Blue & You Foundation for a Healthier Arkansas has awarded the Ivy Center for Education $2,433 for their collaborative career readiness program with University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

Dubbed Club Scrub, the program exposes junior high and high school students who desire careers in health-related fields to real-life physician experiences.

Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s Blue & You Foundation is a charitable organization that was established in 2001 with the purpose of promoting better health in Arkansas. Since that time, the Blue & You Foundation has awarded $33 million to 1,566 health-improvement programs in Arkansas.

“Blue & You is doing a lot for Pine Bluff and for Southeast Arkansas, and it’s going to make a difference in the places that we live and the things that we get to do,” said Rebecca Pittillo, Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield South Arkansas regional executive.

“If you hear of someone in our community that wants to do something that will better the health of people that live here and maybe they don’t have the money to do, tell them about this grant.”

According to a Blue & You Foundation news release, this year’s grants went to programs that address issues such as nutrition, exercise, food insecurity, emergency medical services and medical professional education. Pittillo said that the current grants are easy to obtain, and she wants to get the word out to further the reach of health services in Arkansas.

“Right now, in January, February and March, we have what we call small grants. They are $1,000, and you can pretty much apply for them online, and within two days of submitting your grant you can be accepted and receive your $1,000 check,” Pittillo said.

The $2,433 awarded to the Ivy Center will pay for an eight-week program where 25 students will undergo a series of learning sessions that are designed to teach them how to prepare for a career in healthcare.

They will be walked through every step of the process, from improving ACT scores and the application process, to the mindset that is necessary to succeed.

They will participate in field study trips that will give them hands-on experience.

At the completion of the program, the students will receive a white coat and stethoscope. This ceremony is like that of preclinical students who are transitioning to clinical health sciences or, in some cases, the white coat ceremony is held before the first classes begin.

The first Club Scrub workshop was held in 2017, and since that time, 59 students have been impacted by the workshop.

“We’re growing our own Medical Professions for Jefferson County,” Mattie Collins, president of the Ivy Center for Education, Inc., said.

“Our Club Scrub initiative hopes to instill in our scholars a sense of responsibility to their communities and a connection to Arkansas. Our expectations are: 1) that participants think about their futures, 2) participants start thinking about other people 3) participants know that adults are available to provide support and 4) participants recognize there is a network that can mentor and connect them to resources in the community.”

Allen Smith, a senior at Pine Bluff High School, received his white coat in 2018. He plans to return to Pine Bluff as a medical professional.

He hopes to major in neuroscience and attend both the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Baylor University.

“Club Scrub is an amazing opportunity for me to learn about exactly what it takes to be a medical professional,” Smith said. “The White Coat Ceremony allows you to envision yourself as the professional that you want to be.”

The target demographic for Club Scrub is African-Americans, although the program is open to all. Statistics show that female African-American doctors represent about 2 percent of the nation’s 877,616 active physicians.

Madison Taggert, a junior at White Hall High School and soon-to-be graduate of Club Scrub in April, said she plans to return to Pine Bluff as a pediatrician after graduating from medical school.

“My life-long dream has always been to become a pediatrician, whereby I may express my love for children in a way that will benefit their overall physical health,” Taggert said.

“Club Scrub is an outreach program that has given me an opportunity to gain more knowledge about the medical profession and the challenges I will face towards accomplishing my ultimate goal. My destination is to return to Pine Bluff and practice pediatrics. This will allow me to serve the children of the community that I love so much”

Although the number of African-American students attending medical school has increased, results from a study published by The National Academies of Sciences reflect that the number of African-American males attending medical school has declined.

The study suggests that the disproportion is only a slight reflection of the growing attendance number of African-American females. The authors of the study said the decline in male physicians poses an issue in the types of care patients are given.

“Having racial diversity leads to not just more doctors, but also better-prepared doctors who go into communities of color,” said Liliana Garces, an associate professor in the department of educational leadership and policy at the University of Texas at Austin.