(Re)Open House: DeBakey High School students return to Baylor after pandemic hiatus

The halls at Baylor College of Medicine are typically quiet in the evenings, with students and professors on their way out after long hours of studying and instructing. On Feb. 22, students from DeBakey High School for Health Professions disrupted that silence as they toured Baylor for the first open house event since 2019.

A longtime annual tradition, the DeBakey open house event was postponed during the first years of the pandemic. Dr. Alana Newell, assistant professor of Education, Innovation and Technology, said the College looked forward to welcoming the high schoolers back.

“Having an opportunity to walk the main Baylor halls gives the DeBakey High School students a chance to envision themselves in the shoes of the student panel, discuss career paths with current faculty and learn from alumni like Dr. (Ronald) Cotton,” said Newell, a representative for the Center for Educational Outreach. “We all deeply felt this event’s absence during the past few years. Its return was especially impactful this year as DeBakey celebrates its 50th anniversary, and we both reflect on its past and look forward to its future.”

Sophomores and their families experienced an evening of science and guidance with presentations by Dr. Ashley Mullen, program director for the Orthotics and Prosthetics Program, Dr. Ming Zhang, professor and director of anatomical sciences in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and a student-to-student panel featuring current Baylor students, two of which graduated from DeBakey.

Mullen spoke on careers in the discipline and displayed various prosthetics and orthoses developed and used by the program for patients, a population made up of humans and animals. Zhang presented the anomatage table, a virtual cadaver dissection device used to learn human anatomy, as he showed those in attendance how to check if they are missing a particular muscle in their forearms – an evolutionary trait.

“I got to introduce our healthcare profession to a group of engaged students and parents, and the students really demonstrated their creativity and intelligence,” Mullen said. “It’s clear that whichever profession these kids enter, they have the potential to make a positive impact for others.”

On the student-to-student panel, Baylor students provided parents and students alike with advice on topics, such as choosing a career, what to expect from curriculum at Baylor and general life guidance. The student panelists included Juliana Abel, second-year Physician Assistant student; Hafsah Hameed, DeBakey graduate, third-year categorical pediatrics resident and rising chief resident; Dre Kirunda, second year neuroscience graduate student; and Rachel Shenoi, DeBakey graduate and fourth year medical student who recently matched into Baylor College of Medicine for general psychiatry residency.

The evening concluded with a reception and sweet treats in Rayzor Lounge. This sight, unseen for the past two years, gave the high schoolers a chance to reflect on what they learned that evening and what their futures may hold.

“The tour of Baylor College of Medicine campus only furthered my interest in the health professions and sparked my determination to expand my ambitions,” said Abby von Eik, a junior at DeBakey High School. “Being able to ask former students for their opinions and recommendations gave me insight on how I can prosper moving forward.”

By Aaron Nieto