For many high school students, navigating future career options can feel daunting. But for Musarat Tasmin, the Brigham’s Student Success Jobs Program (SSJP) has illuminated research careers she never knew existed and provided her the mentorship needed to seek those opportunities.

Tasmin is one of many students enrolled in SSJP, a year-round, paid internship program of the Center for Community Health and Health Equity at the Brigham that places students in more than 60 departments across the hospital. Through SSJP, students gain hands-on work experience in labs, clinical units, patient transport and various administrative services. The program also pairs interns with Brigham mentors and provides assistance with college and career preparations. At the end of the program, every graduating senior can apply for a four-year college scholarship.

SSJP has recruited students from Boston Public Schools for over two decades and aims to increase underrepresented populations in health, science and medical careers. Pamela Audeh, program director of SSJP, reports that 89% of interns identify as people of color, 65% speak a first language other than English and most are first-generation college students. In autumn of 2021, 94% of alumni entered college immediately after high school and 86% of all alumni in college majored in a health care, STEM or social science field.

Students can apply for SSJP in tenth grade and remain in the program until they graduate high school. Some will stay in the same department for all three years, while others will work in multiple areas to explore different types of healthcare professions.

Even after graduating from SSJP, many students stay in close contact with their mentors. A survey assessing the program’s success found that 82% of SSJP alumni rated these relationships as very useful. Program staff also remain in contact with alumni in college and beyond, working with HR to provide career guidance and other employment support.

Broadening Students’ Perspectives

Tasmin works directly with Monik Jiménez, ScD, an epidemiologist in the Department of Medicine, who studies the impact of incarceration on health and the intersection of sex, race, ethnicity and health equity in stroke patients.

“I’m thinking about going into the medical field and am also considering studying psychology in college,” said Tasmin. “Working in a hospital and seeing what Monik does as a researcher gives me an idea of the types of careers I’m interested in pursuing.”

SSJP not only helps students narrow down professional paths that suit their interests, but also broadens their perspectives on the many types of jobs available in science and healthcare.

“I didn’t learn what an epidemiologist was until I was in college,” said Jiménez. “SSJP allows students to gain exposure to so many healthcare fields at an early age, and that impacts their future aspirations.”

Jiménez strives to teach Tasmin concrete skills, like entering data into Excel and conducting literature reviews. She also wants to help Tasmin identify what she’s passionate about and help her build her resume in ways that will allow her to succeed down the road.

Jiménez also recognizes Tasmin’s potential and speaks to the ambition and talent SSJP students hold.

“I’m always so impressed by the way that Musarat takes on any challenge,” said Jiménez. “Students in this program can do so many things, and it’s important not to limit their thinking. They’re all brilliant young people and can take on advanced tasks that would traditionally go to college or graduate students.”

Mentorship Paves a Pathway Forward

For Yilu Ma, MS, MA, CMI, director of Interpreter Services, SSJP is not just about teaching students the skills they need to succeed in the workforce, but also helping them identify how to pursue their ambitions.

“To me, mentorship is about what pathways I can show my students to get to wherever they aspire to go in their careers,” said Ma.

Ma’s mentee, Yofrandys Pena, is a third-year student in SSJP and an intern in Interpreter Services. He’s also the current president of the SSJP student committee. Pena’s knowledge of multiple languages is invaluable for the work he is doing in Interpreter Services, which includes assisting patients and families in overcoming language barriers to communicate with their providers.

Throughout Pena’s time in the program, he’s worked in departments across the hospital, allowing him to explore different healthcare sectors. Through Interpreter Services, he’s discovered his passion for international relations.

“During my time with SSJP, I’ve done mechanical and inventory work with the Division of Engineering in Medicine, analyzed brain activity in the Department of Psychiatry and now am working with Interpreter Services,” said Pena. “Yilu Ma, Jean Baptiste Neptune, Sigfredo Salguero and Marta Solis have been more than just supervisors for me and have truly fulfilled their roles as mentors. When I first started with Interpreter Services, I didn’t know what I wanted to study in college. My mentors’ guidance helped me discover my passion for international relations and allowed me to understand that I can help members of my community within healthcare, without having to become a nurse or a doctor.”

Before joining the Brigham, Ma studied international relations at Tufts University in the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and connects with Pena over their shared interests.

Pena and Ma also share experiences of having families that immigrated to the United States.

“Helping students navigate many of the unique challenges that come with being an immigrant or having parents that immigrated to the United States is extremely rewarding to me,” said Ma. “I hope that by sharing my experiences, I can help them find their place in the workforce.”

Programs like SSJP not only provide Boston youth with hands-on work experience and mentorship, but also provide a pipeline for underrepresented groups to enter and lead professions in healthcare and medicine.

“When underrepresented students in medicine connect with mentors of similar backgrounds, they can begin to see pathways for themselves in healthcare,” said Robert Higgins, MD, MSHA, president of the Brigham and executive vice president of Mass General Brigham. “Mentorship programs like SSJP are hugely impactful to our youth and ultimately promote a more equitable multicultural workforce.”

Interested in becoming a mentor? Contact Pam Audeh at paudeh@bwh.harvard.edu to find out how to get involved with SSJP.