In life, it’s all about the connections you make. The right connection can help you land your dream job, or, in the case of Atlantis, the right connection can help to launch a cutting-edge high school health and medicine program.
Dr. Mininder Kocher, a world-renowned orthopedic surgeon and chief of the Division of Sports Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital, serves as an advisor to the Health and Medicine Academy at Atlantis. You may be surprised to learn how that connection came to be. Associate Executive Director Mike Lauro first met Dr. Kocher after his son suffered a devastating leg injury in a snowboarding accident while in high school. Unhappy with their treatment option, Lauro set out to find the best orthopedic surgeon, and that search led him to Dr. Kocher. Lauro credits Dr. Kocher and his team for successfully treating his son who went on to become a five-time Division 1 All-American at LSU and competed in the 2012 Olympic trials in track and field.
Lauro kept in touch with Dr. Kocher, and turned to him once again for advice when planning began for Atlantis’s Health and Medicine Academy.
“It was a little bit of serendipity,” Lauro recalled. “Here we are trying to build an innovative high school program and it turns out I already knew the best person to help. Min was very interested in hearing about our plan, but he is very busy so I would leave home at 4am and drive up to Children’s Hospital to meet with him before patients started coming in. He was intrigued by the idea of creating opportunities for kids, particularly in pathways like his own and he became a real champion of the Academy.”
“I think what Atlantis is doing with the Health and Medicine Academy is very unique,” said Dr. Mininder Kocher. “There is a big demand for skilled workers in health care, not just physicians, but in other roles like consultants and administrators. It’s a huge segment of the economy that high school students may not be exposed to.”
Dr. Kocher plays a crucial advisory role within the Health and Medicine Academy. When Atlantis wanted to model its classroom after the one at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Kocher helped Atlantis grow its relationship with Harvard through his role as Professor of Orthopedic Surgery. And when Atlantis decided to teach students using a state-of-the-art patient simulator known as a SimMan, Dr. Kocher helped facilitate the purchase.
“Dr. Kocher advocated for the hands-on experiential learning component. With his support we were able to buy a SimMan for the Academy classroom. We were only the 2nd school in Massachusetts to have this technology. But for us it was not about being among the first, it was about giving students the tools they need to have a greater chance of success in the medical field.”
Thanks to the relationship with Dr. Kocher, Atlantis students are also benefitting from exposure to medical careers in ways few high school students can experience.
“We will have students interested in health careers come and observe at the hospital, which is a pretty unique thing for high school student,” Dr. Kocher said. “They may spend a half day in the clinic or observe different staff at the hospital such as physician assistants or front desk coordinators.”
Last spring, Dr. Kocher hosted students from Atlantis for a career day to show them just how many different career paths there are in healthcare. Students heard from physicians, a nurse, an x-ray technician, an athletic trainer, a physician assistant, a medical illustrator, an animator and administrators.
“Some people might think that a career in medicine means being a physician, but that’s a long road that some people don’t want to go down,” Dr. Kocher said. “I think it’s important for high school students to see there are shorter roads that can lead to very rewarding careers like physician assistant, nurse, social worker or administrator. I don’t think a lot of folks know all those fields exist and they’re all growing.”
Dr. Kocher says many young people become interested in medicine because of their experiences as a patient. He became interested in orthopedics after having knee surgery in high school.
That’s how Hannah Brizido, a senior in the Health and Medicine Academy, became interested in medicine as well. “Being an athlete, I’ve gone to orthopedics a lot and had to take x-rays on both of my legs, for my knees and ankles so seeing that it made me look into the career.” She hopes to study radiology at Rhode Island College to become an x-ray technician.
Dr. Kocher says he looks forward to continuing to work with Atlantis and its students. “It’s been exciting to work with Atlantis and to see their success with kids. They’re really having an impact on these kids.”
Healthcare is a rewarding profession, and one that will always be around. The demand for qualified healthcare professionals will continue to grow as the population ages, and new opportunities will emerge as technology evolves. Atlantis students are fortunate to live in Massachusetts, home to some of the top teaching hospitals and research facilities in the world. If they decide to pursue a career in medicine after high school they won’t have to go far to learn from experts in the field like Dr. Kocher, and hopefully they will bring what they learned back to the SouthCoast.
“I am forever grateful to Min Kocher. He helped forge new paths in medicine with innovative treatments for sporting injuries and he helped my son return to a sport he loved,” Lauro said. “Now he is a key player in our efforts to build a new model of education. With his advice and support, Atlantis is helping traditionally underserved students in the SouthCoast forge a path to a successful career in medicine.”