North Jersey High School Students Graduate from Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University MINDS Program

August 26, 2019

The Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University is proud to celebrate the graduation of 15 outstanding high school students who participated in the Medical Internship Navigating Diversity & Science (MINDS) Program.

“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,” said Bonita Stanton, M.D., founding dean of the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University.

Fifteen students were selected from a competitive applicant pool of nearly 300 New Jersey high school students who are from underrepresented backgrounds and engaged in hands-on learning

which included: how to suture with surgeons, motivational interviewing with clinical psychologists and working in the Emergency Room at Hackensack University Medical Center to interview patients affected by homelessness, domestic violence and substance abuse.

“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 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.

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.

Elijah Austin, a rising senior at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Edison, NJ who learned about the MINDS program at a college fair, said she plans to be an obstetrician.

“I’ve always wanted to pursue a medical career and I thought this would be a good eye opener,” she said. “Talking to the various medical professionals, getting a look at what drew them to their specialty, it’s inspiring.”

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

“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 me to this program.”

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 Union County Academy for Allied Health Sciences
  • 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