“When I asked how many students wanted to be doctors,” Keisha Barry said, “Every hand in the room was raised.” Barry, Health Science Academy graduate, Class of 2009 recently invited a representative from the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Science to Downstate to talk to Health Science Academy students and their parents. “Kids want to be cardio vascular surgeons but they don't know what that means,” says Mrs. Peel, Admissions Associate at Sophie Davis.
“I was touched by how responsive the students were at the recruitment session,” Barry says. “So many came up and thanked me, saying the would not have known about the program otherwise. HSA students are strong candidates and I am really happy to have made this connection. I hope it can become a yearly thing.”
“The important thing about the Health Science Academy,” says Barry, who co-facilitated the session, “is that through being at Downstate you get to see a range of professionals working in healthcare and come to understand that there are many ways to serve.” Barry recommends that current students take advantage of all the resources HSA makes available and network every chance they get: through conferences, events like Sportsball, and internships.
“I was interested in gynecology, and had good exposure to science through going to high school at Brooklyn Tech,” she says. “Arthur Ashe Institute introduced me to the concept of health disparities, and that made clear the path I wanted to follow.” Barry enrolled in Sophie Davis’ seven-year medical school, but returned to Downstate for her gap year to earn a Masters in Public Health.
She remembers the Academy module on the cardio vascular system where students dissected a cows heart, also learning about the disparities in stroke and heart attack rates in their neighborhoods, compared to other parts of the city. “Now in my clinical year, I am seeing the faces behind those numbers,” she says, “I want to go into family medicine and worked with people who are underserved.”
In addition to the academic preparation, HSA opened opportunities for research, to meet with faculty from different departments, and to be around like-minded students. Barry felt that the academy prepared her for this rigorous course of study, but says that the support of friends and family has been critical. “My mom always says “one hand don't clap.” Barry hopes that families will “be supportive of your children’s, passions and interests – I have my family’s support emotionally, spiritually, but I have known students who do not have that support and it makes it that much more difficult.” Academy students are “the cream of the crop,” Barry says, “but when you get to a program like Sophie Davis everyone there is too—some people become intimidated, you have to alter your study habits—it’s never a linear path.”
Dr. Barry, graduated from the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education cum laude with a B.S. in Biomedical Science and most recently from SUNY Downstate College of Medicine with an MD/MPH degree in May 2017. She has conducted extensive research on breastfeeding disparities in the Black community, becoming a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) to assist families in setting and achieving their breastfeeding goals. She will be beginning her residency program in Family Medicine at Hofstra School of Medicine/Northwell Health's Glen Cove Hospital this July.