Jefferson Awards: Doctor Inspires Teens To Explore Medical Careers

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Tomas Magana - Jefferson Award Winner. (CBS)

Tomas Magana – Jefferson Award Winner. (CBS)

OAKLAND (CBS 5) — When Dr. Tomas Magaña envisions the future of medicine, the faces he hopes to see are those of his Oakland students.

A group recently completed a three-year internship to introduce them to the health care profession, something Magaña never dreamed he’d be a part of when he was their age.

“I was born in East L.A., to some teenage parents, raised by a single mom,” he said. “Not many resources growing up, not very many role models.”

Today Magaña is a pediatric physician at Children’s Hospital, where he all too often sees young patients dying from preventable causes.

“I’m trained to treat disease pathology, diabetes, tuberculosis, but that’s not necessarily what’s killing our kids,” he said sadly. “For the past year I’ve had five patients – I’ve lost five patients – due to violence in the community.”

So in 2000, Magaña and his colleague, Dr. Barbara Staggers, started the FACES of the Future program to motivate inner city high school students to explore health care careers.

“It’s sort of a two-fer for us,” Staggers explained. “It’s keeping our kids alive. But more importantly, inspiring them to become health professionals like we did.”

Two days a week for three years, students meet with the FACES staff. Each student gets a case manager to help them work through life obstacles. Most importantly, students intern in the hospital.

Magaña said, “We have our kids in surgery, we have our kids in anesthesia, we have them in neo natal, we have them in mental health, throughout the hospital, because my goal is that a young person really be able to see the full breadth of career options in health care.”

In the eleven years since the FACES program began, 215 students have participated and 100 percent have graduated from high school and enrolled in college.

“These are our future health care leaders,” Magaña said. “These are the kids that are going to be making a difference in our community in a few years, if not already. So I’m pretty damn proud.”

FACES partners with five high schools. Principal Preston Thomas of Life Academy of Health & Bioscience sees it changing lives.

“They’ve gone through FACES, they saw somebody that looked like them that inspired them, and then carried it all the way through,” explained Thomas.

So when Magaña looks at the faces of this year’s graduates, he not only sees the future of medicine, but is grateful for the mentors in his own life.

“I have very much and in many ways walked the path that these young people are walking right now, and it was very important that I became a means for which we could provide opportunities for kids in this community.”

So for helping to provide hope and a path to new careers, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Dr. Tomas Magaña.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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