Inspiring Medicine’s Future M.I.N.D.S.

high school students participating in the MINDS program

September 26, 2022

Clinical Contributors to this story:

Each summer, select high school juniors and students across New Jersey have the opportunity to explore a career in health care, thanks to the M.I.N.D.S. Program offered by Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine.

The M.I.N.D.S. (Medical Internship Navigating Diversity and Science) Program at Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine, supported by Hackensack Meridian Health Foundation, seeks out promising high-school candidates who are often under-represented in medicine, including those who identify as first-generation American, African American, Latino/Hispanic American and Native American (American Indian, Alaska Native, or Native Hawaiian) or those who are financially disadvantaged.

M.I.N.D.S, a six-week paid internship for high school juniors and seniors interested in pursuing a career in medicine, allows students to learn about different medical professions, health disparities in New Jersey and the social determinants of health. Through Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine, funds are raised to support this educational and invigorating opportunity. 

This past summer’s schedule included discussion of brain dissections, public speaking, medical research, social determinants of health, internal medicine, radiology and a list of other topics, all taught by experts from the medical school and the Hackensack Meridian Health network. The students also worked on research projects over the length of the course – and even received all-important SAT preparation classes to prepare them for their futures. A $1,200 stipend, funded by Hackensack Meridian Health Foundation, was provided to each student. 

“This kind of program is so critical for the future of medicine not just at our School, but across the educational landscape,” says David S. Kountz, M.D., M.B.A., M.A.C.P., senior associate dean, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. “Having better representation from all groups is essential to optimizing the quality of care and lowering health care costs in the US, and the health care industry will never achieve its full potential without full representation from all of the socio-demographic groups in the country.”

Jaden Barker, a participating junior at the Academy of Allied Health Sciences in Plainfield, said he already has plans to pursue interventional cardiology as a career. He is inspired to take the path because some family members have heart conditions, and also because he is “hands-on” and likes to get directly involved in fixing problems. To him, the early training through the M.I.N.D.S. program is just what the doctor ordered.

“It’s very interactive; it’s very didactic,” says Jaden. “It’s very different from other kinds of learning – and that’s a great thing.”

To learn how you can support the M.I.N.D.S. Program or Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine, contact Helen Cunning, senior vice president, Network Development, at helen.cunning@hmhn.org.

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