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High School Students Get Preview of Medical School Training

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Preparatory program begins eighth year

Research indicates a potential physician shortagePreparatory program begins eighth year could occur in the U.S. within the next decade. A proactive preparatory program in Springfield aims to combat that trend by boosting interest in medicine during the high school years.

Seventeen ninth-grade students in Springfield have been selected for a program to encourage local high school students interested in becoming physicians. The Physician Pipeline Preparatory Program, or P4, is a partnership between Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Springfield Public Schools (SPS) and the Sangamon County Medical Society.

“I’m excited to begin the eighth year of the pipeline program with a new cohort of high school students eager to learn about the life of medical students and physician careers,” said Wesley Robinson-McNeese, MD, associate dean for diversity and inclusion at SIU. “Together with the 42 current pipeline students, these young people represent a bright future for health care in central and southern Illinois.”

The freshman students submitted letters of recommendation, a personal statement and a summary of volunteer, school and community activities, all of which needed to reflect superior academic performance, high levels of motivation and a sincere interest in pursuing medical careers. A committee with members from the partners interviewed the candidates and selected the top students. Ten of the freshmen are minority students.

“Springfield Public School District 186 is honored to partner with the SIU School of Medicine and the Sangamon County Medical Society to offer the Physician Pipeline Preparatory Program to a diverse group of students,” said Jennifer Gill, superintendent of Springfield Public Schools. “This example of community collaboration exposes our students to real-life experiences of being a physician. These programs motivate students to learn and provide great career connections that will prepare them for opportunities beyond their high school experience.”

The P4 modules began this week and run through Nov. 17, and March 20-30, 2017.

Faculty and staff from both Springfield Schools and the SIU medical school developed the curriculum for the pilot program. The P4 components for the after-school program include participation in medical school style curriculum; introduction to problem based learning (PBL); tours and shadowing; and interactions with SIU students and faculty.

The students are listed below, with their parents and high school affiliations.

Kenya Apongule, daughter of Joseph Apongule and Denise Johnson, Springfield Southeast H.S.

Isaac Becker, son of PJ Becker and Elise LoBue, Springfield H.S.

Samira Cheruku, daughter of Surender and Sailaja Cheruku, Springfield H.S.

Lanetta Cole, daughter of Brady Odom and Dynetta Cole, Springfield Southeast H.S.

Jatin Dhamrait, son of Raj Dhamrait and Kiran Rakalla-Dhamrait, Springfield H.S.

Madison Dicus, daughter of Faith Crouch and Billy Dicus, Lanphier H.S.

Sarah Foster, daughter of Rich and Laurie Foster, Springfield H.S.

Josie Giacomini, daughter of PJ and Julie Giacomini; Sacred Heart-Griffin H.S.

Caleb Grover, son of Greg and Lisa Grover; homeschooled

Skyy Hamilton, daughter of Jidorrie Haley, Springfield Southeast H.S.

Michael Natty, son of Natty Akpulonu and Lechi Nkwocha, Springfield H.S.

Justin Nwajei, son of Augustine and Stella Nwajei, Springfield H.S.

Paige Price, daughter of Shakira Ford, Springfield Southeast H.S.

Bala Ramaraju, daughter of Phani and Jaya Ramaraju, Springfield H.S.

Tara Sholtis, daughter of Joe and Kelly Sholtis, Springfield H.S.

Elizabeth Small, daughter of Ben and Laura Small, New Berlin H.S.

Nia Williams, daughter of Antwon Williams and Olivia Haynes, Springfield Southeast H.S


In addition to the freshmen, Springfield High School senior Jailin Newman, daughter of Roy and Jackie Newman, has joined the program for her final year.

Photos from the Nov. 3 student induction ceremony at SIU School of Medicine are available at

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