Eleven seniors from Brentwood, Longwood and Wyandanch schools graduated from Stony Brook Medicine’s Health Occupations Partnership for Excellence (HOPE) program on Tuesday, May 10. Five of the graduates will continue their studies at Stony Brook University.
Dr. Hal Paz, executive vice president of Health Sciences and CEO of Stony Brook University Medicine; Carol Gomes, CEO and chief operating officer of Stony Brook University Hospital; and Judith Brown Clarke, Stony Brook’s vice president for equity and inclusion and chief diversity officer, delivered remarks to more than 70 guests, including the students and their families, and teachers and administrators from the schools.
“We are here to celebrate your graduation today, but I want you to also consider how your very acceptance to this program is an accomplishment worthy of reflection,” Dr. Paz said. “A competitive program with applicants from several school districts, we saw something special in each one of you, and I hope you carry that knowledge forward wherever your future takes you.”
Since 2005, the HOPE program has offered insight and mentorship to students interested in pursuing careers in healthcare. The program seeks to decrease healthcare disparities by increasing the number of healthcare providers from underserved and underrepresented communities. To date, the program has launched the college careers of nearly 200 young people from Long Island.
Gomes, who has been involved in the program since its inception, reflected on how the program continues to thrive and the important role it plays in recruiting a new generation of professionals.
“I hope it renews your commitment to embarking on a career in healthcare, because although you will be starting your next chapter in a very different world from the one you expected, it is a world that needs you,” Gomes said.
Each of the seniors presented vision boards that showcased their passions, presentations from the program that they found particularly impactful for them, and their future goals. Rosa Melendez, a graduating senior from Wyandanch, thanked the program for introducing her to different career paths and providing her with hands-on learning opportunities. Melendez will continue her studies at Stony Brook in the fall.
“One of the biggest things they teach us in Wyandanch is perseverance, because sadly not only do we not get a lot of mentorship, but we also don’t get a lot of hope,” Melendez said. “So HOPE has given me that hope. A lot of people don’t think of us as being able to be doctors. We are the underdogs. … Being able to see all of these doctors … was something really amazing.”
Seniors in the program met with presenters from Undergraduate Admissions; Pre-Health Advising; School of Social Welfare; Biomedical Engineering; Pediatrics; Stony Brook Cancer Center; School of Health Professions; the Career Center; Psychiatry; and the School of Dental Medicine.
Juniors in the program received seven weeks of SAT prep in English and math. They were recognized as moving up to seniors with a certificate and will be returning in the fall to complete the two-year program.
The HOPE program is planned and managed by the Stony Brook University & Hospital Community Relations Office and runs after school for approximately 20 weeks during the academic year. The graduation ceremony was held at the Student Activities Center ballroom to allow for social distancing.
Brown Clarke noted the importance of cultural trust and seeing providers who look like the people they are caring for.
“Your patients are already waiting for you,” she told the students.
— Erika Karp