GRAHAM — Nothing gets boys excited about science like frog guts.

Lamin Dennis, a 13-year-old student at Hawfields Middle School, was one of 42 middle school boys dissecting frogs Wednesday, July 11, during the second week of Alamance Community College’s Medical Bridge Camp.

“I cut the chest,” he announced, slicing into the frog’s tough skin. “Now I'm going to try and cut the heart.”

His ambition might lead him to become a world-renowned surgeon, which is what the college is hoping for.

According to a report from the Association of American Medical Colleges, in 2014, only 515 black men were accepted into and enrolled in U.S. medical schools — down from 541 in 1978.

One solution to this nationwide shortage is to create mentoring programs, which not only expose minority males to the medical field, but also present them with the tools needed to get into medical school, pay tuition and be successful.

Enter Lakeisha Vance, head of ACC’s Department of Computer Information and Technology, who’s led the three-week Medical Bridge Camp for the last two years.

She says the most rewarding part of the experience is seeing the boys get excited about science, often leaning over to coach friends beside them when they’re in the middle of projects.

With a curriculum and supplies provided by Carolina Biological Supply, the boys have explored cell structure and function, how organisms get energy, body systems, coding, biotechnology and engineering, using state-of-the-art tools.

But hands-on activities are only one piece of the puzzle.

Seeing successful black men in the medical field — men they can look up to — is just as essential.

That’s why, beginning July 16, they’ll spend a week at UNC-Chapel Hill’s medical school, touring labs, meeting current students and getting a feel for what their lives could be like 10 years from now.

“They get a lot of exposure,” Vance said. “Tomorrow, they’re going to the zoo. So it’s a lot of things to get them interested in science, see what’s going on with different organizations, explore different career paths, and really just start believing in what they can be.”

She hopes that the program, which is currently funded in full by the ACC Foundation, will be able to expand in the next few years to follow the boys through high school and up until college.

“We are proud of the budding doctors, pharmacists and dentists this program creates,” Vance said in a statement July 5. “More importantly, we are proud of the camaraderie and experiential learning that takes place during the three weeks of this camp. The staff, students and families associated with this camp make it an enjoyable, educational experience that stays with everyone long after the camp ends.”

 

Reporter Jessica Williams can be reached at jessica.williams@thetimesnews.com or at 336-506-3046. Follow her on Twitter at @jessicawtn.