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Today’s Students Learning to be Tomorrow’s Doctors

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It’s an age-old question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” While some may roll their eyes at parents and teachers upon hearing that question, a group of students at CEC Early College have known the answer for a long time: no matter what their job title, they want to someday work in the medical field.

“I want to help people,” said Cindy Fuentes, a junior at CEC. “I want to be a support for them and guide them through hard times.”

Cindy is one of several students in the Body of Evidence simulation experience at the Auraria Campus, which gives them a snapshot of what pre-med school could look like. It immerses them in what a typical lab lecture is, how a lab process works and what an anatomy lab with real cadavers from the state medical board actually looks (and smells) like.

It looks like a typical high school concurrent enrollment course or a college field trip, but the difference with Body of Evidence is the common stories and struggles these students share. Each student is either a first-generation college student or has a learning disability, and many are from diverse backgrounds.

“It’s been traditionally difficult for students with learning disabilities or first-generation college students to get involved in science,” said Sarah Bardwell, a medical student at the University of Colorado Anschutz campus. She added that a lack of ethnic and gender diversity in science makes it more difficult for students to see themselves in the field.

In response, Bardwell collaborated with DPS educators to develop the Body of Evidence course as a way of breaking down those long-standing barriers for at-risk students. “If you haven’t seen yourself represented in science, why would you think that you could be in science?” she said. “This class is not about changing every student’s life, but it is about providing the same opportunities for every student regardless of where they come from or what their disability is.”

Students expressed gratitude for the class, which connects them to educators who come from the same backgrounds or have the same learning challenges. “It’s helpful for them to have similar stories as me,” Cindy said. “As (students of color), we all go through different things. Being able to connect to them on a personal level allows us to open up, talk about different careers … our fears and hopes.”