Stoking Students’ Curiosity in Medicine and Healthcare

Megan Kawasaki '20, Michael Nilo '20, Arjun Patel '20
uvmmedicine bloggers Megan Kawasaki ’20, Michael Nilo ’20, Arjun Patel ’20

The Med Mentors Career Exploration Day, an annual spring event at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont, gives local high school students the opportunity to “try out” health care careers through hands-on experiences with medical students and professionals. This year’s event on April 1 was attended by students from a variety of local schools, including Burlington High School, South Burlington High School, Winooski High School, Essex High School, Mt. Mansfield Union High School, Colchester High School, and the Burlington Technical Center.

The students stepped into the shoes of health professionals for the day, engaging in a variety of hands-on activities, demonstrations, and discussions. The morning’s rotation schedule, facilitated exclusively by medical students through Student Interest Groups (SIGs), focused on basic clinical skills, teamwork, and decision-making. The Family Medicine SIG taught students how to use stethoscopes to perform heart and lung exams. The students learned to compare normal versus diseased tissues of the circulatory and gastrointestinal systems with the SMILE Docs SIG, and the Association of Women Surgeons SIG led the students in a suturing clinic. The Pediatrics SIG introduced students to a case of meningitis, where they learned about the different testing – and interprofessional coordination – that goes into making a diagnosis. Finally, the Emergency Medicine SIG worked through an acute abdomen case and the critical thinking that goes into recognizing and acting on emergent situations.

The lunch panel, consisting of current and former health professionals and medical students, answered questions regarding students’ short-term and long-term plans on their path to becoming health professionals themselves. In the afternoon, students worked with lab technicians in the Clinical Simulation Laboratory to test out the array of technology used daily in the hospital, and with residents in the Gross Pathology Lab, where they got their hands on some pathological specimens. Students also had the opportunity to interview and examine Standardized Patients (played by medical students), and practice working as a team to decide on a diagnosis and course of treatment.

After the long day, capped off with an enormous amount of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, we took stock of the event and read through the students’ evaluations. Virtually all of them were positive, with the attendees particularly enjoying the hands-on activities in the Clinical Simulation Lab and Pathology Lab. In fact, many of them suggested that there should be even more time next year for those active sessions, which we will aim to incorporate into next year’s Career Exploration Day. In addition, students commented that by the end of the day, they had learned something new and that they were more encouraged to go into a career in healthcare. That feedback absolutely resonated with why we put on this event and why we think it is so important.

Giving high school students the opportunity to learn about science and medicine from a variety of perspectives can shape their goals for the future and provide them early on with encouragement and new knowledge. Through their interactions with medical professionals and exposure to the opportunities presented by a career in healthcare, we hope to stoke students’ curiosity and fuel their interest in the field. Beyond that, as medical students, we really enjoy connecting with the Chittenden County community. Making contacts with local high schools has allowed us to build a stronger relationship between them and the medical school and helps facilitate the Med Mentors SIG’s larger goal of providing mentorship to local students.

Staging the event required support from a variety of UVM offices and local businesses. To help provide food and beverages for students and volunteers, we received generous donations from Hannaford, Burlington Bagel Bakery, and Ben and Jerry’s. Laurie Loveland from the UVM Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) office provided key help in planning the day. AHEC also provided goodie bags for students who attended the Career Exploration Day.

We had so much fun hosting Career Exploration Day this year. Watch out for it again in 2018!

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