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McLaughlin Middle School group photo.

How Gummy Bears Unexpectedly Inspired This MCPHS Student's Academic Journey

  • MCPHS—Manchester students, staff, and faculty recently hosted underrepresented middle schoolers on campus for a half-day of hands-on learning and discussion about careers in the health sciences. This year's event marks over a decade since MPCHS first opened its doors to the students of Manchester's McLaughlin Middle School.

    During this year's visit, the seventh graders spent the morning making gummy bears in the pharmacy lab using gelatin, sugar, and juice, learning how to conduct basic physical assessments in the physician assistant (PA) lab, and practicing activities commonly used in occupational therapy (OT). The middle schoolers also spent time talking with pharmacy, PA, and OT students, which gave them the opportunity to learn about the MCPHS students' backgrounds, experiences, and education and ask any questions they may have about healthcare and going to college.

    One of these MCPHS students was Jessica Katiaj, a Doctor of Pharmacy candidate with a unique connection to the McLaughlin Middle School program: years ago, Jessica was a visiting middle schooler herself.

    Jessica remembers chatting with the MCPHS students and learning how to check a person's reflexes, pulse, and blood pressure in the PA lab. However, what she looks back on most fondly was her time spent making gummy bears in the pharmacy lab. Jessica had arrived on the MCPHS—Manchester campus knowing that she wanted to help people when she grew up—but it wasn't until she was exposed to the field of pharmacy, which offered an opportunity to deliver compassionate care and practice physical science, that she considered a future as a pharmacist.

    Now, in the midst of finishing up her PharmD, Jessica was given the opportunity to share her journey with the visiting students. She explained that it felt surreal to stand in front of the middle schoolers, almost as though she had sat in their seats just yesterday.

    "I remember thinking that everyone seemed so professional and grown-up," says Jessica.

    The middle schoolers she spoke to were curious and engaged, enthusiastically asking Jessica about the healthcare industry, pharmacy, and what it's like to be a student at MCPHS. She enjoyed fielding their questions, and ended the day feeling grateful to have spent time with potential future healthcare leaders.

    "This program gives MCPHS students an opportunity to guide and engage with younger students," says Jessica. "It also lets the middle schoolers see that they can do whatever they want, and that they can do what makes them happy. They leave feeling comforted in knowing that there are resources to pursue what they want to do."

    Explore MCPHS's numerous academic offerings, including the Accelerated PharmD, Occupational Therapy, and Accelerated Physician Assistant Studies programs.