Teens watch, learn and do in ECU medical program

Students Chris Faulkenberry, left, and Bret Newton observe as Dr. John Harrison, chief emergency medicine resident, reads X-rays. The teens were participating in the Health Careers Investigation and Immersion program of ECU. Photo by Cliff Hollis.
GREENVILLE, N.C.  (June 5, 2002)  —  Yvonne Brooks, junior at Rose High in Greenville, had been pretty sure she wanted to pursue a health career. Her mother's a nurse (Bettie Brooks of HealthDirect), and Yvonne has participated in health career programs offered at East Carolina University.

But nothing got her hooked like dissecting body parts.

"It was fun," the 16-year-old said. "I got to look at and actually dissect a human foot, lymph nodes in a breast, a placenta and a baby. That was kind of sad, but you have to learn."

Yvonne is one of 15 area high school students participating in the Health Careers Investigation and Immersion program of the Brody School of Medicine at ECU. For six years, the program has been helping high school students who are interested in health careers learn more about the many health professions and get a taste of what some of those jobs are like.

"It's very important," Yvonne said, "because most of the time you don't get to learn about it until you get out of high school," which can lead to wasted time and money, she added. For now, she plans to pursue pathology.

HCII is a program designed for honors high school students. The program is sponsored by the Academic Support and Counseling Center at the medical school and is led by Tamika Brown. Participants are selected each November for the class beginning in January. The program involves eight sessions of four to eight hours, held approximately once a month, from January to November.

Participants must be enrolled at Farmville Central, D.H. Conley, J. H. Rose, Ayden-Grifton or North Pitt high schools or Arendell Parrot Academy in Kinston. They also must have expressed interest in a medical career, have completed basic science and algebra courses, be enrolled in advanced math and sciences courses, have a minimum grade-point average of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale, have good character and sign a commitment to attend all sessions and complete the program.

Selection is based upon meeting basic program criteria, the written application and the panel interview and evaluation. In the end, fifteen students are chosen to participate. They do so on days they are off from school; no getting out of class for these scholars.

As an example of the type of students who go through the program, two former participants, Ben Avery of Ayden-Grifton High and Holly Moye from Arendell Parrott Academy, have received Park Scholarships, the top merit scholarship N.C. State University offers.

On a recent Friday, Bret Newton and Chris Faulkenberry, two students at Parrott Academy, shadowed Dr. Christina Schenarts, ECU assistant clinical professor of emergency medicine, in the PCMH emergency department, where they saw physicians and staff members treat patients with head wounds and orthopedic injuries, fevers and upset stomachs.

"You see patients from everywhere doing anything and everything to themselves," Bret said, adding that emergency medicine might be the career path for him. He previously thought he'd like to be a radiologist, but shadowing one made him think again: Lots of films to read and not much time to do it. Thus, students learn a health career is hard work.

"Not only do you have to be smart, but you have to have a good work ethic," Bret said as E.D. staff buzzed around him. "The docs back there, they do lots of work."

Schenarts praised the program as a good opportunity for teens. "I think it's neat for high school students to have an opportunity like that," she said. "Even in that limited amount of time, they can see the chaos that is the E.D."

While the program is geared toward students who are aiming at medical school, it also exposes them to the physician assistant studies program, clinical laboratory sciences and other allied health fields.

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Contact: Doug Boyd | 252-744-2481