Medical academy in the works

Published 12:14 am Friday, April 10, 2009

A proposed medical science academy within the Selma City School system would expose children to a career in medicine with a strong emphasis on math and science.

Beginning in the 2009-2010 school year, the magnet program would house about 225 students in grades kindergarten- through-eighth.

If successful, Superintendent Dr. Austin Obasohan said the program would expand to include grades nine-through-twelve.

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Obasohan said the program would be the first in the area to focus on elementary students.

“We want to start early to build a foundation,” he said.

Obasohan commissioned Selma City Council president Dr. Geraldine Allen and Ward 3 councilwoman Dr. Monica Newton to develop a curriculum for the program. Allen, who is also the graduate nursing program director at Troy University, and Newton, who is an assistant professor of family medicine at the UAB-Selma Family Medicine Program, studied magnet programs around the country.

The pair developed a curriculum that focuses on math and science while exposing students to professionals in the medical community through mentoring and shadowing programs.

“The concept is to begin with early exposure to health and medicine,” Newton said.

The program will be housed in a central location, but Obasohan said that site has not been determined yet.

Board President Barbara Stapp-Hiouas said the program would improve the quality of life in Selma — not only for the students involved but for others, too.

“If we can get that up and running, we will have students exposed to the science and math they need to enter the medical profession,” Stapp-Hiouas said. “It can be nothing but a benefit to the community.”

Allen said the partnerships between the program and medical professionals could create shockwaves felt across the region. Allen said it could bring critical resources to the area.

“This magnet program could really enhance the learning curve for the Black Belt,” Allen said. “We’re starting right at the kindergarten level and introducing them to possibilities.”

Newton stressed that the curriculum was not designed to pigeonhole students at such a young age. She said the exposure would benefit them no matter what profession or path they eventually chose.

“The purpose of it is to give people an increased emphasis on math and science to assist them in whatever direction they want to go in the medical field,” Newton said.

While many aspects of the program are not set in stone, the board unanimously voted for Obasohan to continue developing the program with hopes of opening the academy this fall. That might seem like quite an undertaking Stapp-Hiouas said. But she said she is confident it could be done.

“It is possible to pull it off,” she said. “The curriculum, connections and some funding are in place.”

Allen agreed that the program is headed in one direction, and she said she could not wait to see the fruits of the labor.

“I think we can only say that the sky is the limit for our children,” Allen said.