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Science and Medicine celebrates 10th anniversary

The Cleveland School of Science and Medicine is now 10 years old – a blip in the life of an educational institution but enough time for the school to have already recorded significant accomplishments.

One of three small schools at the John Hay Campus in University Circle, CSSM works with Cleveland's renowned medical institutions and universities to give urban students a pathway to the fields of science and medicine. The school, which will celebrate the milestone during an annual benefit Friday at the Tudor Arms Hotel, was one of the first school models in the District’s growing portfolio of options. 
Principal Ed Weber said about half the students choose the school’s clinical track, while the rest are roughly split between research and the business of health care. The hope is that many will stay or return to serve their community.  

(A new CMSD school will have classrooms at MetroHealth's main campus. See story here.)
Science and Medicine students gain networking and field experience with University Hospitals, the Cleveland Clinic, Case Western Reserve University’s School of Medicine, the Northeast Ohio Medical University and Cleveland State University. U.S. News and World Report has ranked CSSM among the nation’s best high schools.

“Here’s an opportunity to get a top-notch education in Cleveland,” said Weber, who has served as principal since the school opened. “If you are interested in a medical career, we are well-equipped to make those dreams come true.”

In the last 10 years, CSSM has enrolled more than 1,000 students, produced nearly 650 alumni and achieved a graduation rate of almost 100 percent. The first graduate to make it to medical school will begin classes July 10.

Eleven alumni have gone on to Ivy League institutions. Graduates have collectively received more than $34 million in scholarships.

The Joan C. Edwards Foundation annually awards one CSSM graduate a full scholarship to earn bachelor’s and medical degrees at Case. The fifth scholarship winner, 2016 graduate Jessica Pham, will be honored Friday.

Dr. Bob Haynie, associate dean for student affairs and an assistant professor at the Case medical school, sits on the CSSM board of trustees. He was instrumental in starting the Robbins Bridge program, which provides seminars and other assistance to students who want to eventually study medicine at Case.

“If you ask me, ‘What is the most important thing you’ve done in your medical career?' -- it’s not getting a Ph.D., it’s not getting an M.D.,’ ” said Haynie, who earned those degrees from CWRU in the 1970s. “The most important thing I’ve done in my medical career is to establish this pipeline for these kids who have less than I have.”

Frank Sullivan, chairman and chief executive officer of Medina-based RPM International Inc., proposed the school’s concept to the District as a way to capitalize on Cleveland’s emergence as a medical powerhouse.

The location, on the doorsteps of the Clinic, UH and Case, was ideal. So was the timing – the District had closed and renovated the former John Hay High School and was looking to put it to new use.

Sullivan credits support from the medical and higher education communities, the Greater Cleveland Partnership and, particularly, the Cleveland Foundation with making it a reality.

Science and Medicine is among a select group of CMSD schools with admission requirements. To make sure they are up to the program’s demands, students must typically have a B average to get in.

Students past and present describe the school as challenging but say dedicated teachers and classmates help by providing strong support and creating a family atmosphere.

“My parents, basically, they wanted me to go to the best high school I possibly could,” said Chukwuka Okoro, now a freshman pre-med student at Cornell University. “They felt this would be the most rigorous and challenging for me to be at, and it was.”

Aiyana Green, who is entering her senior year at CSSM, said she saw how the school prepared a sister who is now studying nursing at Eastern Michigan University.

Aiyana is contemplating a career as a forensic psychiatrist. She said the School of Science and Medicine has put her to the test but added that her hard work has proved to be worthwhile.

“It’s an honor to be here, to be a part of this community,” she said.

The Northeast Ohio Medical University-Cleveland State University Partnership for Urban Health produces primary-care physicians who come from the community and are trained to serve here. Dr. Sonja Haywood, who is co-director of the partnership, said the School of Science and Medicine is rich recruiting territory.

“When we look to institutions across the city, the first place we look is to what is going on at that high school. Because we know those students are the ones who are preparing to be the future in health professions here in Cleveland,” said Haywood, a CSSM board member. “It is such a treasure to have a school like this in an urban setting.”