Texas A&M Health Science Center is reaching out to this area's underserved youth minorities with its first summer camp in hopes of exposing young minds to the possibility of a health related career.
The first three day camp, June 18 to 20, was here in Kingsville at the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy with others to follow in McAllen and Bryan-College Station.
The camp is funded through a grant by the Annenberg Foundation and is being conducted to motivate youth to enter health professions in an effort to prevent the on-going shortage of health care workers across Texas and especially in South Texas.
The grant was written by Dr. Nancy W. Dickey, President, Health Science Center and Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs of the A&M System.
"This was Dr. Dickey's idea - we are committed to reaching out to high school and middle school students - she told the Annenberg Foundation of the challenges here in South Texas and the need to bring an interest in health care professions," Dr. Alicia Dorsey, Health Science Center Vice President for Program Development, said. "She wrote the grant, which is an amazing thing for a college president to do, but she is committed to this and knows the need here in South Texas."
On Wednesday, 19 of the 25 students from Kingsville, Riviera, Agua Dulce, Corpus Christi and Odem (recommended by school counselors and principals) were listening to casual talks followed by question and answer sessions by a dentist, radiologist, nurse and Emergency Medical Technician.
"We are exposing them to as many different professions as we can," Dorsey said. "There are more than four options - doctor, nurse, dentist and pharmacist, of health care workers - there are 50 and we are exposing them to some of them right now."
She said that each day of the three-day camp the participants heard from a different group of health care professionals, what their day is like, their challenges and what such a job means in the economic long term. All of the health care professionals are donating their time to the program.
"They are giving of their time because they believe it is important to reach out," Dorsey said.
But the young students didn't just attend lectures - they also got some hands-on experience with medical procedures and equipment.
Dorsey said the Health Science Center is building a mobile library that will feature many of the hands-on items the students will be exposed to during the summer camp.
"We are trying to bring these schools the resources," Dorsey said. "If they have it students are more interested in going into this profession."
She said the students are told a lot to stay in school and that a profession in the health science field can lead to a pretty secure future.
"We tell them there is such a need in Texas and especially in South Texas for health care professionals because people are always going to get sick," Dorsey said.
She said several of the students appeared to be squeamish at the thought of blood or bodily fluids, but she assured them they'd only be dealing with simulated blood and body parts during camp and that there are more professions in health science that don't deal with bodily fluids.
"Several of the students said they wanted to be a forensic scientist, due in part to watching that on TV," Dorsey said. "That doesn't mean they watch too much TV if it sparks a desire that is good because there is a shortage of forensic scientists."
The students in Wednesday's mid-morning presentation were a polite group and listened intently.
Among the group was high-achieving Corina Trevino, a 16-year-old senior at Kaufer High School, who says she's interested in a health career and becoming a pharmacist.
She plans to attend the University of Texas, but might consider attending Texas A&M University closer to home.
She's a dual credit student, will graduate high school with college credits next year and will be able to take a test to become a pharmacy technician.
"I also volunteer two times a week at CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital Kleberg and will be taking a course at Coastal Bend College this summer," Trevino said. "I also play volleyball, golf and tennis during the school year."