Inspiring young medical minds

A dozen Grade 8 students slip into lab coats as they arrive at St. Mary’s Hospital in Camrose. They were hand-picked to take part in five sessions of hands-on learning aimed at inspiring them to become medical professionals. 

Dr. Christopher Nichol speaks to the students about the leading stroke rehabilitation work being done at St. Mary’s Hospital as an example of why it is not necessary to leave their community to find challenging careers.

Camrose physician Dr. Christopher Nichol came up with the idea for the program in part because of his personal experience. He was inspired to become a physician at an early age after taking part in a similar science program. 

“I still remember some of the experiments. The science was really captivating,” says Dr. Nichol. “The key concept for this program is to have fun and introduce them to a wide range of healthcare careers, and with any luck they will stay here in Camrose.”

Occupational Therapist Melissa Sztym has nothing but praise for Georgia Borus as she skilfully splints fellow student Cameron McIntyre.

The students are following “Stan,” a high-tech dummy, from the point of injury—a skateboarding accident in which Stan suffered a head injury, broken wrist and internal injuries—all the way through his treatment from the EMS response to rehabilitation, where we caught up with them. 

Tannen Zamrykut has loved every minute so far. “It is something I have never experienced before. It is like five times more amazing than school.” 

For 13-year-old Georgia Borus, getting her hands in the action has been the highlight. 

“My favourite part was stitching chicken thighs and casting each other. I didn’t realize there was as much to it,” says Georgia.

Twelve-year-old Tannen Zamrykut walks through a mini-obstacle course under the watchful eyes of Therapist Assistant Kate Taplin and Physiotherapist Dan Gillespie.

During the rehab section, the students are split into groups. In one section, they fit each other with splints. They also learn that after a cast comes off, sometimes a splint is required to continue to stabilize the bone.

In another section, they learn about spinal cord injury and the importance of wearing a proper helmet. They learn how to put on a Philadelphia collar. A patient who is fitted with a neck brace may have to wear it 24/7 for up to three months. It is a reality check for the students, who try basic things while wearing it like drinking water, balancing or stepping over objects.

Young Medical Minds is a pilot program developed in Camrose by Alberta Health Services, Covenant Health and the local medical community, and supported by the Augustana Faculty of the University of Alberta. Plans are to take it across the province because the need for young people to consider professions in health care is high as Alberta’s population grows, ages and has more complex health needs. 

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