Considering whether to pursue a career path in medicine is a decision many high school students face during their academic careers. A group of Yale School of Medicine residents, in conjunction with two hospitals in Waterbury, worked together last Friday to help students make that decision a little easier.

More than 100 Waterbury high school seniors attended the fifth annual “Research Day 2003” hosted at St. Mary’s Hospital. The event, a collaborative effort of St. Mary’s Hospital, the Waterbury Hospital Health Center, and the Yale School of Medicine, included presentations from the CEOs of both hospitals and physicians from Yale’s Residency Program.

St. Mary’s Hospital and the Waterbury Hospital Health Center are two of the main training sites for the Medical School’s residency programs.

Wendy Petricone, who works in community relations at St. Mary’s Hospital, coordinated the events for the high school students. She said the day was important in helping young people see the different career opportunities available in health care.

“It was a remarkable day — of academic excellence,” Petricone said. “This event was intended to motivate young people in ways beyond those available in the traditional academic setting.”

At the event, medical, surgical, nursing and dental residents presented their research to students and each other. Researchers critiqued and gave other researchers advice on presentations throughout the day, Petricone said.

“People assume that the only primary arms of research are the NIH and the CDC,” Petricone said. “But in fact there are also people in the community diligently working to change our health care outcomes.”

Stephen Huot, director of the Yale Primary Care Residency Program, said events like Research Day are important because they give Yale’s medical residents an opportunity to be involved in the community. This involvement is important because the majority of patients receive health care from community health care centers, Huot said.

“We want to be training our next generation of medical leaders,” Huot said. “They need to be involved in the broader neighborhoods to better understand the health care needs of the community.”

Research Day chairwoman Laura Whitman, a clinical professor at the medical school, said Yale’s medical residents played a central role in the success of the day’s events.

“Really the day focuses on showcasing their work,” Whitman said. “They do all the work and we organize around them.”

Following the keynote presentations, Petricone said students had an opportunity to talk with physicians and other health care specialists about the career opportunities available in medicine. Petricone said the mentors were very enthusiastic about participating in the day’s events.

“It was a remarkable commitment that [the mentors] made because they basically gave us their day in order to be able to shepherd and motivate people to ask questions,” Petricone said.

Petricone said she was pleased with the outcome of the day’s events and hoped the program would expand in future years to accommodate more students.

“To see how motivated our staff were by the young people — having us being able to put our arms around a vision was powerful,” Petricone said. “I saw young people leave with a better idea of medicine and medical and scientific research — our event helped put their arms around it. We couldn’t have asked for a more dynamic day.”