Disorders Institute. SBUH also encompasses Suffolk County’s only Level 4 Regional Perinatal Center, state-designated AIDS Center, state-designated Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program, state-designated Burn Center, the Christopher Pendergast ALS Center of Excellence, and Kidney Transplant Center. It is home of the nation’s first Pediatric Multiple Sclerosis Center. To learn more, visit www.stonybrookmedicine.edu.