A picture containing person, indoor, dressed, automaton  Description automatically generated SMART Program Celebrates Winter Grads, Opens Virtual Door for Summer Recruits

The Science Medicine & Related Topics (SMART) program at NJMS proudly graduated 117 students from the winter academy on March 6.

The SMART program is a pre-college enrichment program designed to cultivate middle and high school students' interest in health science and research, culminating in enhanced competitiveness and expansion of the pool of underrepresented minority students interested in pursuing health-related professions. 

The program focuses on youth development and academic excellence, providing opportunities for students to gain the knowledge and experience necessary to maximize their potential for success.

The theme for this year's winter academy was: Public Health and Infectious Diseases – A COVID Edition. 

The program administrator, Mercedes Padilla-Register, was not going to let the pandemic stop the team from offering this invaluable program, especially to inner-city youth, 44% of whom come from the City of Newark. 

"As a fellow Newark native, I feel that it is my duty to continue to increase the enrollment of students from the Newark community," said Padilla-Register. "70% of the students enrolled in this year's winter academy identified as Black or Latinx. It is our goal to increase the number of ethnic minorities in medicine, and we feel this program gives our students the confidence and motivation to pursue careers in health professions." 

Over the course of the program, students had the opportunity to hear from NJMS faculty in the fields of infectious diseases, psychiatry, endocrinology, and more. Students even had the chance to view organs in a virtual setting. 

Padilla-Register added that students are further engaged and inspired by hearing from faculty of color, and that parental engagement is key to running this program. 

"The feedback we received from parents was invaluable, especially as we transitioned to a virtual program," Padilla-Register noted. 

"We love the SMART program, and we are thrilled that this year's classes are 100% remote," offered the Honorés, the family of a recent participant. "As always, the guest lectures have been extremely informative. The breakout questions for one class in particular, have resulted in several lengthy conversations with our boys regarding the social determinants of health. Because of the SMART program, my son wants to be a trauma surgeon." 

The SMART program winter academies are open to students in sixth through twelfth grades. For the summer academies, students must be in sixth through eleventh grades to qualify. 

The program is currently accepting applications for the summer academy, which will run virtually. Students interested in attending should apply online at www.njms.rutgers.edu/smart

Questions? Send an email to smartprogram@njms.rutgers.edu to learn more.