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Health Care Warrior Camp exposes youngsters to the health care professions

By B.L. Azure

Dr. LeeAnna Muzquiz demonstrates the use of an ultrasonic medical device at the HCWC. (B.L. Azure photo)Dr. LeeAnna Muzquiz demonstrates the use of an ultrasonic medical device at the HCWC. (B.L. Azure photo)

BLUE BAY — The 3rd annual Tribal Health and Human Services Health Care Warriors Camp, a three-day camp that exposes middle school aged students to medical professions, has come and gone, and hopefully some of the young participants will someday be one of the many health care professionals serving patients at Tribal Health clinics.

Health Care Warrior campers check the ingredients of beverages to determine which ones are bad for dental health. (B.L. Azure photo) Health Care Warrior campers check the ingredients of beverages to determine which ones are bad for dental health. (B.L. Azure photo)

Medical professional education is largely based on science, technology and math. 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 take the appropriate classes needed for the medical profession education foundation. Waiting to take the difficult — for some — math, technology and science classes until college is often a tough road to hoe. Middle school or even earlier is the time to begin.

Summer intern Zach Conko-Camel assists Health Care Warrior campers taking heartbeat rates. (B.L. Azure photo) Summer intern Zach Conko-Camel assists Health Care Warrior campers taking heartbeat rates. (B.L. Azure photo)

The HCWC is one way to plant medical profession educational seeds in young minds by providing hands-on and group learning experience with medical professionals.

The HCWC is a project the THHS summer interns — coordinator Adessa Durglo, and interns Zach Conko-Camel, Loretta Grey Cloud, Melinda Smith, Mariah Hamel and Cameron Neiss — are in charge of from beginning to end.

At the beginning of the three days of the camp the interns organized the campers into color-coded groups identifiable by the color of the t-shirts they wore. Each intern was responsible for one of the young groups and the campers would then rotate among the interns for the various physical and mental activities each intern devised.

Campers learned about traditional foods from Jenny Fowler and got hands-on experience making some tasty treats like Indian ice cream. (B.L. Azure photo) Campers learned about traditional foods from Jenny Fowler and got hands-on experience making some tasty treats like Indian ice cream. (B.L. Azure photo)

The 24 youngsters were welcomed to the camp Monday by Tribal Health Director Kevin Howlett, Dr. Garry Pitts and Dr. LeeAnna Muzquiz, who all offered words of encouragement.

“The reason for the Health Care Warriors Camp is there are not enough Indians to fill the health care positions at Tribal Health. We need to get Indian people educated in the profession so they can serve Indian people. There are 140 positions at Tribal Health and those jobs should be in your dreams,” Howlett said. “You have to stay in school and do your best every day because these positions require a lot of education. In two weeks we will be opening the new clinic in St. Ignatius and I hope that one day some of you’ll be working there. All of you are precious gifts to your parents, your family and your tribe. Stay in school and keep the dream alive.”

It wasn’t overly bookish at the HCWC as there were plenty of physical activities to participate in, like double-ball. (B.L. Azure photo) It wasn’t overly bookish at the HCWC as there were plenty of physical activities to participate in, like double-ball. (B.L. Azure photo)

Dr. Pitts told the youngsters that they are in charge of their destinies but to fulfill them in a positive way takes time, hard work and an education. The medical professions can easily consume a decade or so for education and residency requirements.

“The Health Care Warriors Camp is a dream come true. It’ll be fun but it will also present some challenges for you,” Pitts said. “Our hope for the camp is to plant some seeds that will blossom with some of you becoming health care professionals.”

Traditional food specialist Jenny Fowler shows campers how to make huckleberry tea. (B.L. Azure photo) Traditional food specialist Jenny Fowler shows campers how to make huckleberry tea. (B.L. Azure photo)

Dr. Muzquiz told the campers that college didn’t come easy for her and advised the campers to read, read, read and read some more.

“To be honest with you, I struggled in college, the medical education was very hard for me. But there is help so don’t be afraid to ask for it,” Muzquiz said. “Reading is so important no matter what you choose to do in life. It opens your mind and spurs your imagination. Get a good handle on reading because you have a lot of it ahead of you. And don’t forget to have fun, always have fun. I am so happy you are all here.”

Each day of the HCWC was filled with cultural and medical presentations and hands-on activities.

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