Teens tackle controversial topics at Mercyhurst health careers camp


Should super-sized sugary drinks be banned? Why don’t anti-smoking campaigns work for teens? How safe are drugs found in the family medicine cabinet?

These are among the controversial health topics that 25 area high school students attending the weeklong Health Career Explorers Camp at Mercyhurst University – The North East Campus will explore in their capstone project. The teens will premiere a series of “public health newscasts” on these topics Friday, July 26, from 1 to 2 p.m. in the Great Room of the Ridge Library at Mercyhurst North East.  The event is open to the public.

Organized by Mercyhurst and co-sponsored by Hamot Health Foundation, the summer camp has provided nearly 400 culturally diverse teens hands-on experience in nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, medical lab technology, respiratory therapy and emergency medical response training during the past six years. The campers work on human patient simulators, visit hospitals, and conduct medical histories of residents at Parkside Retirement Community in North East. The students often leave with an aspiring interest in a health occupation.

Research shows that reaching students in middle school and early high school creates a commanding learning experience that can be a life-changer.

“Young people, and especially minority children, aren’t aware of all the terrific career opportunities in health care,” said Linda Rhodes, director of the Hirtzel Institute on Health Education and Aging at Mercyhurst North East, who conceived the idea of the camp. “Our camps give them the opportunity to actually experience what it’s like to be a nurse, a paramedic or a respiratory therapist. And that’s powerful.”

Through the support of the Hamot Health Foundation, students receive their own set of scrubs and stethoscope while they are exposed to an intense week of clinical activities, field trips and sessions with professionals among six health occupations.

“What a wonderful and exciting opportunity for these students. Hamot Health Foundation is pleased that we can partner with Mercyhurst University in making this possible,” said Ann Bula, president and chief development officer of Hamot Health Foundation.

Campers also learn how to practice healthy lifestyles and each camp graduate receives a $2,000 scholarship toward any program at Mercyhurst University once they graduate from high school.

Throughout the academic year students may also attend “Health Career Retreats” at the university geared toward activities to help them with their studies in high school and nurture their interest in a health care career. And they can join a Mercyhurst-sponsored Health Career Occupations Students of America (HOSA) club that in its short history has won state awards and sent students onto national HOSA finals.

For more information, contact Rhodes at 814-725-6310 or 717-919-4991.


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