A team of Quad-City cardiologists has earmarked more than $600,000 for a three-point initiative to support and nurture math and science interests in high school students.

Cardiovascular Medicine P.C.of Illinois will use the money to offer scholarships, sponsor a competitive math and science test this spring and host a mini-medical school in June. The commitment will continue for 20 years, said Dr. Sanjeev Puri, the cardiologist who spearheaded the project.

The physicians and the Trinity Health Foundation teamed up with leaders of Illinois Quad-City high schools for the project, which is in its first year. First to qualify for scholarships will be junior and senior students at Moline, Rock Island, Alleman and United Township high schools.

The cardiologists are concerned about science and math education in the United States and how the test scores of American students compare with those of their counterparts in other parts of the world.

“The United States lags behind in science and math education,” Puri said during a news conference  Tuesday at Trinity Rock Island. “Unless we take care of this problem in our community first, we really cannot come up in this knowledge-based economy.”

The doctors involved accumulated more than $600,000 from medical research projects undertaken in the past six years, he explained. They designated the research money to a specific fund to avoid any conflict-of-interest claims.

The 200-question math and science test will be open to Illinois senior students in May, with prizes of $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000, respectively, to those who post the top three scores.

Secondly, 10 $2,000 scholarships will be given to seniors who go on to an accredited college or university and receive a degree in the medical sciences. Those students will be invited to be mentored by doctors in various health specialties, Puri said, to encourage their career choices.

The mini-medical school is tentatively set for June 11-12 at the Trinity College of Nursing and Health Sciences in Rock Island. It will be open to 40 of the top math-and-science students who are now juniors. It will include lectures and hands-on learning opportunities from area physicians.

“The discussion in this country needs to change to education,” Puri said.

Principals from Moline and United Township High schools spoke highly of the program. The doctors’ initiative is “very aggressive,” said Bill Burrus, the Moline High School principal who recently was chosen state principal of the year by the Illinois Principals Association.

The project shows today’s students that math and science education is highly valued in their community, he said. “There are real rewards for the students’ efforts in math and science,” Burrus added.

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News of the cardiologists’ project already has reached the high schools, said Carl Johnson, the principal at United Township in East Moline. Johnson said he went in an advanced-placement biology class recently and fielded questions about the new program from students.

The mentoring project also will be valuable, he predicted.

“The kids can see firsthand what they can do to be successful in the medical world,” Johnson added. 

It takes 12 years to become a cardiologist, said Rick Seidler, the president and chief executive officer of Trinity Regional Health System. The future of health care requires an adequate supply of physicians and other medical providers who will come from among today’s students.

“Right now, these are the children and grandchildren of our patients,” Seidler added. “Tomorrow they may be the face of health care in the Quad-Cities.”