BCHM Co-Terminal Student Omar Martínez González Brings Together NM® Scholars from Westinghouse College Prep with Illinois Tech Faculty

Graduate student Omar Martínez González brought outstanding students from Westinghouse College Prep together with Illinois Tech faculty for a meet-and-greet lunch on August 2.

The students are part of the Northwestern Medicine® (NM) Scholars Program at Westinghouse College Prep, a highly competitive program that helps prepare high school students for potential careers in medicine and healthcare.

Martínez González is a BCHM co-terminal student who has been at Illinois Tech since 2012. He previously interned for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute in the office of Representative Luis V. Gutierrez (D, IL-04) and lobbied through a government relations firm in Washington, D.C. This summer, he coordinated the scholars program for Northwestern Medicine.

At the lunch at Illinois Tech, students were paired with faculty members based on the students’ major interest, from cancer biology to biochemistry. Faculty included Kathryn Spink, director of pre-health professions programs; Nick Menhart, associate professor of biology; Tom Irving, professor of biology and physics; Jialing Xiang, professor of biology; and Daniel Krieglstein, adjunct instructor, Information Technology and Management.

“I wanted my students to experience how truly inspiring and humble professors at IIT are, so I reached out to professors I’ve had to see if they would be willing to sit down with my students for lunch,” Martínez González said. “The students said the professors gave them an honest picture of what they need to do to prepare for college and their intended careers.

“Most of our students are first-generation, and these types of experiences are limited to students in the Chicago Public School system. Meeting actual college professors can be priceless,” he added. “The students were truly inspired by the experience. I was confident that the session would be great, because I know how committed my professors are towards diversifying the STEM pipeline.”

After lunch, the students had a round-robin session with Illinois Tech students Anessa Puskar (BMED) and Neil Bhattacharya (BIOL) to hear more about college life at Illinois Tech, Martínez González added. “Anessa and Neil were connected to me via Dr. Spink, and they were truly wonderful,” he said.

The NM® Scholars receive leadership development opportunities during the academic year, and in the summer, they convene downtown at Northwestern Memorial Hospital for a four-week summer intensive focusing on a specific topic in medicine. This year, the topic was emergency medicine.

“I decided to bring my students to IIT, because this school has truly changed my life,” Martínez González said. “I was a transfer student from Wright College, and although finances have always been a challenge, the school has tried to work with me to make my education affordable. The professors here are truly phenomenal. I’ve been challenged so rigorously that I know I will leave the school truly prepared as a scientist, whether I decide to continue pursuing medicine or return to government and policy.

“I hope this is the start of a new partnership between the scholars program and IIT,” he said.

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