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    HOPE Program Exposes Underrepresented High School Students to Healthcare Careers

    Longwood senior praises experience confirming her desire to become a doctor

    STONY BROOK, NY, May 15, 2013 –  When Phuong Nguyen, 18, heard about the Health Occupations Partnership for Excellence (HOPE) program at Stony Brook University two years ago, she was eager to apply. The Longwood High School senior always thought she wanted to be a doctor; she was about to find out. 

    Now, two years later, Nguyen has graduated from the HOPE program, and her career ambitions have been confirmed. In the fall, she will head to SUNY College at Oneonta with a $23,000 scholarship to start her undergraduate studies, as she progresses toward her ultimate dream of becoming a physician. She hopes eventually to transfer to Stony Brook University to complete her education. 

    On May 14, Nguyen joined a group of nine high school seniors in graduating from the HOPE program after two years of enriching and exciting exploration of healthcare career options. HOPE is Stony Brook University’s innovative program that provides underrepresented high school students with exposure to health careers. Many of the students come from economically challenged families in the Brentwood, Wyandanch and Longwood school districts. 

    HOPE 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, 97 percent of HOPE’s graduates have been accepted to college, said Yvonne Spreckels, Director of Community Relations at SBUH, who coordinates the effort. 

    “The HOPE program has a demonstrated track record of success,” said Reuven Pasternak, MD, Senior Vice President for Health Systems at Stony Brook Medicine and Chief Executive Officer of Stony Brook University Hospital. “These students receive a rare opportunity to get hands-on exposure to healthcare career options in a way that few high school students get to do.” 

    Guest speaker at the graduation ceremony was David Ferguson, PhD, Distinguished Service Professor and Chair of the Department of Technology and Society in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Stony Brook University and Associate Provost for Diversity and Inclusion. He shared Stephen R. Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” with the audience of more than 60 students, teachers, guidance counselors, and school administrators. 

    The HOPE graduation class of 2013 consisted of Nguyen and her fellow Longwood seniors  Serena Buckholz, Lillian Cruz and Haiqah Malik, along with Brentwood seniors Ana Portillo, Erick Sorto, Gabriela Velasquez, Ashley Crespo and Carmeline Jean-Francois. Crespo received a $37,000 scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania this fall, where she will start her journey toward becoming a physician, while Cruz will be a pre-med student at Brown. 

    As she reflected on her experiences in the HOPE program, Nguyen recounted as among her most memorable the opportunity to see surgery being performed in the Operating Room, and seeing organs that had been donated to science in the Anatomy Laboratory. “It was surreal to see real organs inside of bodies that had been donated to science, but it was astounding and I can't wait to have the opportunity to do work in the anatomy lab during medical school,” she said. 

    But for her, the experience was as much about personal enrichment as it was career education. “I've met with professors, doctors, medical students, and other professionals in the medical field,” Nguyen said. “I've had the chance to get hands-on experience in the respiratory lab, where my peers and I learned how to properly intubate on a dummy. I got CPR certified and have been exposed to every area of the medical field from research, social work, marketing, technology and even the clinical side.” 

    I've learned a lot of factual information, but there's more to it than that. HOPE has taught me things about myself and about life that I will never forget. I've met doctors who came from poor families, bad neighborhoods, and bad circumstances. They told stories about their struggles and how they had to separate themselves from the negative influences in their lives to find the strength within themselves to push forward toward their dreams.… They all spoke about how hard it was to become a doctor, constantly stressing that to succeed, you have to truly want it and work for it….” 

    “The triumphs of the doctors I have met have inspired and motivated me to work hard to fulfill my dreams,” Nguyen said. “I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to be a part of this great program and I am hopeful that it will continue to help other students as it has helped me.” 

    Photo Caption: Members of the HOPE (Health Occupations Partnership for Excellence) program graduating class of 2013 at Stony Brook University are, left to right: Lillian Cruz, Ana Portillo, Ashley Crespo, Phuong Nguyen, Haiqah Malik, Carmeline Jean-Francois, Gabriela Velasquez, Serena Buckholz and Erick Sorto.