As a teenager, deciding what you want to do with your life can be a challenge. A program supported by USA Health and other partners across the Gulf Coast aims to help rising high school seniors interested in healthcare gain real-world experiences in hospitals and healthcare settings.

Published Jul 26th, 2019

By Carol McPhail

CMcPhail@health.southalabama.edu

As a teenager, deciding what you want to do with your life can be a challenge. A program supported by USA Health and other partners across the Gulf Coast aims to help rising high school seniors interested in healthcare gain real-world experiences in hospitals and healthcare settings.

Each year, more than 100 students spend a week during summer shadowing area healthcare professionals in the Summer Scrubs programs. Since 2004, approximately 1,300 students have participated in the Mobile Area Chamber’s Bay Area Healthcare Coalition program, giving them a look into the extensive opportunities available in Mobile’s second-largest industry.

During the three-day program, students visited USA Health Children’s & Women’s Hospital, USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute and USA Health University Hospital to learn about all aspects of patient care.

Six rising high school seniors spent the second morning of Summer Scrubs – July 18, 2019 - at USA Mitchell Cancer Institute, where in addition to their clinical exposure, they toured basic research laboratories that use x-ray crystallography, mass spectrometry and microscopy.

Faith Academy senior Angela Russ, 17, said she enrolled in Summer Scrubs to help her decide between research and medicine career paths. “I was interested in research and wanted to see what it looked like,” she said. “It is really cool.”

The group learned how crystals are used in the study of proteins and DNA repair. They also heard about the immortal HeLa cell line, the oldest and most commonly used human cell line in scientific research. HeLa cells are derived from cervical cancer cells taken from a patient, Henrietta Lacks, in the 1950s.

Cancer researcher Steve McClellan said he encourages high school students as early as possible to explore research and shadow physicians. “We love engaging students,” he said. “It’s a great way for them to figure out what they’re interested in.”

Baker High School senior Kevin Chapman, 17, said he plans to study to become a physician. “I was sold on the Summer Scrubs program by my friend, so I signed up,” he said.

At USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital, a student interested in obstetrics and gynecology learned about the wonder of childbirth and observed as nurses performed routines assessments immediately following a baby’s delivery.

A group of 11 students at University Hospital, home to one of the nation’s busiest burn units, learned about wound care and other challenging aspects of treating patients with burns. Other participants spent time in the progressive care unit, orthopedic care and surgery recovery.

While the program only spans three days, its impact can be significant. Survey results by participants between 2004 and 2010 showed 24 percent were working in healthcare and another 69 percent were enrolled in healthcare studies, workforce officials said.

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