|August 1, 2013
Healthcare Warriors Camp encourages youth to study medicine
By B.L. Azure
THHS summer interns Dalena WeaselHead (left) and Mariah Hamel, who will be pursuing pharmacy degrees in college, conduct a math-based learning exercise at the Healthcare Warriors Camp at Blue Bay. (B.L. Azure photo)
BLUE BAY — The future is now when it comes to planting seeds in fertile young minds that will blossom in times yet to come. That could be the guiding philosophy of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Tribal Health and Human Services Healthcare Warriors Camp. It is a place where middle school aged young ones can go to get a good glimpse at what medical professions exist in Tribal Health as well as the public and private healthcare industry. From the experience it is hoped that some will seriously consider and pursue a career in healthcare. If they do and are successful in their educational quest a good paying job in a growing and always needed industry awaits them.
Dental assistant Nicole Main and dentist Darby Lefler help campers sculpt teeth as part of a dental exercise. (B.L. Azure photo)
The 2nd annual Healthcare Warriors Camp took place last Wednesday through Friday at CSKT’s Blue Bay campground and compound on the east-shore of Flathead Lake. Twenty middle school aged students and four THHS interns and the Intern Program coordinator camped in tipis overlooking Flathead Lake. It was an idyllic scene for the idealistic healthcare venture. And it was a good mix of learning and fun, mental and physical.
Medical professional education is largely based on science and math, and the earlier a student starts taking those types of classes in their public education the better the foundation is for future learning, medical or otherwise. Educators advise not waiting until late in high school to begin taking the appropriate classes needed for the medical profession education foundation. Waiting to take the difficult — for some — math and science classes until college is often a tough road to hoe. Middle school or even earlier is the time to begin.
UM School of Pharmacy professor, Dr. Erica Woodahl shows campers how to extract and view their own DNA. (B.L. Azure photo)
This year an intern coordinator position was implemented to oversee the interns and in conjunction with the interns devised a schedule of activities and job shadowing for them. Jocko Valley homeboy Cubby Pierre, a 2009 Arlee High School graduate and 2013 Gonzaga University graduate was the inaugural coordinator.
The collegian interns — Adessa Durglo, Alice Van Guten, Dalena WeaselHead and Mariah Hamel — were charged with planning and setting up the camp. It was among their many duties.
At the beginning of the three days of the camp the four interns organized the campers into three color-coded groups identifiable by the color of wristbands they wore. The campers would then rotate among the interns for the various physical and mental activities they devised.
“The camp went really well,” Pierre said, adding that there was only one no-show at the camp. “It was a new experience for me dealing with a group of kids that age. They are so full of energy and so unpredictable. I have worked with high school- and college-aged students but not unpredictable 6th, 7th and 8th graders.”
Pharmacist Kristin Johnson discusses her chosen medical profession with campers and gave them some hands-on projects to do. (B.L. Azure photo)
Each day of the camp featured THHS medical professionals conducting presentations that included hands-on learning activities related to each profession.
Among the THHS presenters were Dr. LeeAnna Muzquiz, medical; Darby Lefler and Nicole Main, dental; Kristin Johnson, pharmacy; and Brenda Bodnar, diabetes. There were also presentations on dental hygiene and CPR.
The University of Montana’s School of Pharmacy Pharmacogenetics Program and SpectrUM also gave hands-on presentations.
The Pharmacogenetics presentation with UM professor Dr. Erica Woodahl and UM graduate student Chelsea Morales from Fort Belknap had the campers produce their own DNA and make mock cells from every day household and craft items.
The SpectrUM presentation featured its traveling brain, eye and heart hands-on exhibit.
Pierre said the age mix with him and the interns was spread out as was their individual educational accomplishments heretofore.
“Each of us learned something from each other’s educational and life experiences,” he said. “The interns were a big help to me, especially keeping the kids in-line and keeping the activities moving along. They all showed a lot of initiative. I couldn’t have done this without them.”
But it was not all brainstorming. The days were broken up with afternoon swim breaks that were quite welcome in temperatures hanging tough in the mid-90s. They also took a three-mile hike in the Hellroaring area east of Polson.
Healthcare Warrior Camp students practice filling prescriptions as they were shown by Polson THHS Clinic pharmacist Kristin Johnson. (B.L. Azure photo)
For their time spent at the Healthcare Warriors Camp each of the Healthcare Warriors Camp participants will be awarded a Kindle electronic reader to promote literacy. They also earned “Warrior Bucks” that was used to bid on items on the last day of the camp.
However the big reward will not be known for a few years. That is when some of the campers will make the commitment to take the educational route to the healthcare professions. They will be the better equipped for their educational sojourns because of what the got a taste of at the camp. And if they are successful in the medical professions they pursued some might comeback to the Flathead Reservation to work at Tribal Health. If they do the patients will see some familiar faces — perhaps family members or schoolmates — treating them. And that is the goal of the whole endeavor, not only of the Healthcare Warriors Camp but the Intern Program too.