TheGrio’s 100: Tony Hansberry, whiz-kid considered ‘the next Charles Drew’

TheGrio's 100 - People in his Jacksonville, Florida home are calling him the "next Charles Drew"...

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The hysterectomy is one of the most invasive surgical procedures in medical practice. Imagine a technique that could do delicate post-surgery stitch work with minimized chances of complications or harm. Sounds like something a seasoned physician developed, but it’s actually something a 15-year-old high school student named Tony Hansberry invented. People in his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida are calling him the “next Charles Drew.”

Hansberry is a student at Darnell Cookman School of Medical Arts, referred to as the first medical magnet school in the country with an integrated medical curriculum. He came under the tutelage of Bruce Nappi, the director of the University of Florida’s Center for Simulation Education and Safety Research (CSESaR) in the summer of 2008. From his experience there, he developed a project that showed how to reduce surgical time for hysterectomies. It only won him second prize in his school’s science fair, but it caught the attention of University of Florida physicians who invited him to present his project alongside theirs during a medical education event.

Scientists have been at a loss for years trying to figure out how to get more youth, and more youth of color into medical fields. Hansberry could be the prodigy poster child they’ve been waiting for. The young medical student’s techniques have not been tried on human women yet, only simulated on mannequins, but the fact that a student of such a young age could devise such an intricate procedure is boggling the minds of doctors throughout Jacksonville.

There’s hope that there are more Hansberrys out here. The CSESaR is partnered with Hansberry’s school to provide simulation medical training and give some high school grads basic life support certification and nursing credentials. The University of Florida hopes it can be the model for medical arts magnets around the country.

The potential of what Hansberry and his young colleagues can bring to the professional medical table is evidence of what’s possible with the right outreach and investments. Like Charles Drew before him, Hansberry appears destined to revolutionize the way we think about surgery.

Click here to check out the other Grio 100 history-makers in science.