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High school students explore health care during ASU summer program

high school students practicing intubation on a dummy
July 30, 2014

Allison Sorgeloos gently moves the Wii remote in her hand, but the marble on the screen she’s controlling rolls off the platform. The object of the game she’s playing is to make very precise movements to roll a marble through a maze and collect gems. While Sorgeloos and her friends, students at the Summer Health Institute @ ASU, are having fun competing, they are also honing skills they could someday use to save lives.

“The reason they’re playing this game is because it has a direct correlation to the hand movements of laparoscopic surgeons,” explained Joaquin Santa Cruz, simulation program coordinator for the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix. “Our medical students actually use this game to practice.”

Twenty four rising high school seniors attended the weeklong camp led by Arizona State University’s College of Health Solutions. They stayed with counselors at Taylor Place, ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus residential hall. The camp was fully funded by the Maricopa County Industrial Development Authority and Banner Health.

When choosing students for this program, the selection committee considered not only those who had high GPAs (the campers’ average GPA was over 4.0), but also those who showed a genuine curiosity and passion for health and health care. This was the first Summer Health Institute @ ASU with more than 230 applicants. Students traveled to ASU from four counties in Arizona, as well as California, Michigan, Illinois and Colorado. Alison Essary, director of student affairs for the College of Health Solutions, said the program’s goal was to select students that reflected the population of Arizona.

“We want to prepare the health care workforce of the future, as well as a health care workforce that reflects the population it will serve,” she said.

Learning skills to save lives

Students participated in a variety of interprofessional health-related activities. Their mornings were spent with Northern Arizona University and University of Arizona faculty and staff for three hours of simulation at the Phoenix Biomedical Campus, learning in the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix Sim Center. They practiced skills such as suturing, intubation, ultrasounds, dissections and IV placement. Students also received certification in continuous chest compressions and toured Arizona State University’s cadaver lab.

“It’s been an incredible learning experience,” said Sorgeloos. “I’ve learned more about what it really means to be in health care than I ever did volunteering in a hospital. I’ve met people who have inspired me to become greater, smarter and work harder.”

In the afternoons, students participated in "Mini Health Institutes," where they learned about topics like leadership, traditions in medicine, the U.S. health care system, interprofessionalism and careers in health. Students’ evenings were spent in professional development sessions where they learned how to work with librarians and how to apply for colleges, along with presentations by students in the health professions. For students like Mariam Gutierrez, the institute was a great way to learn about medical professions that they had not considered before.

“It’s been helpful because we get to learn about different health careers instead of just a doctor or a nurse,” she said. “The camp got me looking into becoming a physician assistant.”

The culmination of the program came on Friday when four groups each presented on an assigned disease: cystic fibrosis, Prader-Willi syndrome, Rett syndrome or sickle cell disease. Students first had to diagnose their patients, and then make a PowerPoint presentation on the diagnosed disease. The presentations had to include disease symptoms, research and promising treatments. Presentation slides could only consist of images, figures, video and digital media. Each group presented for 15 minutes in front of a panel that included a physician assistant, health science librarian and the director of the camp. After they presented, the groups had five minutes to answer the panel’s questions. A winner was picked based on which group was able to effectively present their disease and answer the panel’s questions.

“The people in my group have been really helpful,” said Sorgeloos. “It’s really cool how we all came together to look at the symptoms, break down the information that we had, diagnose a patient and provide some care for her, even if she is fictional.”

Working together toward success

Just as the students worked together, many organizations came together to create the Summer Health Institute experience. The Northern Arizona University Physician Assistant program and the University of Arizona medical school provided space, faculty and students to help educate the campers. Fortis College dental hygiene program provided lectures on oral health as a public health initiative, as well as fluoride varnish training. Mayo Clinic staff and faculty provided additional support.

Based on the success of this camp, ASU is already looking into holding another next year. They are collecting data from the campers and from camps around the country in order to better inform future programs. Essary says the camp was such a success and the campers were so great that they have to, at the very least, replicate the program next year.

“The campers are terrific,” she said. “They are incredibly motivated, enthusiastic and generous in their time and spirit. We’re fortunate to have them as our inaugural class.”

Gutierrez says the whole experience just reinforced her goals.

“I learned to keep going because it’s worth it,” she said. “It’s all new and it’s all a learning experience.”

Written by: Kaly Nasiff