First-Generation Haitian Student Accepted Into Summer Health Professions Education Program
(Posted May 10, 2019)
Huntingdon, Pa. – Kenia Pochette, a Juniata College sophomore from East Hartford, Conn., was recently accepted into the Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP) for 2019. Pochette will shadow doctors in clinics, participate in workshops and attend classes at the University of Health Sciences (WesternU) in Pomona, Calif.
Pochette studies linguistics, Spanish and French with a secondary emphasis in chemistry and is planning on becoming a pediatrician or pediatric surgeon.
SHPEP is a five-week program for underrepresented individuals who are preparing to enter careers in the health field. According to their website, SHPEP students “include, but are not limited to, individuals who identify as African American/Black, American Indian and Alaska Native and Hispanic/Latino, and who are from communities of socioeconomic and educational disadvantage.” The program is held at 12 different sites across the country and each site accepts 80 students per year.
“I am excited to see doctor-patient interactions,” says Pochette. “When I shadow doctors, I can ask them how they build relationships with their patients. I love being in that environment.”
Pochette emphasizes her interest in pediatrics because of her seven-year-old sister, Ritchell. As a first-generation college student, Pochette wanted to be a role model for Ritchell.
“I know how hard it was for me as a first-gen college student,” says Pochette. “I did not have someone to look up to who had done this before. If my sister goes to college, she will have a big sister to serve as a guide. She will know that even though we are underrepresented in the health professions field, that does not mean we cannot achieve our dreams. We have to work harder and go for it.”
Although her younger sister is her biggest inspiration, pediatric medicine is something Pochette has always been passionate about. Until the age of 12, Pochette grew up in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and experienced several natural disasters there. In 2011, Pochette and her family moved to the United States.
“Growing up in Haiti, many kids were sick and suffering,” says Pochette. “I know many countries do not have the means to provide medical care. I want to work for Doctors Without Borders to help. My passion comes from a sense of gratitude because they helped my family.”
At Juniata, Pochette has found partners who have guided her through the application process to this prestigious summer research program.
Although Pochette was denied entry into the SHPEP last year, she reached out to her adviser Amanda Siglin, the director of the health professions program and chair of the health professions committee at the College, again. Siglin encouraged Pochette to attend a workshop on campus to get one-on-one help with her application and reapply.
“I was much more confident in my application this year,” says Pochette. “It wasn’t a personal recollection of what I had done, but rather it was a personal statement that says why I fit in this field and what I will do in the future.”
As she finalized her application, Pochette also received guidance from Deborah Roney, assistant professor of English, Sharon Yohn, assistant professor of chemistry, and Holly Hayer, associate professor of Spanish.
“At Juniata, your biggest support system is your professors and advisers,” says Pochette. “Try to get to know people at Juniata because they are going to be there when you need it.”
-- Written by Sierra Waite ’21 --
Contact Genna Welsh Kasun at firstname.lastname@example.org or (814) 641-3138 for more information.