Engagement of academic medical centers in community outreach provides the public with a better understanding of basic terms and concepts used in biomedical sciences and increases awareness of important health information. Medical students at one academic medical center initiated an educational outreach program, called PULSE, that targets secondary students to foster their interest in healthcare and medicine. High school student participants are engaged in a semester-long course that relies on interactive lectures, problem-based learning sessions, mentoring relationships with medical students, and opportunities for shadowing healthcare providers. To date, the curriculum has been offered for 7 consecutive years. To determine the impact that participation in the curriculum has had on college/career choices and to identify areas for improvement, an electronic questionnaire was sent to former participants. Based on a 32% response rate, 81% of former participants indicated that participation in the course influenced their decision to pursue a medical/science-related career. More than half (67%) of respondents indicated intent to pursue a MD/PhD or other postgraduate degree. Based on responses obtained, additional opportunities to incorporate laboratory-based research and simulation sessions should be explored. In addition, a more formalized mentoring component has been added to the course to enhance communication between medical students and mentees. Health/medicine-related educational outreach programs targeting high school students may serve as a pipeline to introduce or reinforce career opportunities in healthcare and related sciences.
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