Sean Holly, a motivated senior at St. Elizabeth’s High School, is pretty confident he wants to pursue a career in medicine. Like any teenager hoping to gain experience in a related field, he poked around to see what internship opportunities there were and was surprised by what he found.
Holly identified a gap in opportunities for Delaware high school students who are serious about pursuing their interest in medicine outside of the classroom. Without personal or family connections to doctors, Holly determined that many students faced tremendous barriers to medical job shadowing opportunities.
Holly found others frustrated about the physician internship process, teaming up with fellow students John Kepley, a junior at St. Elizabeth’s, Arjan Kahlon, a Charter School of Wilmington freshman, Ruth Wilhelm, a sophomore at Padua, and Andrew MacWilliams, a sophomore at Archmere. Kahlon and Kepley are co-founders of the Apollo program along with Holly.
But perhaps the most critical partner was someone Holly now considers a valuable friend and colleague: Delaware Youth Leadership Network (DYLN) Founder and Executive Director Margaret O’Dwyer. A past participant in the DYLN program, Holly saw lots of synergies between what he and his friends were trying to accomplish and the network of business and community leaders and DYLN alumni who support the program’s entrepreneurial mission.
This team decided to develop a plan to network with local physicians and identify readily accessible job shadowing opportunities.
And they came up with a very cool name for their venture: Apollo: Youth in Medicine, named after the Greek god of healing.
Building a coalition of organizations and navigating the many approvals to bring their concept to reality wasn’t easy. But Holly and his team are wrapping up Apollo’s pilot year, proud to have connected 40 high school students to job shadowing opportunities this spring.
Town Square Delaware caught up with Sean Holly and Margaret O’Dwyer to learn more about this student-led initiative and how other teens can benefit from this new venture.
Apollo Founder Sean Holly
Town Square Delaware: What was your inspiration for Apollo? What was the problem?
Sean Holly: As I entered high school, I contemplated which career path would be best for me. And after quite a bit of research, I began to seriously consider the medical field. Becoming a physician seemed like a fantastic pathway for someone with a thirst for knowledge and a desire to be a lifelong learner.
I sought opportunities far and wide to talk and shadow with physicians in Delaware. I volunteered, and this energized me to learn more about the nuts and bolts of everyday life for physicians.
I inquired at three hospitals in my county and searched up to an hour away for high school shadowing opportunities, but there was only one hospital that allowed students to visit, and the student had to be a family member of the physician he/she was shadowing. I was dismayed I would not be able to learn more about the medical field without first-hand experience.
I felt it was important to address this gap because the medical career path is challenging and medical school has a difficult admission process. I want students to make an informed decision about this career path.
TSD: How did the Delaware Youth Leadership Network help you realize your dream?
Holly: I remembered what I had learned through my Delaware Youth Leadership Network program about analyzing problems and creating solutions to solve them. The first step I took was to outline a proposal for my program, Apollo: Youth in Medicine, describing the issue of students not being able to shadow physicians and why it should be solved.
I shared the Apollo proposal with Margaret O’Dwyer, and she helped me foster relationships with various professionals across Delaware to work with me in launching Apollo including the Medical Society of Delaware, which was instrumental in the program’s success.
DYLN inspires the youth of today to be problem solvers, innovators and collaborators to continue making our communities stronger. Apollo is an example of the DYLN vision in action.
TSD: In what ways does Apollo help students?
Holly: Apollo: Youth in Medicine is still a young program. But we are excited about how much we have accomplished. Apollo educates students about careers in the medical field and network with their peers and medical professionals as they further explore medicine as a potential career path.
Students also attend an educational session to learn more about medical pathways and receive HIPAA training, a necessary component for the shadowing.
Apollo covers topics such as types of medicine, pathways to becoming a physician, and HIPAA while culminating with a shadowing opportunity. In addition, the program discusses the Delaware Institute of Medical Educational Research (DIMER) unique to Delaware students whereby they can apply to medical school via the program. DIMER allocates twenty spaces in the Sidney Kimmel Medical College for students from Delaware. Most students are unaware of the possibilities with DIMER prior to the Apollo program.
In our pilot year of the Apollo program, 40 high school students benefited from the experiences and education provided. Each Apollo participant attended an education session as well as a physician shadowing experience with one of our 25 physician volunteers who are pivotal to the program’s success.
TSD: What are your goals for Apollo?
Holly: The Apollo team believes that supporting students in understanding and choosing career paths in medicine may eventually lead them back to Delaware, thus helping to keep talent local. Since Delaware does not have its own medical school, the state struggles to attract residents back to the state to establish practices. We look to expand the program to more students and additional medical professionals.
Delaware Youth Leadership Network Founder Margaret O’Dwyer
TSD: Why did DYLN offer to help with the Apollo project?
Margaret O’Dwyer: One of DYLN’s main objectives is empowering young people to believe in their potential to make a difference in the world.
We continue to engage with DYLN alumni in pursuing their goals whether it’s supporting an entrepreneurial venture like Apollo, making connections for summer internships or providing opportunities to attend events. This was a unique collaborative effort by many organizations, all driven by Sean Holly and the others on the student leadership team.
TSD: How does DYLN’s involvement with Apollo enhance the DYLN program?
O’Dwyer: We hope Apollo is the first of many initiatives that DYLN alumni will create and build.
Having role models and examples of successful ventures will motivate others to take that leap. Even if some of these ideas are not successful, we encourage students to get out of their comfort zones and recognize that having an entrepreneurial mindset is key to building the necessary skills to lead impactful lives.
If you would like to reach the Apollo team, they can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.