Junior Med School opens up possibility

Students experience plenty of opportunity
August 30th, 2015

It’s back to school time and that means it’s time to plan what your high school junior or senior might want to do to in preparation for college applications or career aspirations.

Toward that end, perhaps your student is looking at a career in a health-related field.

Before students incur the debt of medical school, it’s important to know if they’re suited to a career as a physician or other health professional.

That’s the whole point of UCHealth Memorial Hospital’s Junior Medical School, which just completed its third year .

After attending the UCHealth Memorial Hospital Junior Medical School, Kayla Katsikaris will seek a career as an OB/Gyn.

The program is designed for high school juniors and seniors interested in a variety of health care careers. The two-day program offers hands-on activities, lectures, roundtables and tours, led by physicians, nurses, physician assistants, clergy, therapists and a host of others.

“The objective is to expose the students to as many experiences in the hospital as possible so that they have a wider understanding of the scope of health care services available in a hospital setting,” said Beth Konikoff, volunteer coordinator for UCHealth, Memorial Hospital.

For a student interested in health care, “they can see there’s much more to do besides being a doctor or a nurse.”

During the program, participants have several interactive sessions with staff from around the hospital. One of the first activities is to meet with a panel of health care professionals representing a wide range of care and specialties.

“The various professionals discuss their educational background – what it took to get there – and then describe their fields and functions, followed by a Q&A,” Konikoff said.

Another session has students visiting the simulation lab. Here they get to see a “baby” being “born,” place an IV, do an intubation, and listen to heart and lung sounds, all with life-like mannequins.

A stop in radiology exposes students to the CT scan and an MRI – and perhaps whets their interest in attending the Memorial Hospital School of Radiology.  They visit the emergency department to see how the hospital is prepared for trauma and they get to tour the Memorial Star helicopter.

“In the histology and pathology lab, they review the results of having their cell phones and hands swabbed and see what grows in the petri dishes,” Konikoff said. “As a special experience, they also get their blood typed.”

A favorite session for the students is learning how to suture and tie surgical knots using actual surgical tools. In the physical therapy lab, they experience how physical, occupational and speech therapists work to restore functionality after a serious event. They experience the difficulty of putting on pants with only one hand or with an immoveable leg – and why it requires learning how to maneuver successfully.

Group discussions and case studies cover palliative care and ethical decisions that often have to be made in health care situations, Konikoff said.

“The purpose of these discussions is to get them thinking, ‘What happens if …?’ ” she said. “They learn that not all decisions are black and white. What’s the right thing to do? Who gets to weigh in on decisions of life and death? And what happens when families are at odds?”

Kayla Katsikaris, 17, a junior at Air Academy High School, took the class this summer.

“I loved it,” she said. “It gave a great impression of the medical field, and opened up so many more career ideas. Personally, my favorite part was pathology. I enjoyed the hands-on learning experience. I now have a clear idea of what I would love to do, even though I completely understand it might change.  But I pretty much know I want to be an OB/Gyn,” the student said.

The 2016 programs included three sessions of two days, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Konikoff’s goal for next year is to expand the program to three days and have it run four times throughout the summer. Due to the interactive nature of the program only 12 students will be accepted into each session. New topics will include nutritional services; genetic testing and counseling; neurology; renal dialysis; forensics; and the role of the pharmacy in health care.

“Although it is a summer program, we may consider adding a session during winter break,” she said.

“The purpose of the program is to have them look broader and wider within health care. There are a lot of ways to participate in health care besides being a physician. For some, it exposes them to fields they may not have known previously to the program. ”

Students should know that “there are a lot of ways to go from here to there – it’s not always a straight line,” she added.  “One of my key messages to them is, you need to keep your mind open to the different ways to contribute to health care. There are always other paths – and other areas to explore along the way where you may choose to go.”

The application fee will be $25. For those accepted into the program the cost of the three days will be $150. Limited scholarships will be available. All interested high school junior and senior students may apply, but only 48 students will be selected.

Students should check with school counselors to get information about the 2017 programs or go online to www.uchealth.org for information. Applications should be available in February 2017.

About the author

Linda DuVal is a freelance writer based in Colorado Springs who writes articles for UCHealth.