April 27, 2012

Pritzker students win fellowships after pressing for community health

Two first-year Pritzker Medical School students have won $2,500 fellowships for their work bolstering science and health education in Woodlawn schools and recruiting minority students into the medical professions.

Alisha Ranadive and Christopher Castaneda were this year’s recipients of Schweitzer fellowships, which go to 250 medical students each year working on community health care projects.

Ranadive will use her fellowship to expand the work she has done with her RSO, South Side Science Scholars, which received Uncommon Fund money earlier this year. Starting with the Sherman School of Excellence on South Langley Avenue and East 60th Street, she will be reworking the science curricula at local schools, paying particular attention to health education.

“I know everyone at the U of C is really busy, so my project looks at how to make a sustainable after-school program,” she said. “I’m gonna be developing a curriculum that does two things: It matches the science curriculum taught at the school anyway, and then it adds a health component to use our expertise as medical students.” She also will create lesson kits for future educators following up on her project in schools around the South Side.

Castaneda will use his fellowship to expand a recruitment program he established for minority high school students interested in medical school. Currently, the workshops he runs on campus through the Student National Medical Association meet only once a month, and Castenada hopes to create something more long-term.

“I want to have a plan in place so that when new medical students come in, they can take the curriculum that we develop and just go with it,” he said.

According to Castaneda, local leaders are enthusiastic about his work.

“I talked to people from the community and different community leaders, and a lot of them were interested in having people from their neighborhoods getting into medical schools and other health professions,” he said. “I thought it would be a good way to help the community, where they thought there was a need.”