NEW HAVEN Conn. (WTNH) — The COVID-19 outbreak has exposed just how hard diseases hit minority communities. A local minister realized that medical outcomes are better when people of color are treated by medical professionals of color and set out to make a change.
Rev. Dr. Leroy Odinga Perry, the pastor of St. Stephens AME Zion Church in Branford, serves as a Cultural Ambassador to Clinical Research at Yale School of Medicine. He proposed giving a diverse group of teenagers from all over the world four-week summer virtual internships with the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation in the Yale School of Medicine. They began on July 19.
Of the 200 that applied only 36 students were chosen. About 35% of the students are minorities and half are female.
“It’s designed to bring high school students who are underrepresented or from rural backgrounds to let them gain experience in clinical research,” says Dean Nancy J. Brown, MD of the Yale School of Medicine.
“If we could start recruiting young people, minority people, and let them explore this field and introduce this field and coach them that we could really change health care in America and maybe the world,” says Reverend Perry.
The internship is an opportunity for these young people to be exposed to careers in fields that they may never have been aware of. The goal is to work on creating a health system where patients of color are more frequently treated by people who look like them.
Student feedback after one week has been amazing.
“They’re learning about careers and research that they had no ideas about the drug discovery process,” says Tesheia Johnson, director of the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation.
It gives the interns access to top Yale researchers and doctors.
“Two of the 15-year-olds say that they feel like they’ve gotten more science and medicine than they have had in high school so far,” Johnson adds.
Some have already expressed a change in career plans to the medical setting. So far, it’s proving to be a win-win for the researchers and most of all the students.
“For them going forward into academics into college it’s just monumental to be able to say that you were an internship program at Yale, that you got to meet world-renowned doctors, that you got to have a dialogue and conversation and do a project,” says Reverend Perry.
Organizers are making a template to allow other groups to teach and inspire through this model, as well.