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State Sen. Marc Dann addresses minority students en route to medical school

ATHENS, Ohio (Oct. 1, 2004) -- Sen. Marc Dann, D-Youngstown, took a break from the campaign trail and toured Ohio University's College of Osteopathic Medicine Wednesday to learn more about the medical school and how it serves the citizens of Ohio. He also spoke to a group of African American high school and college students gathered in Grosvenor Hall about the importance of pursuing the medical careers they were considering embarking upon. Dann talked to the students about passion -- the kind of passion that is instrumental to living fulfilled lives, a fitting theme for them.

"If I have one piece of advice, it's this -- you've got to do what you love, and you'll be happy," Dann said. "You may not be rich, but you'll have the passion."

He stressed the importance of pursuing careers as primary care physicians, an area in which he feels there is a real need.

"It's an area to go into if you really want to serve the community and be where you're needed," he said. "And we're committed to making that possible. We have to maintain the quality of primary care and access to it as well as continue to train new physicians.

"Ohio is falling behind the country in degrees obtained past high school," Dann said. "It's one of Ohio's biggest challenges. We have to encourage students to think about their career paths past high school."

Dann noted the value of a profession aimed at saving lives and serving medical needs, encouraging the students to get back to the roots of medicine.

The high school and college students in attendance were a part of Project GridIron, a Warren-based organization devoted to nurturing the ambitions of minority students and helping their career aspirations become a reality.

"We develop a team of champions," said Ru'Kiya Pugh, vice president of Project GridIron. "We find out what their passion is and help them fulfill their dreams and what they're called to do."

Jimmy Pugh, president of Project GridIron, says he wants the minority students to dream big but adds, too often, they don't have the opportunity to see and experience some of the things that would help cultivate their dreams.

OU-COM Dean Jack Brose, D.O., said the medical field is experiencing a huge deficit in minority professionals. And while the school's minority enrollment is considerably higher than the national average, with 23 percent of its students being minorities, Brose is still looking to increase that number.

"Diversity in a medical school has substantial benefits," Brose said. "It helps students understand the cultural needs of minority patients."

In addition, noted Brose, some minority students will return to practice in underserved minority communities, a choice fully endorsed by Ru'Kiya.

"You may not become a multimillionaire, but it's the passion that matters, not the paycheck," she told the students.

Bridget Wagner, D.O., a 1994 graduate and assistant dean for the college's Northeast Centers for Osteopathic Research and Education, and a supporter of Project GridIron, played a key role in recruiting the group for the visit and meeting with Dann.

For high school students Angela Harris of Farrell, Penn., and Candice Dukes and Morgan Dowell, both of Warren, the visit to OU-COM and meeting with Dann was a major step in pursuing their dreams in pediatrics, physical therapy and gynecology.

For Edwin Jackson, of Akron, his visit was hopefully one of many more in the near future.

"I'm currently in the process of applying here," he said. "It's a very nice school -- it's my first choice."

The GridIron students also had an opportunity to speak with current OU-COM students about academics and life in Athens. Following their chat, Dann spoke to the students.

"It's clear to me that Sen. Dann is very supportive of higher education in Ohio," said Brose.

Dann's visit to OU-COM was two-fold, according to George Dunigan, director of governmental relations.

"It's part of an ongoing process to bring elected officials to campus to show them OU-COM," Dunigan said. "Part of Dann's discussion with Dean Brose dealt with the current state budget and the future budget. Obviously we're concerned about medical education in the state budget. We wanted to show Sen. Dann what we're all about."

What the school is "about," Dann learned during a presentation made by Brose, was the training of physicians -- 67 percent of who practice in Ohio. Brose also showed how OU-COM graduates directly impact rural areas such as Southeastern Ohio: 39 percent of the school's graduates practice in communities with less than 50,000 residents, and they represent 56 percent of the primary care physicians in Southeastern Ohio. Citing a recent study by a health-care consulting firm, Brose said that the college has had an overall economic impact of $1.09 billion statewide and $113 million in Southeastern Ohio, resulting in almost $32 million in state tax revenues.

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Media Contacts: Writer/editor Kevin M. Sanders, (740) 593-0896

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