Twenty-five Pomona Unified School District (PUSD) seventh-graders were all lined up with smiles holding their new white coats, eager to be cloaked by WesternU professors and be dubbed biomedical scholars during a ceremony Saturday, Oct. 17, 2009.

The second year of the Pomona Health Career Ladder (PHCL) started with a white coat ceremony in front of a full room of mostly sixth- and seventh-grade students and their parents in Prem Reddy Hall at Western University of Health Sciences.

The white coat is the distinguished symbol worn by doctors for over 100 years. “”It symbolically represents acceptance of new colleagues into the profession. It symbolizes we are equals and colleagues,”” said Dr. Timothy S. Martinez, College of Dental Medicine Associate Dean for Community Partnerships and Access to Care.

Before the 76 students separated into their Saturday workshops, Ben Lee, DO ’12, president of the student club Pipeline to Health Careers (PHC), announced how great the turnout was. With parent, student and faculty volunteers it reached nearly 160 participants.

Key to those participants is WesternU students who volunteer. WesternU students involved in the Pipeline to Health Careers club work as teams, one for the sixth-graders and one for the seventh-graders, to educate them on particular health topics, but also to foster participation and create leadership skills during the PHCL workshops.

“”Students at WesternU are our strength,”” said Elizabeth Rega, PhD, Director of Strategic Alliances and Special Projects, Academic Affairs, who has coordinated the Pomona Health Career Ladder since its inception. “”They are very engaging and have a nice practical way of teaching.””

Seventh-grade Biomedical Scholars started their workshop by learning about how much sugar is in many of the foods they eat. These seventh-graders will collaborate and create a lunch menu that could be implemented in their schools. This didactic material is intended for students to learn what they will have to serve and how to price this menu.

The Pomona Health Career Ladder started in 2008 as a joint effort between Pomona Unified School District, WesternU and California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, to help guide students into becoming health care professionals.

PUSD Superintendent Richard Martinez thanked everyone for taking six Saturday mornings away from television and video games to learn about the many health professions careers.

Six Saturday workshops were held in the 2008-09 academic year. Five more are scheduled for the 2009-10 academic year: Nov.14, and Dec. 5, Jan. 23, Feb. 27, and April 17 from 8:30 a.m. to noon at WesternU’s Health Professions Center.

The monthly workshops include cardiovascular health, fitness and sports injuries and microbiology, health careers and a healthy lifestyle, and community health. Each workshop the students rotate into provides hands-on experiences they otherwise would not get.

Dr. Clinton Adams, Dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (COMP) emphasized the importance of a parent’s role in guiding and nurturing their children to accomplish their dreams.

“”We can’t do it without you. They can’t do it without you,”” he said.

As children experience different medical fields such as Osteopathic Medicine, Pharmacy, Physical Therapy, Physician Assistant, Veterinary Medicine, Podiatry, Optometry and Dentistry, parents attend mandatory sessions that help them plan an academic career for their child, help them learn about financial aid possibilities and the show them the variety of health careers available to their children.

“”It’s great for my daughter to have this education,”” said Pauline Mu