PEER Expands its Diversity Reach in Houston, South Texas

Story by Noor Faisal and Larry Johnson

PEER veterinary student fellows Danielle Vaden Anderson, Amina Karedia, and Noor Faisal attended the Health Career Day hosted by Baylor College of Medicine Academy at James D Ryan Middle School (BCMAR) on May 21.

Danielle Vaden Anderson, Amina Karedia, and Noor Faisal attended the Health Career Day

BCMAR, a STEM magnet school in Houston, focuses on diversity and follows an advanced, accelerated health science program to prepare students for rigorous high school education, college, and future careers.

The annual Health Career Day is designed to introduce BCMAR eighth graders to the various career options in health-related fields.

To introduce careers in veterinary medicine, the PEER team of second-year veterinary students set up a career booth at the event, which was visited by approximately 150 eighth graders.

Small groups of students visited the booth for seven to eight minutes each, during which the PEER fellows gave a presentation over the different fields of veterinary medicine, including traditional veterinary medicine, zoo animal medicine, shelter medicine, and lab animal medicine, as well as the different specialties within the field.

Additionally, the PEER fellows talked about other prominent career areas in which veterinarians can be employed, such as government, academia, military, advocacy, and research.

While discussing the different veterinary specialties, the PEER fellows found that most of the eighth graders are interested in neurology. When asked why, the veterinary students were surprised to hear that BCMAR students are required to take a neuroscience course.

a PEER veterinary student presenting

The PEER fellows also got an opportunity to chat with Principal Jyoti Malhan, who further expanded on the fact that BCMAR offers a rigorous, unique educational experience for the students and features a distinctive curriculum developed by Baylor College of Medicine that focuses on biomedical related courses.

“Learning to communicate with the youth and individuals of all demographic makeups is essential to our careers as veterinarians,” Karedia said. “Interacting with a group of minority junior high students provided us the opportunity to learn of and become sensitive to others’ interests and practice communicating in a diversity-rich environment.”

In addition to Health Career Day, PEER also promoted STEM to a diverse group of students on June 6, when Dr. Larry Johnson, PEER principle investigator and professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), presented “Science and You” and “Love Your Lungs” during a summer veterinary camp at Donna North High School in Donna,  near the Texas/Mexico border.

Johnson’s presentations covered careers in science and the health of the respiratory system. The third through sixth graders enjoyed the plastinated specimens displayed, he said.

The veterinary camp lasted one day and allowed FFA high school students to share their knowledge and illuminate the campers.

Johnson received the invitation to the veterinary camp after meeting Amanda Cedillo, Donna North HS agricultural science instructor, who brought her FFA team to the PEER-sponsored FFA State Veterinary Assistance Contest at the CVM. Cedillo said she plans to bring her students to visit Texas A&M and the CVM in August.

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