Multicultural and Underserved High School Students Get First-Hand Look at Health Careers in MedStars

07/10/02    Portland, Ore.

Area Health Education Center's program will provide 33 Oregon students with hands-on experience

Thirty-three Oregon high school students from 29 Oregon counties have been chosen to participate in the Area Health Education Centers' (AHEC) MedStars Honors Program held at Oregon Health & Science University. For four days, students will get a behind-the-scenes look at life as a health care student and provider. Activities will be led by an interdisciplinary team of OHSU health professionals and students.

The MedStars students will get to see what a day in the life of different health care students is like. Several OHSU students have donated their summer vacation time to give MedStars students a lesson in how to take vital signs, to feel for tumors, learn about the musculoskeletal system and pathology, and view a mock anatomy class.

The MedStars program was expanded this year to give students a more intense look at health careers. One of the new activities facilitated by OHSU researchers is an introduction to different types of medical research. In basic science laboratories, some of the topics students will learn about include the neural reflex that controls blood pressure, how common stem cells change over time, and genetics. Nursing laboratories will allow the students to see what nurses investigate and how they assess research questions and topics.

The operating room in Casey Eye Institute will have stations set up for the students to learn different surgical procedures. They will get to work with intubation, orthopedic, and ophthalmology surgical equipment. The MedStars students will also be participating in a hands-on dental lab facilitated by OHSU dental students.

The MedStars Honors Program was created by the Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) at OHSU to encourage and give multicultural and underserved high school students who are serious about careers in health care the opportunity to experience it for themselves. OHSU's Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs also plays a significant role in contributing to the coordination of the program. Some of the students come from various ethnic backgrounds and other students represent underserved populations that may experience economic, geographic or cultural barriers to health care.

The MedStars Honors Program actually begins five weeks before the students arrive at OHSU. They are given one of five common chronic diseases to research. The diseases include 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. This year the students will benefit from the expertise of OHSU medical students who will help them prepare their final project presentations on the diseases.

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