For the third straight year, young student athlete Sarah Smith sought medical help this summer for her sporadic chest pain. And once again, her problem was diagnosed by a group of 11 th and 12 th graders from Columbus area high schools, in a case-based learning exercise offered by the OU+REACH health careers camp. The program is conducted by Ohio University’s Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine and College of Health Sciences and Professions (CHSP) at the Dublin campus.
Sarah is a fictitious person, but her symptoms are based on real medicine. Each year since the camp launched in 2015, Sarah has been played by a medical student – this year, by Ellen Tan, now in her second year at the Heritage College, Dublin. Having spent time on the other side of simulated-patient interviews during her first year of medical school, Tan reported that the high schoolers who appraised Sarah’s case “really had a lot of good questions. They were very good at history-taking.”
OU+REACH (Re-imagining Educational Approaches to Careers in Healthcare) is a pipeline program that lets high school students explore health care careers interactively. It also offers service learning opportunities to students from the Heritage College and CHSP, and to the staffers and community health professionals who help put on the program. In addition to an immersive three-day summer camp, it provides participants with quarterly academic enrichment experiences throughout the school year.
This year’s program enjoyed major support from community partners including OhioHealth, the Heritage College’s pre-eminent education partner for the Dublin campus, and the Dublin-based Laboratory Corporation of America, each of which contributed $10,000 in funding, and Elsevier, a leading publisher of medical texts and periodicals, which donated learning materials. OhioHealth also provided medical content experts from a range of disciplines to work with the high schoolers.
During the three-day summer camp, participants get a sense of what it’s like to work in a variety of health care jobs, such as physician, nurse and physician assistant. They’re also introduced to topics such as human anatomy, team building and emergency response and receive advice on preparing for college and professional training.
This year’s OU+REACH camp, which took place June 20-22, attracted 47 area high school students – up about 50 percent from last summer. The program also continued to expand its reach, with participants coming from 16 Columbus-area high schools, compared to 11 in 2016.
Three OHIO students hosted the camp: Tan; fellow Heritage College medical student Jessica Motley; and Alexa Niermeyer, who’s pursuing a master’s degree in physician assistant studies at CHSP. Tan said being chosen for the job was especially meaningful for her because a pipeline program she attended as a student at Dublin City Schools – Ohio State University’s Camp M.D. – helped convince her to go to medical school.
“Exactly seven years ago, I was in a med camp on OSU’s campus,” she explained. “And that was the time when I realized, as a first-generation college student, that medicine might be in reach for me. It sparked that motivation for me to make this a goal of mine, to go into medicine.”
As with previous camps, OU+REACH participants who filled out surveys gave positive reviews, with a large majority saying the camp had greatly increased their confidence that they could pursue a health or biomedical career.
According to OU+REACH Program Director Timothy J. Cain, Ph.D., associate professor of biomedical sciences at the Heritage College, Dublin, the program emphasizes that “modern health care is a team sport,” and that becoming a physician is only one of many health care career paths. Judging by survey responses, these messages are getting through.
“The OU+REACH Discovery Experience opened my eyes to the various health care careers available and made me interested to look into these various options,” said one student.
“I always thought that the doctor was at the top of the hierarchy in regards to a medical team,” wrote another. “However, I have come to realize through the OU+REACH Discovery Experience that every career in health care has a vital role in patient treatment and care.”
Cain suggested that at a target enrollment of around 50, OU+REACH may have found its optimal size – at least for the near future. But given OHIO trustees’ approval of the Dublin Framework Plan, a blueprint for expansion of the campus and how it will fit into the city of Dublin’s development, OU+REACH may need to adapt to a changing environment, Cain said. He suggested the program may also at some point begin drawing students from a wider geographic area in central Ohio.
“We have to think about, how do we envision the program evolving?” Cain said.
For more information about the OU+REACH program, visit https://www.ohio.edu/dublin/summercamp/index.cfm.