May 28, 2004


More than 135 middle school students with aspirations of becoming physicians got a glimpse of their possible future recently when they visited the School of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego. 

Hippocrates Circle students view macroscopic slices of the human brain.

The youngsters — from Sweetwater Union School District, San Ysidro, and other local areas — are members of Kaiser Permanente’s Hippocrates Circle physicians mentoring program, an outreach program first launched more than four years ago by Kaiser in the South Bay area to encourage middle school students, especially those from ethnic minority backgrounds, to pursue careers in medicine.

The visit included interacting for a day with medical students and physicians, experiencing “virtual reality” computerized anatomy study, and viewing actual human brain specimens in the neurosciences laboratory.

Since 2000, when the program started with two physicians mentoring 24 youngsters in the San Ysidro School District, Hippocrates Circle has grown considerably, serving  more than 365 youngsters over the past four years — from  San Marcos to Escondido to Chula Vista —  and currently has 24 physician  mentors, says Ricardo Sistos, M.D., a Kaiser internal medicine physician who founded Hippocrates Circle with Kaiser marketing professionals Maria Torres-Weldon and Laarni Fontillas.

This is the third consecutive year that UCSD’s Student Affairs and the UCSD School of Medicine have hosted the medical school visit of Hippocrates Circle students. Such collaboration provides Hip-pocrates Circle youngsters with college motivation and stimulating academic environments in which to experience medical professionals in action.

Visiting the School of Medicine this year were students from: Sweetwater Schools District (including Castle Park, Montogmery, Granger, Mar Vista, and Southwest), San Ysidro Middle School, in addition to Preuss, Nubia and O’Farrell  Charter Schools.

Accompanied by their Kaiser physician mentors, youngsters toured parts of the UCSD campus and had lunch with more than 20 medical school students who discussed the preparation needed for medical school. The visitors later toured the School of Medicine’s neurosiciences/anatomy laboratory where they viewed a human brain, and microscope slide containing brain cells, followed by a demonstration in emergency medicine by ER physician Charles Simmons, and computerized “virtual reality” anatomy by UCSD’s Office of Medical Education.

“Allowing these youngsters to go behind the scenes to witness and experience a day in the life of real medical school students and physicians goes a long way in encouaging them to pursue their own dreams of medical school, says Dr. Sistos. “We want them to believe that, with the proper academic preparation and dedication, they too can become doctors.”

The Hippocrates Circle concept has drawn the interest of other school districts outside San Diego, and even another UC campus. UC Riverside is slated to begin a similar program (modeled after Kaiser’s) this year.

Return to the Frontpage