Future Physicians of America

April 19, 2017 raguirre

future physicians

Written by Jessica Muncrief
Photography by Renee Boudreau

future physiciansDuring work hours, Dr. Richard Selinfreund Ph.D., is an associate professor of pathology at Las Cruces’ new medical school, the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine (BCOM). But when he’s not teaching the ins and outs of diseases, he’s pursuing his own dream of making sure that local students who want to become doctors have every opportunity possible to attend medical school.

Growing up in New Mexico, Richard didn’t see many opportunities for local children to pursue careers in medicine. After working at Vanderbilt and Yale, he jumped at the chance to return to his home state when he was offered a position at BCOM. “I came back because I wanted my children to grow up here. I missed the food and the culture. I missed the sense of integrity that you don’t always find in other parts of the country. Here, I can do a deal on a handshake and I like that,” he says.

future physiciansOne of his first orders of business was launching the Medical Explorer Post. The hands-on program geared toward students ages 14 to 20 accepted its first group of 15 local high school students last October. The group meets two to three times per month during which the students get an unparalleled opportunity to interact with health care professionals and see firsthand what it takes to go to medical school.

“Programs like this are important because students really need to understand what the life of a doctor is going to be like,” Richard explains. “They get to shadow a physician and spend time in a medical school setting so they can decide if they really love it and can make the commitment, because it is a really large commitment.”

During the course of the program, the students learn anatomy, CPR, first aid, and even wilderness survival skills. They also have opportunities to visit hospitals, practice their new skills in real life scenarios, and get advice from nurses, dieticians, wellness coordinators, and other professionals in the healthcare field. And that’s just in their first year. Students accepted into the explorer post can stay in the program next year and continue to take advantage of mentoring and educational opportunities, as well as mentor the new batch of students.

future physiciansRichard says he envisions following the explorers all the way through undergraduate school and into medical school, and even helping with financial aid and scholarship opportunities. “If your child is interested in going to medical school, I would say to parents, don’t worry about the financial aspect. It’s not about the money,” Richard says. “There’s a military recruiter ready to pay the whole thing once they get accepted, and there are other options as well. If it’s their dream and their passion, we’ll find a way to make it happen—especially if they are from New Mexico.”

A big focus of BCOM’s mission is to grow and diversify the physician workforce in the state, particularly in rural areas. Richard says he was involved with an initiative many years ago that tried to do the same thing, but he believes it ultimately failed because it focused more on bringing in people from out of state, as opposed to keeping people already from here. Richard’s plan is to find students while they are still young and give them every opportunity to pursue a medical education right here in New Mexico where they already have established ties and roots.

Interested students must fill out an application that includes questions like “How will participating in the program help you achieve your goals?” and “What do you want to study for your college degree?” Other questions are aimed at determining their leadership abilities, commitment levels, and self-discipline.

Dr. Jennifer Eastwood Ph.D., an assistant professor of anatomy at BCOM who has been working with the medical explorers, says students looking to get into the program or who have medical school aspirations should also get involved in any health related clubs their schools may offer and read anything they can get their hands on about their chosen career. She says, “Any experience or knowledge you can gain about what it really takes to be a medical student and eventually a physician is going to benefit you. That’s why this program is so beneficial for the young people in our city.”

Students interested in applying for the Medical Explorer Post should email

Meet the Explorers

future physiciansIsmael Flores
Age: 16
School: Oñate High School, junior
Extracurriculars: Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA) officer

What are your future goals?
To study emergency medicine, hopefully at BCOM, and become a doctor working in an emergency room.

What attracted you to the medical field?
I have a strong passion for medicine, it’s just something that’s always interested me. Plus, I come from a family of health care professionals. My mom is a nurse, all my aunts are nurses.

What have you learned in the Medical Explorer Post?
I’ve learned a lot. We’ve learned about diseases and anaphylaxis and how to treat cuts and burns, just to name a few.

future physiciansOmar Trujillo
Age: 16
School: Arrowhead Park Early College High School, sophomore
Extracurriculars: HOSA

What are your future goals?
I plan on going to UNM to study nursing.

How did you hear about the Medical Explorer Post?
My school had a field trip to BCOM and I just found myself really interested in what was going on at the school. Then I heard about the program and figured it was a way to learn more about the school and about medicine and to have fun while doing it.

What have you learned in the Medical Explorer Post?
How to cover up a wound and how to make a splint for a broken bone. We’ve also learned what to do if we go camping and there is an emergency and some basic things to do if someone is feeling sick.

future physiciansJuliana Cervantes
Age: 17
School: Las Cruces High School, senior
Extracurriculars: HOSA, Student Government, National Honor Society, National French Honor Society

What are your future goals?
I’m hoping to get accepted to UNM’s BA/MD program and eventually become a pediatrician working at a children’s hospital.

Why do you want to go into pediatrics?
I really like working with kids and I think it’s important to choose a profession where you can give back so you feel good about it every day.

What have you learned in the Medical Explorer Post?
Tons of things. I can survive in the wilderness now. But mostly we just learn a lot of skills that will really set us ahead when we start studying medicine.

The post Future Physicians of America appeared first on Las Cruces Magazine.

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