NYITCOM-Arkansas and high school students at Project H.E.A.R.T. camp.

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Project H.E.A.R.T. Introduces Students to Medical Education, Health Care Careers

June 19, 2019

Pictured: Amor Rivera (far left) and Kabriya Bolbolan (far right) were among 15 medical students who served as counselors for Project H.E.A.R.T., a camp for high school students interested in medicine. 

Prior to her senior year of high school, Amor Rivera, OMS II, attended a summer camp that introduced students to medical careers. It was largely because of that experience that Rivera decided to pursue a medical education.

“We visited clinics and hospitals through the camp, and until I saw that, I hadn’t really thought about being a doctor,” Rivera said. “It really opened my eyes and made things click. That was the first time I thought, ‘I could do this and really enjoy it.’”

Rivera received the opportunity to share a similar experience with 45 high school students as one of 15 student doctors who served as counselors for the third-annual Project H.E.A.R.T., a four-day/three-night camp hosted by NYITCOM-Arkansas from June 11 through 14.

Project H.E.A.R.T., which stands for Health Education Advocacy Reflection and Training, is designed for rising high school juniors and seniors to explore health care careers, discover higher education options, learn about health care needs in the Mississippi Delta, and find ways they can make a difference in health care challenges in their communities.

On the first day, campers toured NYITCOM-Arkansas’ facilities and learned about a day in the life of a medical student. They dissected a porcine heart in the anatomy lab, learned about the mannequins NYITCOM students use in the medical simulation lab, learned how physicians take a medical history in the school’s mock clinic rooms and were introduced to osteopathic manipulative medicine.    

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Caroline Gregory, OMS II, guides students through a porcine heart dissection.

Day two included tours of northeast Arkansas’ two biggest hospitals—NEA Baptist Hospital and St. Bernards Medical Center—where campers learned about the many different medical professionals that play a role in delivering health care. They then took part in a service project at which they taught elementary school students about nutrition and physical fitness. The night concluded with a suture lab where they learned how physicians repair lacerations.

The third day’s activities focused on preparing for college and choosing a career path. Guests from multiple universities, including Arkansas State University Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management Bryan Terry, spoke about the higher education process, financial aid, and what to expect once a student gets to college. The students also heard from a number of medical professionals who spoke to the group about their roles.

High school counselors and college career advisors were also invited to participate. During a special session, a panel of NYITCOM medical students talked about their paths to medical school to help the advisors guide the students at their schools. 

On the final day of Project H.E.A.R.T., campers received Basic Life Support training and participated in a graduation ceremony.

Rivera and her fellow counselors thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the students, answering their questions, and providing encouragement. 

“When I had my experience in high school, the set up was a little different and I didn’t have much interaction with students who were in medical school,” Rivera said. “It was great to be able to share my personal experiences with the students and make sure they know that now is the time to start making connections and getting involved in activities that will help them accomplish their goals, whatever they may be.”