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Lowcountry students gain experiences in Summer Youth Employee Program

Mikie Hayes| | August 17, 2017

President Cole and students
Photos provided
MUSC President Dr. David Cole took time to meet and talk to student participants of the 2017 MUSC Summer Youth Employment Program at a gathering on July 21.

Amauri Bowman, a student at Francis Marion University and participant in MUSC’s Summer Youth Employment Program, will be forever changed after having witnessed a life-or-death scenario - an experience that not only ended well but deepened her desire to become a nurse.

Fifteen Lowcountry college and high school students gain valuable work experiences working at MUSC with the 2017 Summer Youth Employee Program.  
Amari Manigault, a Wando High School student, worked in the Department of Public Health Sciences. Manigault hopes to someday work in health care.

“They brought in a crash cart and shocked the patient. It was scary,” the 19-year-old said, recalling the situation at work that week. “The patient’s life was right there. Their heart stopped beating right in front of us. It was like, ‘Oh my God.’”

Bowman shared these feelings with fellow students while discussing the triumphs, as well as the challenges they’d faced, at their MUSC jobs that week.

Fifteen African-American students - 11 of whom attend college and four from local high schools - are part of an innovative leadership-building program sponsored by the Department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and overseen by Cody Michael Henderson, program coordinator for the department, under the direction of Willette Burnham-Williams, Ph.D., university chief diversity officer.  

Managers from various areas of the enterprise mentor students and expose them to the many ways their work directly contributes to the mission of the Medical University. From biomedical engineering and cardiovascular perfusion to Information Solutions and the eighth floor of the main hospital, students get a close–up view of careers they may not otherwise have had an opportunity to see firsthand but may be interested in pursuing.

In addition to their jobs, the students attend special programming every Friday that Henderson arranges, featuring MUSC guests who help the students in their professional development.  

On July 21, the students were particularly excited - and a little nervous - to receive a special visit from MUSC President David Cole, M.D., FACS.  Instead of speaking to them from a podium, he sat right down among them and opened up the floor to real conversation. He told them he wanted to know more about them and invited questions or discussion about “the good, bad or ugly.” His casual approach was just the icebreaker that encouraged the group to relax and open up.

One student confided that she was having a struggle with self-discovery. She was nervous about being around such accomplished people, never having had a job before, and not wanting to disappoint her supervisors. Even with that being said, she added, she was having the “best time.”
He thanked her, and the rest of the cadre, for how hard they are working and then assuaged her angst.

Fifteen Lowcountry college and high school students gain valuable work experiences working at MUSC with the 2017 Summer Youth Employee Program.  
Charleston native and Trident Tech College student Ashaunte Wright consults with Department of Diversity's Dr. Willette Burnham-Williams.

“It’s really hard to be thrown briefly into a situation where by definition you’re the new kid on the block who doesn’t know anybody or are the junior person,” he said. “I can just say it requires openness - being open to the new experience."

She breathed a sigh of relief.

“MUSC is a big place,” he reminded them. “It’s a challenge. Most people don’t truly understand it’s a huge community.”

Another student was curious about how MUSC had changed the president personally.  

“Well," he told her, “MUSC has been my whole professional home. I would hope that I’m a person who is growing and have much more depth than the 20-year-old version of Dave Cole,” he said with a laugh, which caused the fairly reserved group to burst into laughter.

“When we moved here in 1994,” he explained, “there wasn’t a grand plan to be here in 2017 as president. Life has evolved, and MUSC has evolved into, in the broader sense, our family, and I care very deeply about what this institution does. I have realized the increasing impact it can have. So from that perspective, I’ve developed a much broader sense of responsibility. That’s one of the reasons I was given an opportunity to step into this role. We have so much potential here to do so much that’s positive.”

He continued. “Some people know from day one what they want to do. That wasn’t me - when I was in high school I was most concerned about playing basketball and girls. If I had a thought about college, it was to go to the best in-state, out-of-town school. I grew up in a family of engineers, but I just thought health care sounded good, and as I moved forward my experiences, it reinforced that path. It fit with who I was or who I thought I needed to be.”

He shared that in college he worked construction jobs to make ends meet and did autopsies at the medical examiner’s office, volunteering to get needed experience.  

“So I figured out that I didn’t want to be a medical examiner, but I did feel like medicine was a field where I could make an impact. Generally, in my life, if I listen to my heart, that’s usually the right path.”

As the students smiled and nodded to each other, it appeared that Cole’s straightforward message was both a relief and an inspiration to them.

After answering the last few questions, Cole’s time with the students drew to a close. He invited them to stop by his office and say hello.

“I hope this is a positive experience,” he added, “in terms of how it shapes your lives. Maybe in retrospect this will be a point you can refer back to that in some way helped guide the direction in which you’re trying to head.”

In closing, he encouraged them to seek out mentors in their remaining time on campus.

“As you move into life, everybody needs mentors that help point the direction. I encourage you to find those people in your lives - here or otherwise - as they will be the ones who can help you step forward. No person gets anywhere by themselves. It takes a community.”

The students then moved into small groups to work on their final presentations, where the fruits of their work will be shared with each other and supervisors. It will be a proud time for all, Henderson said to the students. “You’ll be amazed at how much you’ll have learned and grown by the end of the summer.”

Henderson wishes they could accept even more students, knowing the significant impact it has on them. Each consecutive year, they receive an increased number of applications from Charleston-area teens and young adults who are interested in working at MUSC during summer break. This year’s cadre includes college students from Clemson, Trident Tech, Francis Marion, University of South Carolina-Beaufort, American University and Agnes Scott, as well as juniors and seniors from Wando, Northwood Academy, Goose Creek and Hanahan high schools.

Some participated in last summer’s program; others have relatives who work at MUSC. For the other half, MUSC was uncharted territory. Many, however, already know they want a future in health care, including nursing, occupational therapy, physical therapy and biomedical engineering. Henderson realizes he may well be looking at the next generation of health care providers.

He shared some of the high praise he’d been receiving from supervisors. The feedback means a lot to the students. He announced that Amauri Bowman’s and her supervisor would be one of the presenters the following week.

She proudly chimed in. “That’s why I need to be working there. I absolutely love it.”

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