One of the highlights from this past year was organizing a series of events with Diana Reusch, MD, a pediatric dermatology fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital, to expose 45 middle and high school students to medicine. These students were able to concentrate on perfecting their running stitch, identifying organs using an ultrasound, honing their laparoscopic surgical skills and learning the importance of personal protective equipment. This collaboration was with a summer youth program of the Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA), a student-led community service organization at Harvard University with yearlong programming for local underserved youth in the Boston and Cambridge area. Over the summer, there are 11 neighborhood-based camps that offer quality programming and professional development to provide valuable work experiences and positive social connections in a safe, inclusive environment. We were able to work with teenage students involved in PBHA’s Junior Leaders in Communities (JLinc) and LEADERS Program. It was exciting to meet them, show them around the Longwood Medical Area and teach them about careers in medicine.

While I was completing my master’s thesis through the Divito Laboratory in the Department of Dermatology, I joined the Do Right, Stay Well (DRSW) Committee. Moving to Boston during the pandemic, I yearned to connect with the local community. Joining DRSW gave me that chance while also promoting skin health and awareness. Through Margaret Cavanaugh-Hussey, MD, MPH, a member of DRSW, I was so lucky to become connected with Dr. Reusch to plan these events with the PBHA.

This effort came together thanks to generous funding provided by the Department of Dermatology’s DRSW Committee, resources from the STRATUS Center for Medical Simulation and the kind efforts of so many people to help plan Longwood-area excursions for the teens. Other planners and volunteers included Harvard dermatology residents Dr. Balaji Jothishankar, Dr. Thet Su Win, Dr. Danna Moustafa, and Dr. Madeline Dewane; Harvard dermatology attendings Dr. Jennifer Huang and Dr. Arash Mostaghimi; medical students Lara Emerson (Tufts MS4), Nicole Trepanowski (BU MS4), Gustavo Velasquez (Harvard MS4), Maria Asdourian (Harvard MS4), Natalie Braun (Harvard MS2) and Julio Servin Flores (Harvard MS2); PBHA staff member Shaquanda Brown; medical scribe Morgan Schaefer; Department of Dermatology staff Mary Sbuttoni and Lily Vu; and STRATUS operations manager Persephone Giannarikas.

Being part of a group of people invested in inspiring youth has been empowering. Uniting with other members of the BWH community to host these events is something I will continue to cherish. It allowed me to spend time with these students and learn about their stories and passions. I hope to continue to give back and guide them towards their dreams in the same way my mentors have done for me.

Natalie Asemi
Laboratory technician, Department of Dermatology