Innovative Program Exposes High School Students to Healthcare Careers
When 27-year-old laboratory technician LaToya Fountain looks back on her high school days, she remembers the usual teenage activities such as studying for exams, going to basketball games and hanging out with friends after school. But unlike many high school students, she also recalls a few evenings a month spent at Northwestern Memorial Hospital listening to lectures from physicians, touring various clinical areas of the hospital and completing hands-on activities in the autopsy lab. Thanks to this early exposure to a hospital setting, Fountain also remembers high school as the time when she became interested in pursuing a career in medicine.
Fountain is one of more than 800 students who have participated in Medical Explorers, a program at Northwestern Memorial which offers Chicago-area teens who are interested in pursuing careers in healthcare, an advance look at the field. The hands-on opportunity exposes students to a variety of career paths such as physicians, nurses and pharmacists, as well as careers in healthcare business administration, financial management, health law and biomedical engineering.
“Being a Medical Explorer helped me consider a career in medicine during a time when I otherwise wouldn’t have known about these job options,” said Fountain. “I was able to meet health care providers and form relationships with mentors before I even went to college.”
As the school year winds down for students across Chicagoland, now is the time to consider applying for the program next year. Students meet one Saturday a month and participate in a variety of activities such as hands-on workshops, hospital tours and one-on-one meetings with healthcare professionals including physicians and hospital leadership. In addition to career exposure, the program emphasizes life skills, service learning, character development and leadership. Program administrators also help students navigate the college application and financial aid application process.
“As an academic medical center, it’s our responsibility to educate the next generation of healthcare professionals, and programs such as Medical Explorers help expose kids to a wide variety of career paths early on,” said Posh Charles, the director of community service at Northwestern Memorial. “It’s a lot of fun, and it’s very academic oriented as well.”
After participating in the Medical Explorers program during high school, Fountain went on to complete a number of internships at Northwestern Memorial during college. “I highly recommend the internships. It’s a tremendous opportunity to apply the skills you’ve learned and test-run a career path that you are interested in pursuing,” said Fountain.
There are currently 30 students enrolled in Medical Explorers, and the next class will begin next fall. Applications will be available beginning in July of 2010. For more information about the Medical Explorers program, please visit http://www.nmh.org/nm/community+matters+medical+explorers.
Students meet one Saturday a month and participate in a variety of activities such as hands-on workshops, hospital tours and one-on-one meetings with healthcare professionals including physicians and hospital leadership.