This program is one of the jewels in the High Point Community Foundation’s crown for it not only helps our Donors achieve their philanthropic vision, it also breaks new ground in the promotion of STEM in our local school system.
Years ago when I first met Drs. Michael and Zoe Draelos, I could see immediately they were both passionate about research and they genuinely wanted to reach out to area students to provide them with some of the opportunities that had so positively impacted their lives. While both have been long-time and highly respected physicians in our community, they have also launched a research business that has become one of the most highly regarded in the world for dermatology and cosmetic products.
Zoe has, in fact, been awarded both a Presidential Citation from the American Academy of Dermatology for her research advances in the field and the Maison deNavarre Award from the Society of Cosmetic Chemists for her contributions to the art and science of cosmetics.
Research is obviously deeply embedded in the Draelos’ DNA and their experiences led to them providing the same opportunities for their two sons who are now both MD, PhD. candidates at Duke University. It was their desire to pass these same opportunities on to local students that started the program at the High Point Community Foundation.
Each summer a new cohort of students is selected through a very competitive process for an eight-week paid internship during the summer in which they work with local PhDs and their teams to do actual research. It’s an amazing opportunity akin to a local high school athlete being given a chance to play for a pro team and then use that experience as a way to get recruited to college. This past year our first Scholar was included as member of the research team whose work was published in an academic journal. Every year the program grows and its long-term impact expands.
When I attend the student presentations at the end of each summer program I often find myself scrambling to keep up with the science as these young people have quite possibly more than tripled my IQ scores. However, this year I noticed something remarkable that I never quite anticipated as byproduct of these internships. It was the ancillary benefits of this experience that made me realize that science can be more than an intellectual experience and actually teach critically important life skills.
Each young person who spoke had tales of steep learning curves, strict protocols and hours of hard, but rewarding work. It quickly became apparent that this scientific learning experience had also taught them to have a strong work ethic, to adapt a professional approach in their research and behavior and, most of all, to appreciate the power of mentoring and truly value the opportunities that have been given to them.
How cool is it that scientific research can also teach a young people to grow into young men and women of integrity, purpose and respect?
I have always believed that you can go out in the marketplace and buy talent, but one thing you cannot put a price on is integrity and character. I applaud the wonderful work Michael and Zoe are doing to not only advance scientific research, but also develop a new generation of scientists who are first and foremost solid, values driven leaders.