NUTLEY, NJ - Fourteen New Jersey high school students graduated from the Medical Internship Navigating Diversity & Science (MINDS) Program at Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University on Thursday, Aug. 22. The students were chosen from a pool of almost 300 applicants to the internship program, now in its second year. This community-based pipeline program aligns with the School of Medicine mission to strengthen community, promote diversity, and increase the number of underrepresented students in medicine.

The students’ research projects focused on important community issues which they ultimately presented to a three-judge panel. They addressed: noise pollution, water pollution, mortality rates in pregnant women, drug abuse, mental health in adolescence, and disparities impacting people with cancer.

Among the participants was Victoria Morgan, a rising junior at Union County Academy for Allied Health Sciences in Scotch Plains, who is considering a career as a nurse practitioner.

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“I was interested in how health care professionals play a huge role in health care disparities,” she said. “I was intrigued by what I can do, beyond healing people. The new health professional is someone doing things in their community, advocating for people, helping them -- that’s what attracted to me this program.”

Bonita Stanton, M.D., founding dean of the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University, said: “Our mission is to create a physician workforce that is capable of delivering excellent clinical care and optimal health to all individuals – irrespective of their socioeconomic status - and one that reflects the communities we are so privileged to serve.’’

“This internship provides gifted students with an opportunity to experience hands-on learning from dedicated physicians and allied health professionals from underrepresented communities and helps us achieve a goal of working to ensure future physicians mirror the communities where they practice,’’ said David S. Kountz, M.D., MBA, FACP, Associate Dean of Diversity and Equity at Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University.

The MINDS program, which places strong emphasis on the social determinants of health, includes physician-led workshops, hands-on skills labs, field trips, public speaking instruction, a pre-test and post-test to gauge progress, SAT preparation, and a capstone research project. A key goal of the innovative curriculum is to eliminate disparities in health outcomes regardless of socio-economic and other factors.

“We are committed to supporting students from underrepresented communities so they can harness their talents and help create a field of medical professionals as diverse as our population in New Jersey and beyond,’’ said Asia McCleary-Gaddy, Ph.D, Director of Diversity & Equity at Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University.

The following students from New Jersey high schools participated:

  • Kwamivi Amedeya -- East Orange STEM Academy
  • Elijah Austin -- St. Thomas Aquinas High School, Edison
  • Anahi Flores -- Hackensack High School
  • Ashley Hyppolite -- Benedictine Academy, Elizabeth
  • Ines Kenfack Donfack -- Newark Tech High School
  • Teju Keshiro -- Union High School
  • Mikayla Montano -- Columbia High School, Maplewood
  • Victoria Morgan -- Academy for Allied Health Sciences (UCVTS), Scotch Plains
  • Chukwudumebi Nwankwo -- Old Bridge High School
  • Luciana Salomone -- Belleville High School
  • Izabre Springer -- People’s Preparatory Charter School in Newark
  • Paola Tenezaca -- Hackensack High School
  • Jordan Thibault -- Newark Tech High School
  • Aaron Wenger -- West Orange High School

During the program, the students experienced hands-on learning that included how to suture with surgeons and motivational interviewing with clinical psychologists. They also worked in the Emergency Room at Hackensack University Medical Center to interview patients affected by homelessness, domestic violence, and substance abuse.