Community service is a significant part of the Rush culture and students often seek new and creative ways to work with the Chicago community. Last fall, several Rush Medical College students developed a new mentorship program for underrepresented minorities in medicine called Building Blocks.
Formed through a partnership between Rush Medical College students and Richard T. Crane Medical Preparatory High School in Chicago, Building Blocks teaches high school students about careers in medicine and allows them to shadow physicians in the Department of Pediatrics at Rush University Medical Center. The program is a unique blend of community service activities, monthly didactics, clinical immersion and mentorship from medical students and physicians.
“What inspired me to get involved in the development of this program was to opportunity to give minority students that look like me the knowledge that they can also succeed in a career in medicine,” said Aretha Boakye-Donkor, MD, a 2021 Rush Medical College graduate and founding member of Building Blocks.
“The Building Blocks Pediatric Scholars program gave me opportunities to speak with physicians, nurses and surgeons who are renowned in their field,” said Jaleel Sanders, a Building Blocks participant. “It’s great to have this discussion about things that are prominent in the medical field. We meet with our regular teachers Monday through Friday and the Building Blocks program on Saturdays, so it’s a week-long learning experience.”
"I loved being a founding member of the amazing team that launched this inaugural program because this work is so important,” said Kristen Obiakor, MD, a 2021 medical college graduate. “Not only were we providing opportunities for students to see themselves in us (the medical students), but also the ability to see beyond us with our partners – the residents, physicians and other leaders in the pediatric department. I have always been passionate about mentorship and I want the high school students to know that we are in it for the long haul. We are determined to see their dreams come to fruition."
The Building Blocks program plans to expand to other specialties at Rush such as internal medicine and family medicine. The program also plans on offering the program to other high schools in the Chicagoland area.
To learn more about the Building Blocks program: