PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — There is a special program at UPMC that is all about reaching young minds to strengthen the heart.
An annual four-session program is connecting local high school students with doctors in hopes that teens will pursue science.
"We do project a shortage in the short period of time in the next five to 10 years, even with regards to cardiology and cardiologists in the field," Dr. Katie Berlacher said.
Berlacher, at UPMC Presbyterian, became what some would call the heart of the I Look Like a Cardiologist program. It encourages high school students, specifically women and diverse people, to pursue cardiology and science before they head off to college.
"I mean, shoot, we need all women in every single area of medicine," Dr. Berlacher said.
"We're really trying to change the norm of what cardiology looks like," added Dr. Jenna Skowronski, a program mentor. "Look, we were you. I was you at one point, and this is how I got here, and you can do that too."
"They're the best. I'm really grateful. I got to be a part of the incredible program," said Nora Navid, a participant in the program.
Navid, now a student at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and focused on becoming a cardiologist herself, participated in the program a few years ago.
"You'll have discussions about the different topics that could be like about cardiac diseases or different fields of cardiology, or just the path to med school," Navid said.
She says the connections to the knowledge she gained has become a subject she's happy to share.
"We go to St. Louis elementary schools each week and we talk to them about healthy heart habits and trying to get them interested in science careers," Navid said.
So far, nobody who has been through the program has become a cardiologist. That's because of the extensive schooling involved to become a doctor, along with the program starting five years ago.
"When we have our first student match into cardiology, I'm going to be really excited. That's going to be a special day," Dr. Skowronski said.
Lindsay Ward is a journalist who joined KDKA in April 2019. Lindsay is from Indiana County and is a proud IUP graduate where she studied Communications Media and Political Science.