Baltimore students get taste of medicine Scientists mentor teens in a hands-on program

High school students from Baltimore have been learning to fight cancer and heart disease, operate on dogs and mutate proteins as participants in an innovative mentoring program designed to get students interested in careers in science.

Called the High School Heart Research Program, it is sponsored by the American Heart Association and carried out here by the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University medical schools.


It is modeled after American Heart Association programs in Montgomery County, where it has been in place for 36 years, and Washington.

Baltimore scientists and students began the mentoring effort this summer.


"We need to get high schoolers involved in science-oriented fields," said Dr. David Bush, one of the organizers of the Baltimore program.

"This program is striving to reach out to students who have potential in science, so that they might be able to pursue a career in some of the areas that they are exposed to," said Bush, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins who specializes in cardiovascular catheterization.

A group of 40 to 45 Baltimore high school students who have high grades and show initiative in their science classes was selected by teachers.

After the youths attended a series of lectures, covering topics such as heart disease, cardiovascular fitness and anatomy of the heart, they were tested on the material. The eight students with the highest test scores were chosen.

The eight students are Michele Allen of Lake Clifton-Eastern High School, Corinne Brinkley and La-Shawndra Jones of Western High School, Sean Carr of the City College, Kendra Maple of Edmondson-Westside High School, Chandlor Randall of Frederick Douglass High School, Calvin Williams of the Polytechnic Institute and Natasha Worrell of Paul Laurence Dunbar High School.

Each student receives a $1,000 stipend from the American Heart Association for working for five weeks for a minimum of 15 hours a week and keeping a notebook of their progress.

Dr. David Weber, an assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Maryland, mentors Jones, 16. Weber works on a project designed to mutate particular brain proteins that are indicators of cancer in order to study the intricacies of cancer and normal cell growth.

"I was a little unsure about having a high school student in the lab," said Weber. "But she's mutated her own protein, stained it and photographed it and was successful. If we publish anything, she will be one of the co-authors. She now stays hours after the times she has to be here."


Allen, 16, investigated the chemical and physical changes in the bodies of stroke patients who had been discharged from the hospital. She also once assisted in doing an ultrasound test on a heart attack victim being treated at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

She said the program revealed a hands-on world of science that is different from learning science from a textbook.

"I was working in epidemiology," said Allen, referring to the study of diseases in a particular population. "In the type of neighborhood that I live in no one even knows or cares what epidemiology means."

Maple, 17, worked with Dr. David Kass at Hopkins. She assisted in doing open-heart surgery on dogs to find different cells within the heart and medicines that might reduce heart disease.

"Everyone explained everything to me to make sure that I understood it," said Maple. "But they talked to me like I really worked there or like I was one of the college interns."

She said she learned skills that will help her go into a medical career. "I had an opportunity this summer to really learn something valuable, and I did."


Allen said she had never thought about a career in medicine, but now that she's been exposed to the possibility, she may be more open to the idea.

"These doctors and nurses are going through a continuous cycle; they never stop learning and you have to respect that," she said.

Pub Date: 8/09/96