Launch of the Rutgers Health Service Corps High School Summer Program – PHOENIX

Date: August 4, 2023
Media Contact: John Hemphill

Contributing Authors: Jack Hemphill (Associate Program Manager, Office of Clinical and Health Affairs/Population Health); Ethan Halm (Vice Chancellor for Population Health, Office of Clinical and Health Affairs/Population Health); Humaira Chaudhry (Chair and Chief of Service, Radiology, New Jersey Medical School); Vince Silenzio (Professor, Department of Urban-Global Public Health, Rutgers School of Public Health)

The Rutgers Health Service Corps recently launched its inaugural high school summer program, named PHOENIX (Population Health Outreach and Education for Next generation Impact and eXcellence), with the aim of introducing high school students to the health professions, population health, and community service.

From July 24th to July 28th, 2023, 16 rising New Jersey high school juniors and seniors participated in the program at the Rutgers Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research (IFH). Leading the program were Dr. Humaira Chaudhry, Chair of Radiology at New Jersey Medical School, and Jack Hemphill, Associate Program Manager in the Rutgers Office of Population Health.

The program kicked off on Day 1 with a health professions panel discussing the many diverse careers in healthcare including medicine, nursing, pharmacy, dentistry, and public health. Additionally, Dr. Vince Silenzio, a professor at the Rutgers School of Public Health, presented an overview on public and population health.

Day 2 was devoted to learning about social determinants of health (SDOH) and community service. The students did a walking tour of New Brunswick and volunteered at the Elijah’s Promise Community Food Kitchen where they prepared meals for those facing food insecurity. They also participated in a population health and SDOH jeopardy game led by IFH college summer research interns.

On Day 3, the participants visited the Rutgers Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, where they did a live immersive, team simulation exercise of a patient having a severe allergic reaction.  Led by Les Barta, the Director of the Simulation Technology Program, the students performed CPR, assembled medications, and accessed just-in-time allergic reaction treatment information. Dr. Donna Feudo, Associate Dean for Experiential Education and Clinical Affairs, also led a session discussing the School of Pharmacy’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

Day 4 featured workshops that equipped the students with crucial skills for building resumes and excelling in interviews, led by Dr. Humaira Chaudhry. They also received advice on navigating the college admissions process from Emmet Halm, a Harvard student and college counseling company founder.  Dr. Ethan Halm, Vice Chancellor for Population Health, shared insights from his career journey and presented on careers in medicine, population health and healthcare research.

Day 5 was dedicated to a group scenario in which students acted as health educators, creating educational YouTube videos on population health and social determinants of health, mental health, and vaping. These videos will be part of the Office of Population Health’s growing collection of brief, digital media health promotion materials and served as another lasting achievement during the program. The closing ceremony included remarks from Dr. Humaira Chaudhry and the presentation of certificates to the students with their parents in attendance. A particularly remarkable moment was when one of the students presented a moving poem on health equity, which can be viewed here:

Feedback on the program has been overwhelmingly positive with 94% of students rating the program as excellent, with the one outlier describing it as ‘very good.’  Most participants expressed a desire for the program to last even longer. The students’ knowledge about health professions, population health, public health, social determinants of health, community service and the Rutgers Health Service Corps increased substantially. Furthermore, every student felt the program increased their interest in pursuing a health professions career and to engage in future community service. The hands-on experiences at Elijah’s Promise Community Food Kitchen and the School of Pharmacy simulation event were particularly highlighted as enriching and unforgettable.

Upon completing the PHOENIX program, each student became an official member of the Rutgers Health Service Corps. In the upcoming year, they will have opportunities to engage in activities that contribute to the improvement of population health. The Rutgers Health Service Corps envisions that the PHOENIX program will extend well beyond this summer, creating a legacy by nurturing future public and population health leaders, empowering them to make a lasting impact in their communities.

You can view a montage of photos from the program here: