Hartford Students Find Pipeline to Health Care Careers

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Jennifer Doak-Mathewson

3 min read

A cohort of 20 exceptional high school seniors from greater Hartford celebrated the end of an exciting year working toward their goals to become health care professionals. On May 20, 2015, State Rep. Douglas McCrory, D-Hartford, gave the keynote address to graduates of UConn Health’s Senior Doctors Academy.

The Senior Doctors Academy is funded in part by the Aetna Health Professions Partnership Initiative and managed through UConn Health’s Health Career Opportunity Programs. The ceremony also recognized nearly 100 high school and middle school graduates of UConn’s other Aetna HPPI programs, including the Great Explorations Program, Jumpstart Program, and the Junior Doctors Academy.

Faculty awarded ceremonial white coats to graduates of the Senior Doctors Academy.

“We are tremendously proud of our graduates for their hard work and investment in their futures,” says Marja Hurley, MD, director of UConn Health’s Health Career Opportunity Programs. “The white coat is a symbol of our integrity as health care professionals. We honor our high school graduates with white coats to recognize their academic achievements and give them a tangible reminder of their potential.”

The Senior Doctors Academy is geared toward students who are interested in careers in medicine, dental medicine, and biomedical research. Students attend academy classes on Saturdays during the school year and an intensive six-week enrichment academy over the summer focusing on pre-calculus, calculus, biology, physics, anatomy, physiology, and writing. Additionally, workshops and seminars are held for their parents and guardians.

“With support from Aetna, we’re preparing low-income students and students who will be the first in their families to attend college for the rigors they will face in a university or college setting. Our Doctors Academy identifies bright students who want to enter health careers and gives them the skills, resources, and confidence to succeed,” says Hurley.

UConn Health instituted the Health Career Opportunity Programs in 1996 to increase diversity in health professions and address health disparities among underrepresented populations in Connecticut. The Aetna Foundation established a generous endowment in 2005 to support UConn Health’s effective pipeline programs like Senior Doctors Academy. Additional support for HCOP programs is provided by the William and Alice Mortensen Foundation and other generous donors.

I'Jaaz Muhammad
Graduating senior I’Jaaz Muhammad

For graduating senior I’Jaaz Muhammad, the day marked the culmination of a year of hard work and a pivotal moment for his future. Muhammad received the distinguished John and Valerie Rowe Health Professions Scholarship to attend UConn next year and enroll in the prestigious Honors Program.

​“My experience at this academy was very helpful in implanting a spirit of investigation and excellence,​and I would very much recommend applying for and attending this program. I learned many new things and met many wonderful people who inspired me greatly,” says Muhammad.

All of the graduates will attend college in the fall; 11 of them will join Muhammad at UConn. Six will attend other institutions in Connecticut and two will attend universities out of state.

“We are grateful for Aetna’s long-term support for the Aetna Health Professions Partnership Initiative and to John and Valerie Rowe for their visionary scholars program,” says UConn Foundation President and CEO Josh Newton. “We have launched an ambitious initiative to raise $150 million in student support over the next five years to create more opportunities for promising students like I’Jaaz Muhammad.”

Jonathan at an event in Hartford CT
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