Med students inspire fun and curiosity of the brain at Reach Out to Youth

February 28, 2024


children participating at the event.

On February 25, medical students from the Grand Rapids, Lansing and Flint campuses spent their Saturday volunteering with nearly sixty school-age children at the College of Human Medicine’s tenth annual Reach Out to Youth event.

This year’s theme “Map Your Mind” gave young learners an opportunity to learn how the brain works through interactive stations, brain games and presentations by the medical students. Parents attended workshops with community leaders and health professionals.

Building a pathway to medicine

Reach Out to Youth is hosted by the college’s Student National Medical Association (SNMA) chapter and the Urban League of West Michigan and involved about 80 volunteers on the day of the event.

Reach Out to Youth cochairsPlanning began last fall for event co-chairs Nathan Hankerson and Quynh Tran and their planning committee. Despite hectic schedules in their second year of medical school, Hankerson and Tran were inspired by the positive influence they could have on young learners.

“It is so important to have these kinds of accessible programs for our underserved youth to show them that they belong in this space and can have a seat at the table too,” said Hankerson. “Knowing that if we could have an impact on just one kid – by showing them that science is fun and being a doctor is exciting – then it would all be worth it.”

Tran recounts a conversation she had with a parent at the event. Prior to the start of the program, the parent inquired about her child’s aspirations of becoming a doctor. The child was hesitant to answer. At the end of the program, her son radiated enthusiasm as he declared, “Yes, I want to be a doctor now!”

“In that moment I thought, this is why we do what we do – to inspire our underserved youth, letting them see and know they can be a doctor, too,” said Tran.

Celebrating 10 years at MSU

Carol King recieving her awardReach Out to Youth’s founder, Carolyn King, MD, a child psychiatrist in Grand Rapids and a clinical assistant professor in the College of Human Medicine, started the program when she was a member of the SNMA as a medical student at Wayne State.

Ten years ago, her program expanded to include the College of Human Medicine in Grand Rapids. Since the program came to MSU, it has reached more than a 1,600 young learners.

To mark the milestone, Dr. King was presented a special tribute award from the Governor’s Office recognizing the program’s “dedication and hard work in the fields of science and medicine, specifically reaching youth.”

Next year, the College of Human Medicine plans to expand the program by also bringing Reach Out to Youth to the Flint Community Campus. 

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