Dr. Mary Mason is a physician with a business background, and a mother of 3. She is the founder of Little Medical School®, which brings medicine, science, and the importance of health to children in an entertaining, exciting, and fun way.
“I love the fact that it’s a business that franchisees can find satisfying and they’re doing a great service for their community that’s really important”. Dr. Mary Mason, Founder, Little Medical School.
BTB: Please tell us about the Little Medical School concept.
MM: In 1999, I came up with concept, and I finalized it in 2010. I’m a physician and a doctor’s kid. When I was young, my mother who is a pediatrician, would bring home things from the office – things like a stethoscope, reflex hammer and tongue depressor. I even had little white coat. It really made me feel like a doctor. We would do fun activities and it made it a memorable experience, and something that I took with me as I decided on my career. I wanted to create something similar, using the power of role play, to inspire children to consider careers in health care.
While we call it Little Medical School, we go far beyond that, exposing children to the wide variety of fulfilling careers available in healthcare, and opening their eyes to all the opportunities in fields like nursing, dietetics physiotherapy, occupational therapy, EMT, dentistry, dental assisting, veterinary medicine, etc.
BTB: Could you talk a bit about Women in STEM
MM: When I went to medical school, there were 20 women in my class out of 120. Today it’s closer to 50/50, but still many girls still see being a physician as very hard, or think that it will stop them from having a normal family life. We try to expose children to role models, bringing health professionals together for a session for the kids to see why they made the choices for their career and what daily life is really like as a working healthcare professional. We go far beyond what is currently offered in the school curriculums.
BTB: Could you describe some of the Unique aspects of the program
MM: The need for healthcare and healthcare professionals is international. It doesn’t have boundaries, so our program is growing throughout the world. We introduce the concept of health and being healthy, so if you’re going to be a health care professional and are going to be talking to people about being healthy, you have to be healthy yourself.
So much of what we consider basic life skills has changed because of technology. Kids are on phones and the computer so much and get less exposure to some aspects of life skills. For example, we offer grandparents and grandchildren’s’ courses, and we offer a wilderness course that role plays skills such as what do you do if you’re in the woods and someone gets hurt and you aren’t in cell phone range? We teach how to be safe as a rescuer, what do you do in an emergency, CPR, the Heimlich maneuver, how to call 911, etc. The kids are actually learning lessons that could save someone’s life, or their own. These are skills that they can use throughout their lives.
BTB: It seems that there are endless opportunities for programs
MM: Yes, looking at what’s out there, there isn’t a lot like this. In fact, this truly is unique. We have a team of educators and health professionals that have come together to create a unique curriculum, and endless opportunities for program development. We offer after school programs, summer camps, scouting events and even birthday parties. We call it ‘Edutainment’. The kids go home excited and tell their parents and the parents become excited, too.
Courses start with a white coat ceremony where they also get an id badge. They learn the significance of the white coat just like on the first day of medical school. They take a Little Medical School Oath, and programs always end with a graduation ceremony with parents, that showcases what the kids learn, as well as a frameable diploma. This is one of the opportunities to see the true excitement and the true value the program brings to the kids.
BTB: Do the instructors have to be in the health care field?
MM: Our ideal instructors are college/university or graduate students, or in medical or nursing or pharmacy school. As long as they have a good background in science, and have a good grasp of high school level science, they can learn to teach this class. We have a training program and procedures in place as well as a full time educational specialist available. The instructors get a valuable experience out of teaching the program as well.
BTB: Do the franchise owners have to have a science or healthcare background?
MM: They don’t. We currently have franchisees from a variety of backgrounds. Some have medical backgrounds, but others come from education, IT, and other backgrounds. What everybody has in common is the mission to inspire kids to consider careers in healthcare and find ways to help better the community with this program.
BTB: Do you have a mentor?
MM: I’ve always had a variety of mentors over the years. I have to say, the most wonderful mentor I ever had was my mother, who was a pediatrician. She was an educator before she went to medical school as one of the 4 women in her class in the 1950s. She loved being a doctor. She was always encouraging to young people who had an interest in science and health care, and she helped me write many of the early lessons for Little Medical School. We’ve actually named our foundation arm after her - “Dr. Genie’s kids”. We put a percentage of our proceeds into the foundation so that we can provide scholarships to underserved kids, so they can attend our classes, and I’m committed to give every franchisee 12 scholarships a year so that they can make sure that in their community, they can reach kids who want to participate in the program.
BTB: Is there anything else that you’ like to add?
MM: I’ve always been surprised that it never occurred to me that this was truly unique until I talked about it with a fellow physician. When I did some research, I found lots of engineering and science programs, but nothing on health care. It was an ‘a-ha!’ moment when I realized the potential of using this as a vehicle to empower kids – for example, special needs kids that have to go to the doctor a lot. They see a doctor with a stethoscope and a white coat they’ll say, “I have a stethoscope and a white coat, too”. They will be more comfortable and have a better understanding. There are so many potential avenues, and I’m excited about new things we can bring to the market.
We see kids from all walks of life and many of them are so smart, and often nobody has ever told them “you can do this”. We have the potential to really change people’s lives here and really open up opportunities because when they’re wearing their white coats and getting their diplomas, our message is that if you put your mind to it, you can do it, and that’s really what Little Medical School is all about.
Find out more about Little Medical School by clicking here.