Sykes Scholars to Promote Independent Student Research on Medicine and Health at Andover

Inspired by research programs offered by institutions such as BRACE and CAMD, Clementene Clayton ’18, Grace Limoncelli ’18, Fredericka Lucas ’18, and Hannah Zhang ’18 created the “Sykes Scholars,” a program that allow Andover students to explore the medical field through hands-on experiences, independent research, and peer collaboration.

Brought together by their interests in health and medicine, the four wanted a way for high school students to learn about different careers in the medical world. Since then, the four have been working on the Sykes Scholars program under the guidance of Dr. Amy Patel, Medical Director at the Sykes Wellness Center.

“Essentially, we thought that there wasn’t really an outlet for students to do scientific research outside of an intense Biology-600 setting, and we wanted to make that opportunity available to students who just wanted to do scientific research and to learn from other students,” said Lucas.

Patel said, “They had been percolating this idea for a while amongst themselves… and they really wanted to marry their interests in science with primarily an interest in health and health professions and research.”

Currently, the four students have been volunteering at Lawrence General Hospital on Sundays. For three hours a day, the Sykes Scholars assist the hospital workers in various wards and observe how the workers interact with their patients. From organizing birth certificates to simply talking with the patients, this hands-on work is a large part of the Sykes Scholars program.

“Going to a hospital was a really important experience to have, especially since a lot of the people going into the medical field end up working in hospitals as either doctors, surgeons, nurses, anesthesioogists, you know, a lot of different careers… So we thought that it would be a really valuable experience to be able to go to a hospital and kind of see how everything works,” said Zhang.

“I work in the ER, and not only is it great to help out where I can but also seeing a glimpse of the inner workings of a hospital is fascinating. Honestly, at our age, it can be a bit difficult to really start to get a feel for what something in the medical field could really look like. Volunteering really lets you get into the nitty gritty parts of it,” wrote Clayton in an email to The Phillipian.

While they work on their specific projects, the Sykes Scholars are working to further refine the program’s curriculum. The current curriculum aims to give students a perspective into the medical world using non-traditional methods outside of the classroom. The topics covered in the curriculum will span over four main categories, from learning about modern medicine to speaking with experts.

In the future, Clayton, Limoncelli, Lucas, and Zhang will all become mentors for the future group of Sykes Scholars, so that student collaboration becomes an ingrained part of the program. With applications coming out later this February, the Sykes Scholars hope that the program will be successful in allowing a few students to delve deeper into subjects that are not necessarily learned in a classroom environment.

“What I really love is that the students are shaping and defining what this program is. And now, we’ll have this first group of Sykes Scholars that

can be role models to next year’s Sykes scholars. I think that’s a pretty unique feature of a program that involves independent study, and one that can be incredibly impactful. So I hope that it can continue to be that mentorship from students and for students,” said Patel.

Through constant changes and improvements to the program, the Sykes Scholars hope that the program will make an impact on the health and well-being of the Andover community. Despite the challenge of creating an entire curriculum from scratch, the scholars are working hard to make the curriculum as open-ended to future students as possible.

“There have definitely been quite a few bumps on the road as we develop this program, and I am sure there will be many more to come. That’s what makes doing things like this interesting… Also, we wanted to make sure that the program allowed for the full spectrum of interests that can be found in medicine. We didn’t want to just talk about physicians or hospitals, because, really, medicine is much more broad than that,” wrote Clayton in an email to The Phillipian.