“In the future, I want to become a nurse. I feel that going to this camp will help me develop my understanding of the field and prepare me for the future,” explains Kathleen Fabella, a student at École secondaire La Voie. Kathleen is one of 44 high school students who participated in the 2017 edition of the Explore! Careers in Health camp held on June 26-28 at McGill University. For three days, this diverse group had the chance to better understand career options in health care by participating in hands-on workshops, lectures and activities led by McGill students and professionals in medicine, nursing, dentistry, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech language pathology, genetics and pharmacology.
This student-led initiative is financed by the McGill University Faculty of Medicine’s Office of Social Accountability and Community Engagement (SACE), with the goal of providing an enriching learning and networking opportunity to diverse students from Montreal and the surrounding areas. SACE encourages diversity by seeking out students from under-represented groups, primarily visible minorities, rural students and students from families on low incomes, hoping to inspire them to continue their post-secondary studies in health professions at McGill. The camp works with high school guidance counsellors to identify and encourage grade 9 and 10 students who have an interest in health care to apply for the camp. “This is a real team effort. It’s a great initiative which is only possible because McGill students work very hard to make this happen,” explains Sameer Zuberi, Diversity and Engagement Officer at SACE.
As co-directors of this year’s camp, medical students Amanda Try and Kelly Hennegan oversee the planning and logistics, a process that begins months in advance as they recruit volunteers, book venues and plan activities. Approximately 50 volunteers–composed mostly of McGill students and faculty–work passionately to make this experience a memorable one. “During the camp, we connect with the students, living in close quarters and being there with them through the action-packed days,” says Kelly. The students are divided into six mixed teams so that everyone gets to interact with people of all backgrounds. Each team is assigned both a senior and a junior counselor–these are often past campers who choose to return in a leadership role. “Everyone gives their time, everyone wants to be here and it shows. The campers really appreciate that!” emphasized Amanda, who has been involved in the camp for several years now and enjoys being a mentor and building strong bonds with her campers.
To introduce the students to careers in medicine and nursing, the Steinberg Centre for Simulation and Interactive Learning welcomed the students for a full day of hands-on workshops where they learned how to suture cuts, care for wounds and draw blood on manikins and simulators. Performing live ultrasounds on standardized patient actors under the guidance of Dr. Peter Steinmetz, Assistant Professor, Department Family Medicine, was a very enriching experience for the group. “This is really fun! I thought we were going to be observing; I wasn’t expecting to be able to participate and do all these workshops,” says Elizabeth Pitre from Lakeside Academy. “This experience is a way to open my mind and see what I want to become.”
Meeting and interacting with the health care professionals and medical students was very motivating for Guilherme Guimaraès Ruas, a student from Saint-Laurent High School who is interested in science and research. Originally from Brazil, Guilherme’s family moved to Canada three years ago, opening up a world of possibilities for this curious young man. “I’m very intrigued by many wonders and natural phenomena, and often do research in areas such as genetics, evolution and biogenesis,” says Guilherme. “I like being at the camp and talking with people who share my interests.”
The same holds true for Katelin Bryan, a rural student from Joliette High School. “I’m from a small town, so this camp is a good introduction to the big city life,” explains Katelin. “It’s really cool to meet other kids who have the same interests as me, kids my own age.” Katelin hopes to work in a high-pressure environment like an Emergency Room because she works well under stress and is comfortable assuming a leadership role. Taking part in this camp and practicing technical skills has given her a taste of what is to come and has helped to reassure her, to affirm that she is on the right path.