Saturday Morning Science draws more kids to campus, maybe to medicine

Jan. 1, 2013

Dr. James Phillips
Dr. James Phillips

Baylor College of Medicine's Dr. James Phillips has devoted his career to improving health care to underserved minorities, especially African Americans and Hispanics. One way in which he has done this is by getting young minority students interested in the sciences, so that they may one day pursue careers in health care.

His efforts have brought hundreds of middle and high school students to Baylor College of Medicine through the Saturday Morning Science program. The eighth year of the program will launch this month.

Founded by Phillips, senior associate dean and professor of pediatrics at BCM and director of the Office of Diversity and Community Outreach, Saturday Morning Science is a community outreach program for 7th through 12th graders from underserved areas in greater Houston. It's designed to excite their interest in science through lectures from BCM faculty and small break-out sessions led by medical students and residents. The students represent more than 40 middle and high schools throughout the greater Houston area.

Students enrolled in Saturday Morning Science also take a field trip to NASA's Johnson Space Center and attend a college day with representatives from colleges and universities from Texas and beyond.

The program has been such a success that a second annual session was added. Focused on the reproductive sciences, it is open to high school students who have completed the first Saturday Morning Science program.

Drawing more minorities into careers in medicine can in turn improve health care to the underserved, since patients tend to seek treatment from physicians from their own racial or ethnic group, according to Phillips. He cites statistics that Hispanic and Latino physicians treat twice as many Hispanic and Latino patients as non-Hispanic physicians, and African American doctors treat six times as many African American patients as non-African American physicians. However, only 7 percent of physicians currently practicing in the United States are African American, Hispanic or Native American, while those groups make up more than 28 percent of the overall population.

The next session of Saturday Morning Science will start Jan. 12 with the opening talk from Dr. Frank Kretzer, associate professor of ophthalmology at BCM. The program runs through May 11.