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Delhi Medical Academy hopes to groom next generation of medical professionals
Delhi medical pic1
Delhi seventh graders from the newly established Junior Academy of Medical Sciences dissect a pig heart on Thursday. The dissection ties into seventh grade science curriculum dealing with the human bodys cardiovascular and pulmonary systems. JAMS hopes to increase interest and access to medical fields for Delhi students. These students will continue in the program through high school graduation. - photo by JONATHAN MCCORKELL / The Journal

When Dr. Eloisa Fuentes, a former Delhi resident and Livingston High graduate, was in college she would hear her classmates talking about career ambitions in advanced medical fields. After some time she decided that if they could reach for the stars then she could too. After she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology at California State University, Fresno in 1997 (magna cum laude), she moved onto the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine and then Stanford for her residency.

In 2003, she graduated and quickly moved into the field of pathology. Now she is a consultant pathologist for biotechnology companies in the Bay Area.

Throughout her advanced educational experiences she said she always felt a calling to give back. “I’ve made it a priority to give back to my community by supporting and creating efforts with the main focus to increase educational attainment by members of traditionally disadvantaged communities,” said Fuentes. “I was a seventh grader in Delhi over 20 years ago, but the average level of education of a Delhi citizen (few college grads) and variety of professionals in the community (mostly employed by the schools) has not changed much since then. This little town is full of kids with great potential but many social/environmental disadvantages.”

Fuentes, along with Delhi Unified School District Director of Curriculum and Instruction Sue Gomes, have developed on innovative new program aimed at opening doors for Delhi students into the medical field.

The program, in its first year, is known as the Junior Academy of Medical Sciences. Currently about 30 students are registered in the academy. This first cohort of students will go through the program until graduation from Delhi High School.

Fuentes said the half-decade of medical training even before college will suit them well.

“The JAMS students will have at least five years head start compared to their peers in considering and exploring a career in the medical field. By the time they get to college they will likely have made up their minds about their major and their experiences will help them stay on track,” she said. “When I was in medical school a significant percent of the students had family members who were practicing physicians, scientists, dentists, etc. and had gotten career advice and experiences shadowing their work. I expect the JAMS program will help to create similar types of experiences for the children of Delhi — like a surrogate medical professional family.”

JAMS courses this year include two class periods. One period will meet core science content requirements including a full lab component, scientific inquiry and experiments.

The other period is an elective that will include leadership and organizational skills, medical terminology, classroom exploration into medical career fields, research studies and projects, tutorials and guest speakers.

Seventh grade science and JAMS teacher Julie Aguilar said so far this year the students have dissected a worm, participated in community service projects for the needy and military service members stationed overseas. They cohort also attended a field trip to UCSF Medical School where they received training in medical terminology, CPR and participated in an emergency room simulation, as well as spoke with practicing doctors and current UCSF students.

“Dr. Fuentes is helping us to build those connections with the medical field. It has been a tremendous experience for the kids,” said Aguilar.

Many of the academy students appreciate the opportunity to explore medical science.

“I like doing the dissections and labs, and I hope to become a general practitioner,” said Marissa Machado.

Fellow JAMS students Crystal Gonzalez hopes to become a pediatrician.

“I plan on staying in this program all the way through high school. I’m very thankful for this,” she said.

According to Aguilar, students are so interested in JAMS that the entire cohort has re-enrolled for next year.

“We’ve even allowed a few more students in,” said Aguilar.

JAMS has already begun taking applications for next year’s cohort.

While there appears to be growing interest in the program from students, Fuentes hopes that interest grows in the medical community as well.

“There is much work to be done, this is a grass roots effort and the Delhi JAMS leaders are angels to take on such an enormous challenge. The JAMS program needs help from the medical professionals of surrounding communities, local universities and businesses,” she said.