Teens Launch And Grow Health Equity Nonprofit

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The Annapolis-based nonprofit Future of Human Health and Medicine (FHHMO) is growing. The group raises awareness and fights for health equity. It was preceded by Future Doctors Organization (FDO), a club for students interested in learning more about careers in medicine. FDO was launched by then Broadneck High School student Paxton Paganelli in 2012. Ryan Davis later started a Severna Park High School chapter.

Today, both FDO chapters fall under the umbrella of FHHMO. By educating students about careers in health care, FHHMO’s aims to “enhance inclusivity and diversity in the advancement of human health and medicine.” The group aims to empower students with training, mentorship, and career development so that health equity is one day possible.

FHHMO’s initiatives include an ambassador program for students, a mini health and medicine symposium to be held in Annapolis, the Healers podcast, an Anne Arundel Health Care Worker Appreciation Campaign, and a Teen Mental Health Night program.

In January, FHHMO held its first Teen Mental Health Night at Severna Park High School. The event was a success. After COVID-19 hit, FHHMO provided a virtual edition of the initiative. A panel, featuring two licensed social workers, and a teen mental health advocate, discussed the challenges teens face.

“It was a challenging but meaningful conversation,” Davis said. The discussion is posted on YouTube.

“I’ve always been interested in human anatomy and physiology,” Davis said of his involvement in FDO and FHHMO.

He was first drawn to medicine after learning about the heart in seventh grade. “I’m interested in primary care with a focus on health equity,” said Davis, a rising senior at SPHS. “I’m applying to accelerated medical school programs.”

Davis’ interest in health equity was sparked when he volunteered at Anne Arundel Medical Center (AAMC), wheeling patients from post-op to their transportation pick-up. He was often surprised to hear how far patients had traveled to receive medical care.

FDO sponsors student tours of AAMC facilities. Students at SPHS have heard from guest speakers, like a physical therapist, a speech language pathologist and a neonatologist. Members also receive career development guidance, and have participated in a live surgical stream at AAMC. The SAIL Center set up cameras in the operating room and FDO students watched a laparoscopic procedure from a conference room. They were able to ask live questions of the surgeon, Dr. Adrian Park, chair of the Department of Surgery at AAMC.

“We have so many insightful experts in our area,” FDO and FHHMO president and co-founder Paganelli noted. “It has been really fun and enlightening engaging with people in the medical field to learn from them.

“I like working with high schoolers and really exceptional young people who want to engage in community health in a meaningful way,” he added.

After graduating from the University of Maryland at College Park, where his major was neurobiology, physiology and general business, Paganelli is taking a year to study for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). He plans to attend medical school.

FHHMO is now developing an online website portal, Nucleus, for Anne Arundel County Public Schools to give students a place to engage with FHHMO online. Nucleus will feature a calendar for upcoming events, resources for academic help, and mentorship opportunities with graduate students and medical professionals.

“It has meant a lot to be involved in FHHMO. What started for me as an interest in learning about becoming a doctor, turned into a nonprofit that fights for health equity starting with high-schoolers,” Davis said. “FHHMO helped me learn a lot about the challenges we face in modern day health care.”

For more information about FHHMO, visit www.fhhmo.org.

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