Health and science internships focus on Philly teens to help diversify STEM fields

This year’s College of Physicians Teva interns presenting a poster on gun violence. (Courtesy of Jacqui Bowman)

This year’s College of Physicians Teva interns presenting a poster on gun violence. (Courtesy of Jacqui Bowman)

This time of year, many students are beginning to think about summer internships. One organization is trying to make the science and technology fields more diverse by giving Philadelphia high schoolers  a chance to explore careers in health and science.

The College of Physicians of Philadelphia offers a range of internships for those from underserved communities. The most popular is an internship open to Philadelphia teens who have been affected by violence.

The program, underwritten by Teva Pharmaceuticals, draws students from across the city. All have an overarching interest in health and science careers, with a goal of using those careers to give back to their community.

Quincy Greene, the youth support coordinator at the College of Physicians, runs two of their internships, including the one on violence. At a time when more research on gun violence is needed, he said, these teens are in a unique position. Greene recently had the students dissect a paper on gun violence and meet with the author.

“I think the researcher was surprised at how much they understood,” he said. “They were actually able to point out areas that this researcher could think about in the future.”

For example, the students noted that researchers would miss many people affected by gun violence if they used only land lines to contact people; they should be using cell phones too. And the interns often knew what questions to ask to capture the most useful data, Greene said.

Brionna Robinson, a high school senior from North Philadelphia, applied for the internship at the recommendation of her school counselor. She wants a job in the medical field some day and has gotten an up-close view of what that might look like through field trips to hospitals and meetings with doctors and other health professionals. Like the other students in the program, her life has been touched by violence. Her cousin was shot and died.

“That affected me a lot … I really loved my cousin,” she said. “So that was really sad for me.”

Last year, all of the students in the program who applied to college were accepted by at least one of their choices. That’s an important first step in adding underrepresented voices to health and science fields, Greene said.

“It’s funny, I don’t know if they see themselves that way right now,” he said. “But in a few years, they’ll look back and be like, ‘Oh, wow, I actually got to do that, and now I’m writing a paper that may be published one day that could address these issues.’ ”

The program runs from July to June and is currently accepting applications.

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