Oregon High School Students Get an Intense Look At Health Careers Through Medstars Honors Program

07/06/01    Portland, Ore.

Area Health Education Center's Program Will Provide 48 Oregon Students With Hands-On Career Experience

Recent Roseburg High School graduate Julie Beasley, 18, is on her way to the University of Oregon next fall with the hope of someday going to medical school at Oregon Health & Science University to become a doctor. But first she will get an opportunity to see what being in the health care field is really like. Julie is one of 48 students from ethnic minority and underserved communities around Oregon who will travel to Portland next week to participate in the MedStars Honors Program at OHSU. For four days the students will get an intense behind the scenes look at life as a health care student and provider. Julie is going through the first session from July 8 -11 with 23 other students. Twenty-four students will be in the second session which runs from July 15 - 18. The students range in age from 15 to 19 and are entering high school as juniors or seniors or college as freshmen.

Even though Julie got an extensive look at health care while taking a Health Occupations course at school, she is still extremely excited and feels fortunate to get the opportunity to participate in this program. "I've done job shadowing before, but this program will give me a different perspective from the acute care side," said Julie. "I'm really looking forward to the atmosphere of a medical school."

The MedStars Honors Program was created by the Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) at OHSU to encourage and give students from ethnic minority and underserved communities who are serious about careers in health care the opportunity to experience it for themselves. OHSU's Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs also played a significant role in contributing to the coordination of the program. The students represent ethnic minority communities or underserved populations that may experience economic, geographic or cultural barriers to health care. The program is an extension of AHEC's Multicultural Youth for Health after school club, also for students who have demonstrated a commitment to pursuing health care careers and have recommendations from their teachers. AHEC is made up of five centers around Oregon that provide education and training for current and future health care providers and encourage health care practice in rural and underserved areas. Of 15 students who applied from Roseburg, Julie was one of the three who made the cut.

"We hope to see these students back at OHSU in five to six years in one of our health care training programs," said Jill Spencer, MedStars Honor Program director. "It's a win-win situation. These students get an experience they can't get anywhere else and we get an opportunity to recruit young people who are serious about health care careers."

The MedStars Honors Program actually begins five weeks before the students arrive at OHSU. Each student is given one of five common chronic diseases to research: arthritis, asthma, cancer, diabetes and hypertension. Each student interviews a health care provider who treats this disease and a patient who suffers from it in their own community. As the weeks progress AHEC staff members check in with the students to keep them on track.

Julie has spent the last five weeks researching arthritis, which coincidentally her grandma suffers from. Julie said her research gave her a better understanding of what her grandma is going through with her disease.

One of the first items on the agenda when the students arrive at OHSU on Sunday is to meet with the other students who were assigned the same disease to develop a peer network on the topic.

On Monday the students will experience a "day in the life of a medical student," designed by medical students themselves. Several first-year medical students have donated their summer vacation time to give MedStars students a lesson in how to take vital signs on each other, view a mock anatomy class, learn how to feel for tumors, test reflexes and learn about the musculoskeletal system and pathology. In the afternoon the medical students will show them a medical school approach to learning called problem-based learning. As part of that lesson MedStars students will get to pretend that they are health care providers and the medical student is their patient in a mock patient exam.

Oregon's changing population requires that health care providers have appropriate training to respond to and care for patients from many different cultural backgrounds. That's why a special session called Diversity and Healthcare was created. Later that day OHSU faculty will share the other side of medical school with the students when they meet in groups to discuss the role of the specialist in research and treatment of the disease the students have been researching.

After they've gotten a glimpse into the world of medicine, the MedStars students will meet with college recruiters to learn how to pursue their dreams after high school. Recruiters from Portland Community College, Portland State University and OHSU will provide background on financial aid and give students an idea of how long it will take for them to earn their degrees.

MedStars isn't just for students, on the last day there will be a session where organizers encourage parents how and why they should support their children in pursuing a health care career.

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