Ryan middle school students welcomed into Baylor family

About 240 sixth graders from the Baylor College of Medicine Academy at Ryan spent half a day on the Baylor campus, during which they were welcomed to the Baylor family and given a glimpse of the commitment required for medical education and a career in the health sciences.The middle school, located at the historic Ryan Middle School site, is a partnership of Baylor and the Houston Independent School District. It opened as a magnet program in the fall of 2013, so the students attending the event at Baylor represented its inaugural class.

Ryan students work on a team-building activity

Ryan students work on a team-building activity at the Baylor open house

Students had a full itinerary, including a welcome from Baylor President and CEO, Dr. Paul Klotman, and the director of Baylor’s Center for Educational Outreach, Dr. Bill Thomson. Dr. Nancy Moreno, BCM’s lead representative for the Ryan program, explained the significance of the event, both for the students and BCM.

“Today was a strong positive step for students attending the Baylor College of Medicine Academy at Ryan, and for Baylor’s partnership with HISD,” Moreno said. “It was rewarding to see the kids so engaged and excited, and gratifying that so many College representatives were willing to give their time, thoughts and encouragement to make the day a huge success.”

Dr. Kenneth Mattox, professor of surgery at Baylor and chief of surgery at Ben Taub Hospital, spoke to the group about the life of Dr. Michael E. DeBakey. He focused on the renowned surgeon’s early life, when he was a curious middle schooler who read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. DeBakey always asked himself how he could do things better, and Mattox encouraged BCM Academy at Ryan students to ask the same of themselves.

After the welcome comments, students broke into four groups and rotated among different activities on the BCM campus. They visited the DeBakey Library and Museum, where a trio of DeBakey High School for Health Professions students led a tour and described DeBakey’s life as a surgeon and educator.

Ryan students also heard from a panel of DeBakey High School graduates who now are medical and premedical students at Baylor and in the Houston Premedical Academy at the University of Houston. The panelists offered insight on study habits, time management and other relevant topics.

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Dr. Frank Kretzer, director of anatomical sciences at Baylor, spoke to the middle school students about Baylor’s Willed Body Program and anatomy lab. He stressed the need to respect the individuals whose bodies are furthering medical education, and emphasized the importance of medical students learning not just from their instructors, but through peer-to-peer interaction.

Kretzer was impressed by the attentiveness and maturity of the students.

“Our outreach to these middle school students is having a real impact, and I think we did a good job of transmitting our enthusiasm about the medical profession on to them,” Kretzer said. “We’ve planted the seed early, and now it becomes a dream they can fulfill.”

The Baylor College of Medicine Academy at Ryan students got a different kind of lesson in teamwork through a card-stacking activity led by faculty from the Center for Educational Outreach. Students worked in groups to see which team could build the tallest house of cards. The winning teams received Baylor ball caps, which they proudly donned for the remainder of the day.