UTHSC College of Medicine Summer Camp Program Offers Teens Information on Health and Health Care Careers

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Dr. Richard Walker gives basic survival skills information to teens at Hickory Hill Community Center on Thursday. The lesson is part of a summer camp outreach by the UTHSC College of Medicine. (Photo by Peggy Reisser/UTHSC)

The College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center has launched a program this summer with the City of Memphis Parks System to educate area teens on basic health issues and introduce them to careers in health care.

The UTHSC M.A.R.V.E.L. Summer Science Camp is being piloted at the camp at Hickory Hill Community Center, where teens, ages 13-18, are meeting with representatives from the College of Medicine once a week through mid-July. Physician leaders from the college, as well as residents, offer information about health issues, such as how to stop bleeding, how to recognize stroke, basic survival skills, and skin care and protection through the seasons.

“We’re going to go out and teach them something they could use, some life skill in 15 minutes,” said Richard Walker, MD, chair and program director for Emergency Medicine at UTHSC and one of the organizers of the camp. The theme for the program is “Training Memphis’ Future Guardians.” Since such information may be helpful to families, too, Dr. Walker sees educating the teens as a way to get health information into the community.

On Thursday, Dr. Walker taught the teens basic disaster survival skills for emergency situations, such as the aftermath of a major storm or an earthquake.

The program also aims to identify teens who show particular interest and aptitude in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), or who indicate they are interested in health care careers. College of Medicine residents are participating as mentors to offer advice and guidance on pursuing a health care education or career path.

Once interested students are identified, program organizers hope to follow and guide them as they progress through their education and on to possible careers in health care, Dr. Walker said. In this way, the UTHSC College of Medicine outreach would expand health and health care in the community.

“That’s how you get them (interested), someone plants a seed,” he said. “In my mind, the bigger success is making the introduction (to health care fields) and then having a camper coming back and saying, ‘I was 15 at the camp and here I am now. I got into medical school.’ ” The college hopes to expand the program in the future.

Tejesh Patel, MD, FAAD, chair of the College of Medicine’s Kaplan-Amonette Department of Dermatology, another organizer, said the program benefits not only the students, but the physicians involved. “It opens up your eyes to the community and makes you a better doctor,” he said.

“We are so excited to interact with our incredibly talented youth in Memphis and to introduce them to the possibility that they can pursue a career in medicine,” said Scott Strome, MD, Robert Kaplan Executive Dean of the College of Medicine.