This year, the University of Maryland School of Medicine celebrated the 10th anniversary of its Mini-Med School, a free educational program for residents of Baltimore.
In a special 10th anniversary graduation ceremony Oct. 6, the School of Medicine welcomed Maryland Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown as an honored guest, and recognized the 38 Mini-Med School participants who have attended the program every year of its existence. Brown also presented proclamations from Gov. Martin O'Malley and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake recognizing and commending the program on its 10th anniversary.
Mini-Med School is an annual, five-week program offering tuition-free classes designed to help Baltimore-area residents improve their health and well-being. School of Medicine faculty present lectures in layman's terms about health issues such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, violence, elder issues, and depression.
During the past 10 years, the original program has expanded to hold Mini-Med Schools in Western Maryland, Southern Maryland, the Eastern Shore, and even a Spanish-speaking series of classes in Montgomery County. Through this expansion, the program has extended free health screenings and education to nearly 5,000 Marylanders of all ages, from elementary school students to their grandparents.
Mini-Med School runs Wednesday evenings, beginning the first Wednesday in September. During the fifth and final Wednesday, each student receives a certificate at the graduation ceremony. This year's 10th anniversary graduation featured one of the program's most significant success stories, Yusuf M. Ali, a third-year medical student at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and a Mini-Med School alumnus.
Ali, now an aspiring surgeon, grew up just blocks from the School of Medicine's West Baltimore campus. When problems at home forced him to withdraw from high school at age 16 and move out of the house, he motivated himself to earn his graduation equivalency degree and enroll at Morgan State University. He worked a full-time night job to pay his bills. Despite the turmoil in his life, Ali made time to attend Mini-Med School in 2005 as a college sophomore. He credits the program with inspiring him to become a doctor so he could help educate his community about health and wellness.
"I was surprised to see how many people from the community were in attendance and how anxious they were to learn about the health issues that affected the neighborhood where I grew up," says Ali. "Being exposed to doctors who took care of the surrounding community instilled in me a sense of commitment to eventually practice medicine."
"This program is critically important for providing information on health, medicine, and research in partnership with the community in order to foster good health and medical and research literacy," says Claudia Baquet, MD, MPH, professor and associate dean for Policy and Planning at the School of Medicine, and director of the University of Maryland Center for Health Disparities. "It's a mutually beneficial program. It helps our Mini-Med School students to stay healthy and learn how to take care of themselves and their families, and it also helps our faculty learn how to communicate with the members of our community in ways they can understand."
E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland and dean of the School of Medicine, says, "A key part of the mission of the University of Maryland School of Medicine is our commitment to educating our community. We want our Mini-Med School participants to take charge of their own health, and we hope they take their new knowledge back to their families, their neighbors, their churches, and their schools to help others do the same. We are so proud of our Mini-Med School students for their dedication to this program and to bettering their health, and we hope to see them for another 10 years."