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Heritage College, Dublin, program lets high school students try health care on for size

(DUBLIN, Ohio — Sept. 1. 2015) “Ever since I was like five years old, I wanted to be a doctor,” recalls Nick Andrioff, who graduated recently from Coffman High School in Dublin, Ohio. Lately, he says, his interests have shifted toward biomedical engineering, which he plans to study at the Ohio State University. Fortunately for him, a new program launched this year at the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine at Dublin aims to give high school students a feel for what it’s like to work in a wide range of health care roles.

Andrioff was one of 18 students from the Dublin City Schools’ Biomedical STEM Academy who took part in the pilot of the OU+REACH (Re-imagining Educational Approaches to Careers in Healthcare) program earlier this year. The program, which earned enthusiastic reviews from participants, was repeated as an intensive two-day summer camp in June, and organizers plan to continue it in the future.

OU+REACH, whose pilot ran one day a month from January through May, lets students take part in themed, case-based medical learning activities, under direction of faculty and students from the Heritage College and the Ohio University College of Health Sciences and Professions, which also has a facility on Ohio University’s Dublin campus. It allows participants to roll up their sleeves and try out procedures that health professionals need to master, like drawing blood.

“Our goal was to provide opportunities for the students to really get hands-on in as many ways as we could,” explained Tim Cain, Ph.D., an associate professor in biomedical sciences at the Heritage College, Dublin. “And while we are a medical school, and an osteopathic medical school, we’re trying to be sensitive to the fact that not all of these students want to become physicians. So we exposed these high school students to physical therapy and dietetics and other health professions.”

Creating the program was a labor of love, with collaboration from parties up to and including Heritage College, Dublin, Dean William Burke, D.O. (’88). “We pulled together the faculty and staff to figure out how we were going to make this all happen, and Bill was immensely supportive of our efforts,” Cain said. “In fact, he was the one who encouraged us to try and see if we could repurpose it for a summer camp.”

The first OU+REACH students said the program was a confidence-builder, boosting their belief that they have what it takes to work in health care. In surveys, about three-quarters said the hands-on experiences stoked their interest in such work, and that they got a better understanding of the training needed to enter the field. All found high value in talking and interacting with physicians – and even more in their interactions with medical students.

Positive reviews kept coming from the second group, with students giving high marks to activities such as anatomy lab and venipuncture training.

“The most interesting thing I learned was actually something I learned about myself – that I am capable of entering the medical field,” one wrote. “It made me realize that this is my passion and that this is what all my work in high school has been for.”

It was also a treat for the medical students. OMS-I Sarah Christman played the role of simulated patient during the pilot project.

“I just kind of channeled my inner high school student and pretended that I didn’t know anything about medicine,” she said. “That was the fun part, trying to present the material in ways they could understand and wrap their heads around.”

OMS-II Megan Zaworski was one of 12 medical students who volunteered to assist in the second installment of OU+REACH. She helped with the simulated patient diagnosis and demonstrated how to measure vital signs.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the experience!” Zaworski said. “I am very interested in teaching and being part of medical education in the future, and this program allowed me to gain hands-on experience.”

Cain said the med students’ involvement was originally thought of as providing just extra hands. “But they really stepped up and took an active role in helping to design some of the experiential learning activities, to the point where even our primary care docs could step back and let the medical students sort of run it.”

Blythe Jonas, a learning specialist at the Heritage College, Dublin, said having the session over the summer let the medical students play an even bigger role than they did in the pilot. “They were there every step of the way, leading differential diagnosis conversations, planning and conducting physiology and anatomy demonstrations, and demonstrating clinical skills,” Jonas said.

Cain said that while the launch of a new medical college in Dublin naturally got the attention of local educators, staffers knew they wanted to give more to the area community than just an interesting place to visit.

“When we opened Dublin last summer, we were clearly the darlings of the neighborhood,” he said. “We were inundated by a number of schools around the area, who were interested in coming in and just doing tours. And when we talked about that internally, we realized, ‘We can do more than tours.’ What grew out of that was this program.”

For the second installment, participation was expanded to 23 students from six area high schools: Dublin Scioto, Hilliard Bradley, Hilliard Darby, Hilliard Davidson, Marysville, and St. Frances DeSales. New features included a visit from a life-flight helicopter that touched down the second day of camp.

Jonas said the summer session also allowed the high school students to talk in-depth with medical professionals, who offered both practical advice and encouragement.

“We had a high school student share that she had been pessimistic about the thought of entering medicine going into the summer after her junior year,” Jonas recalled. “But after the camp, she was re-energized and realized that she did have the ability to pursue that dream, even if it would require more work than she had originally anticipated.”

Cain notes that OU+REACH is an ideal way to advance the community-centered, team-based, primary care emphasis of the Heritage College.

“When people look to predictors of students who gravitate toward the primary care specialties, it’s important for them to establish roots within the community,” he said. “We as a college do a pretty good job of that. And it seems like this is helping to foster that as well. We’re getting medical students out in the community, not just with other physician preceptors, but mixing and mingling with the next generation of health care providers.”

The Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine is a leader in training dedicated primary care physicians who are prepared to address the most pervasive medical needs in the state and the nation. Approximately 50 percent of Heritage College alumni practice in primary care and nearly 60 percent practice in Ohio. CARE LEADS HERE.

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Last updated: 01/28/2016