Forty aspiring health professionals from rural or medically underserved communities in Oregon visited the OHSU campus in July as part of the MedStars Honors Experience, a health science career development event for high school and early college students. The four-day program is sponsored by the Area Health Education Center Program Office and the four regional AHEC centers in Oregon.
The need for rural and diverse health care workers is clear. Fifteen of Oregon’s 36 counties contain geographic Health Professional Shortage Areas for primary care, according to data from the Office of Rural Health. MedStars also accepts applicants who are of minority status, supporting future health professionals who will enhance workforce diversity.
The Department of Surgery hosted a surgical skills workshop in the VirtuOHSU lab, complete with suturing, electrocautery and laparoscopic procedure stations. Donn Spight, MD, Medical Director of VirtuOHSU, Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery, and Katie Moreland, MBS, VirtuOHSU Coordinator, Department of Surgery, organized the surgery skills training. Surgery residents Drs. Rachel Danczyk, Jimmy Chim, Aric Aghayan, Nick Kunio and Erin Gilbert, and medical students Nick Esmonde and Sean Watters provided expertise and guidance for the young students.
“Virtual reality simulation technology is changing the way we approach surgery and technical skills training,” said Dr. Spight. “These young students were able to dive right in and participate in training similar to what our residents experience.”
“Students enjoy learning what it means to be a resident, especially hearing the stories from the operating room,” said Katie. “And the experience is thrilling for our physicians, too, because the students clearly look up to them.”
Throughout their stay, students met with therapists, research scientists, outreach professionals, technicians and alternative medicine specialists to learn more about their contributions to the healing and well being of patients. Other hands-on activities included a simulated dental lab, gross anatomy lab and four clinical skills teaching stations.
Participants are selected based on their demonstrated interest in a health science career, experience in health-related curricula and academic good standing. A junior MedStars program is being organized for October 2010, and will involve younger high school students interested in health careers.
Pictured: Surgery resident Dr. Jimmy Chim demonstrates surgical skills with a MedStars student