Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine (TouroCOM) graduated 71 high school students from its unique two-year after school program, MedAchieve, last week. The students received accolades and certificates from TouroCOM and their DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) mentors, along with stethoscopes and lab coats.

Afterward they retired to a “specialties fair” in the cafeteria where they mingled with school officials and their classmates and mentors, while learning about medical specialties from TouroCOM’s student clubs. The high school students are mostly underrepresented minorities interested in careers in science and medicine. They attend a variety of schools in New York City—mainly in Harlem but a few in other boroughs.

“I came to MedAchieve because I wanted to get a glimpse of what medical school would be like and test the waters a little bit,” said Kayla Simpson, who attends University Heights High School in the South Bronx and is headed to Howard University in the fall. Simpson said she hopes to become a cardiac surgeon. “I love Med-Achieve and I feel that high school students should definitely try to do it.”

About half of the Med-Achieve graduates attend Harlem’s Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics and A. Philip Randolph High School. Other Harlem high schools represented include the Frederick Douglass Academy High School, Harlem Renaissance High School, Harlem Village Academy High School, the Young Women’s Leadership School of East Harlem, and Cristo Rey New York High School.

At their after school sessions, each student is paired with a DO student mentor who works alongside them as they learn through lectures and labs the foundations of medicine and how the body responds to stress, injury and disease. If the students meet certain criteria after college graduation, they are guaranteed a medical school interview at TouroCOM.

Shaila Cuellar, a junior at Saint Jean Baptiste High School, said she attended MedAchieve to gain insight into the medical field and that the program was “an amazing experience because I was able to work with a mentor who was on the medical track. Because of her I feel like I want to pursue a medical career and in the future I would like to be a biomedical engineer.”

Having a mentor to work with is a key benefit of the program. “When I learned it was a one-on-one mentorship kind of program I decided it would be a great opportunity to talk to somebody about my interests,” said Kontessa Camacho, a student at Bard High School Early College, who plans to become a forensic pathologist. “I’ve had a great experience. I’ve learned a copious amount of information…a lot about CPR and different types of medical treatments and types of diseases and how they spread.”