Doctors of Tomorrow capstone project reaps many benefits
M1s Jacob Cedarbaum and Robert Cesaro first learned about Doctors of Tomorrow (DoT) at the Medical School's student activities fair held at the beginning of the school year. DoT is a student group that partners M1 students with ninth-grade students at Cass Technical High School in Detroit for a yearlong mentorship to encourage interest in health care careers. Jacob and Rob joined DoT and co-led the nutrition capstone group, which included eight Cass Tech freshmen and 10 M1 mentors.
While getting the students to think critically about the links between nutrition and health, the students ultimately voted to build a vertical garden. Over the course of the year, their group met six times at the med school in addition to several visits to Cass Tech to build the garden and a visit to Artesian Farms, their community partner. Here, Jacob and Rob talk about their roles as mentors and why getting involved yielded more than they expected.
ROB: Our group was paired with Jeff Adams at Artesian Farms, a rapidly-growing hydroponic farming company based out of a Detroit warehouse that grows and sells a variety of high-quality produce. Mr. Adams gave us a tour of his facilities, donated the supplies to build the actual garden structure and provided two different types of lettuce to plant.
Conveniently, Cass Tech already had a large atrium space dedicated to gardening. By partnering with several of the science teachers who maintain this space, we were able to find room for our vertical garden. The garden is about the size of a bunk bed with two tiers for growing plants.
JACOB: A number of challenges emerged, including difficulties securing the lighting and establishing water flow between the different tiers of the garden. The entire team was prompted to problem solve and come up with creative solutions. In the end, we had to come back two more times to get the garden to be fully functional.
One of the highlights for us was seeing all of the students, many of whom had started the year pretty reserved, getting so invested in the building process, working with hammers and power drills, and not being afraid to get their hands dirty.
Just one month after we planted our garden, our first harvest was a big success. Our DoT students cut and packaged more than twenty bags of lettuce. We even printed sticker labels for each bag with our student-designed logo and brand name, Cass Crops.
ROB: We displayed our harvest alongside our group's research poster at the end-of-year capstone session at Cass Tech. The students were all so excited to show their families and friends what they had accomplished, and everyone was able to take some lettuce home with them. Not only was our lettuce beautiful and nutritious, we can also personally attest to its amazing flavor!
JACOB: As a former high school science teacher, the chance to continue to work with students and stay involved in teaching as a medical student meant a lot to me. My teaching experience definitely came in handy throughout the process of co-leading this group. In some ways I had just as much fun talking shop with the Cass Tech teachers as I did working with and getting to know the students.
This has definitely been one of the experiences that has kept me grounded throughout my M1 year. Whenever I found myself getting stressed out about a quiz or some other assignment, thinking about these incredible kids and our project helped me to keep things in perspective.
ROB: When I think about medicine, one of the first things that comes to mind is mentorship. Without a select group of mentors in my life, I would not be where I am today. Working as a physician means that I am going to be a mentor whether I like it or not, and volunteering as a DOT mentor was an opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and get some practice. This has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my M1 year.
JACOB: This has definitely been one of the experiences that has kept me grounded throughout my M1 year. Whenever I found myself getting stressed out about a quiz or some other assignment, thinking about these incredible kids and our project helped me to keep things in perspective. It was also an important reminder that just because I was training to be a doctor, I didn't have to leave my behind my passion for teaching and education.
ROB: Medical school is hard, and it is easy to forget at times why we are learning this voluminous amount of scientific information. Every time I got to work with the Cass Tech students it energized me and reminded me why I chose this profession.
We encourage med students to get involved. Even though we usually don't see ourselves as role models, our mentorship can be incredibly impactful for younger students like those in the Doctors of Tomorrow program.