June 11, 2014

Hands-on health care camp highlights medical careers

With two pharmacists as parents, Edwardsville High School senior Philip Siganga, 17, says he's destined for a career in health care. He's interested in pharmaceutical, but wanted to learn about other medical fields.

"My dad said I should see some diversity and broaden my view," Philip said.

This week he's doing just that. Philip is participating in a health care diversity summer camp at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, where metro-east high school students learn about pharmacy, nursing and dental medicine as well as other health care careers.

"It's a very good hands-on experience for people who want to pursue health care fields," Phillip said.

He enjoyed learning earlier this week about the different fields of nursing as well as what an anesthesiologist does. Anesthesiology is another field he may consider.

"Anesthesiology is really tough," Philip said. "I enjoyed learning about the different types of chemicals ... and the complexity of it."

He's looking forward to Thursday when they will visit the School of Pharmacy at SIUE.

The 16 high school junior and seniors were at the SIU School of Dental Medicine in Alton Wednesday to learn about anatomy and physiology.

The students from metro-east high schools including Cahokia, Belleville West and O'Fallon rotated in groups of three between six different stations Wednesday morning.

OTHS junior Alyssa Dollison got a peek into her cheek at the first station her group visited. Alyssa, sporting plastic gloves, swabbed the side of her cheek using the wooden part of a large swab and then tapped it onto a glass slide, which she was able to look at under a microscope. SIU dental student Spencer Blackdram told the students they were looking at a DNA cell.

Alyssa said she's liked all the hands-on activities during the camp, and getting to interact with SIUE students and faculty members.

Students also had the opportunity see the inside of a human body using a large, computerized table called an Anatomage, which displays three-dimensional images.

"This is a scan of an actual person," said Kevin Rowland, director of research for the SIU School of Dental Medicine, as the students peered at the inside of a human body displayed on the tabletop.

Rowland asked Belleville West junior Noah Dintelmann, 17, to touch the scalpel on the screen and cut the body anywhere. Noah hesitated for a second before slicing the body in half, right below the lungs.

Noah was able to zoom out and rebuild the body as he did. "That's cool," he said.

Noah said he's enjoyed learning about different medical fields, especially nursing, and meeting new people.

To be selected for the health care camp, the students had to have a 3.0 grade point average and a minimum of two years of high school math and science classes. Applicants also wrote an essay explaining their interest in health care.

The camp started in 2009 as a three-day camp exposing students to the School of Pharmacy, according to camp coordinator Lakesha Butler, a clinical associate professor at the School of Pharmacy. The camp was expanded to a full week last year and now includes SIUE's three main health care schools -- dental, nursing and pharmacy.

"Our overall goal is to increase the diversity of all three programs," Butler said. "I want to open their eyes to areas they were not aware of."

The goal of the camp is to not only expose students to health care fields but college life in general, as well as how to prepare for college, according to Butler. "We want them to understand what it takes to be a college student," she said.

The five-day residency camp is free for participating students, as SIUE received a $5,000 grant from Walgreens, which covers the cost including meals and housing. The students stay on campus in Bluff Hall for four nights -- Monday through Thursday.

Butler said the university is hoping to expand the camp in the future and have more high school students attend.

Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or Follow her on Twitter at @BND_JForsythe.

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