Twenty-one Cathedral High School students received white coats at a Mass and special ceremony in their honor Friday, October 20, as part of their participation in the school’s Medical Gateways Academy program.
Family members joined the students for Mass at St. Francis de Sales parish on East 96th Street in Manhattan, not far from Cathedral’s new premises. Father Philip J. Kelly, St. Francis de Sales’ pastor, celebrated the Mass and blessed the white coats the girls would be receiving. The attendees then moved to the church basement, where the 21 students, all seniors, received their coats for taking part in the program.
“As they enter their senior year, we want to commemorate their four years in the Academy, by giving them white coats and sending them forward into their careers in medicine, health, and other medical professions,” said Maria Spagnuolo, principal of Cathedral High School.
The morning’s primary speaker was Dr. Bernadette Sheridan, owner of Grace Family Medical in Brooklyn, and a 1971 graduate of Cathedral High School. “I was rotten at science, but really good at language,” Sheridan told the students. Despite that, she took remedial courses until she entered a pre-medical program at Johns Hopkins University, forfeiting a scholarship she had earned for language study. “Believe in yourself. Always believe in yourself,” Dr. Sheridan said. She told the students to treasure their white coats, and echoed Father Kelly in saying, “you will grow into them.”
Having been offered for more than 20 years, Cathedral’s students engage in a progression of specialized health and science courses, as preparation for participation in the Medical Gateways Academy. If students have scored 90% or higher on their science and math New York Regents Examinations, they are invited to continue in the program through an internship experience and continuation with the program’s rigorous academic curriculum, with courses including global issues in health care, and advanced health and careers.
While completing these academic studies, students spend one day per week during their junior year in a clinical experience at organizations such as Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, NYU Langone Health, Hospital for Special Surgery, and Mount Sinai Health System.
Although during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, students were not able to attend in-person internships, they partnered closely with healthcare professionals who presented three case studies, for which each student was responsible for researching and subsequently recommending a course of treatment. The students presented their findings in sessions led by the healthcare professional with whom they were partnering.
The depth and breadth of the MGA experiences in the classroom and in the field provide students with both academic and practical insights into medicine, which in turn inspire and motivate young women to pursue health care in service to their communities as adults. In 2023, 46 senior students graduated from Cathedral High School with a certificate from the Medical Gateways Academy.