High school students use summer to investigate medical careers

RICHMOND, Va. – For some Virginia high school students, summer vacation will mean an opportunity to learn at one of the country’s largest medical centers. Partnered with physicians and researchers, they’ll be introduced to the realities of a career in medicine.

The 30 students chosen to participate in the 12th annual Virginia Governor's School for Medicine were selected from among nearly 150 applicants (see attached for participating students). For six weeks, they will live on Virginia Commonwealth University's Medical College of Virginia Campus and spend their days with mentors — practicing physicians or medical researchers — in fields of their choice.

Students paired with physicians will be based in VCU’s MCV Hospitals, learning about patient care and discussing treatment plans with health-care providers. Those studying a research specialty will actively participate in laboratory research and work with investigators to analyze findings.

In addition to conducting research projects, all students will rotate through other specialties that interest them and volunteer in the hospital. They also will get a taste of college and city living.

"This is an extraordinary opportunity for these students," said Kirk Blackard, director of the Virginia Governor's School for Medicine. "During the summer, they have the chance to observe surgery, childbirth and emergency medicine — experiences that many medical school students don't have until their third year. We’ll see students assess for themselves what a career in medicine looks like on a day-to-day basis and decide if this is a course they wish to pursue."

Dozens of past participants have gone on to pre-med programs and medical schools at a number of universities including VCU. Of the past participants who applied since the program’s inception in 1996, about 70 percent were accepted. More than 50 percent matriculated at VCU’s School of Medicine.

The Governor's School for Medicine is a cooperative project of the Virginia Department of Education's Office of Programs for the Gifted and VCU's School of Medicine. The program was the first of its kind in the country.


High School/City or County


Nafis Ahmed

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax

Pharmacology & Toxicology

Kaveh Ardalan

Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach


Cassandra Bradby

Governor’s School for Government & International Studies in Richmond

Family Practice

Philip Brinkman

J.E.B. Stuart High School in Fairfax


Evan Bruhn

West Point High School in West Point


Jonathan Campbell-Morgan

Manchester High School in Chesterfield


Denise Canonizado

Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach


John Catilo

T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria


Carey Compton

William Monroe High School in Greene

Surgery & Oncology

Benjamin Cox

Massaponax High School in Spotsylvania


Jason Davenport

Virginia High School in Bristol

Internal Medicine

Marina Dickens

Rockbridge County High School in Lexington


Christienna Fryar

Tallwood High School in Virginia Beach


Alison Game

Menchville High School in Newport News

Gastroenterology & Microbiology & Immunology

Lauren Good

Giles High School in Pearisburg

Obstetrics & Gynecology

Ubaid Haq

Martinsville High School in Martinsville


Joshua Hou

Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach


Victor Hwang

Oakton High School in Vienna

Pharmacology & Toxicology

John Knapp

Maury High School in Norfolk

Radiation Oncology

Nneka Madu

Gar-Field High School in Prince William


AnhThu Nguyen

Powhatan High School in Powhatan


Erica Palin

Lancaster High School in Lancaster


Bina Patel

Fieldale-Collinsville High School in Henry


Amy Perlman

George Mason High School in Falls Church

Internal Medicine & Hematology & Oncology

Thao-Ly Phan

Governor’s School for Government & International Studies in Richmond


Rebecca Previs

King William High School in King William


Vivek Ramakrishnan

Powell Valley High School in Big Stone Gap

Infectious Disease

Michael Semanik

The Covenant School in Charlottesville

Microbiology & Immunology

Michelle Smith

Western Branch High School in Chesapeake

Trauma Surgery & Burn Unit

Sarah Statzer

John S. Battle High School in Bristol

Infectious Disease

About VCU and VCU Medical Center

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 226 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Sixty-seven of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 13 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University comprise VCU Medical Center, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers. For more, see