A group of Planada middle school students is getting a jump-start on learning about careers in the medical field.
Forty-two seventh- and eighth-grade students at Cesar E. Chavez Middle School are part of the Medical Academy for Students Mastering Technology, Education, Research and Science, better known as the M.A.S.T.E.R.S. program.
The goal of the program, according to school officials, is to prepare students for high school as well as college-level courses and entrance requirements. It is also designed to increase student knowledge of scientific, technology and health-related topics, and to develop skills that will enhance their academic and social performance.
Students get the opportunity to hear speakers in the health care field and participate in field trips. On Friday, the students received a visit from Dr. Daniel Ozeran, an oncologist at Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera.
Ozeran talked to students about the evolution of medical care and about the academic path they will need to take to achieve a profession in the health care field.
Ozeran was invited to campus by Teresa Moreno, an eighth-grader in the M.A.S.T.E.R.S. program and a cancer survivor. Ozeran is Moreno’s oncologist. He treated Moreno when she was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in her left kidney at the age of 5.
Moreno now dreams of becoming an oncologist and treating pediatric patients similar to herself. For her, the junior medical academy is the first step toward that goal.
The M.A.S.T.E.R.S. program, according to Principal Ildefonso Nava, is not a club, but a rigorous program that requires admission. Students must maintain a 2.8 grade-point average or better, write a personal statement and have at least two recommendation letters from previous or current teachers.
“We need to guide students at a young age,” Nava said, “so they will have a good idea of what’s required in the field. I am pretty excited about them finding the avenues they want to pursue.”
Before starting the program in January, students did research on illnesses and health disparities that affect their community to spark interest in the class.
During the program’s first five months, the interest from students and their parents has built up, Nava said.
In June, the first group of the junior medical academy will graduate. Also in the next few weeks, the middle school will be interviewing sixth-graders for next year’s junior medical academy cohort.
The middle school is a feeder school to Le Grand High School. Nava said the M.A.S.T.E.R.S. program prepares students who are interested in joining the high school’s also newly formed medical academy.
The high school’s academy students get the opportunity to shadow health care professionals and attend conferences. According to Javier Martinez, principal at Le Grand, relationships are being built with Mercy Medical Center, Golden Valley Health Centers, and area colleges and universities.
“Growing our own medical professionals is necessary,” Martinez said during a Merced County Health Care Consortium meeting earlier this month. “We want to equip these students so that they can come back to their communities and serve.”
Martinez said students have expressed interest in various professions in the health care field, including in emergency medical services and mental health – two areas, he said, that need more bicultural professionals.