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Mount Mercy, Timon Students Scrub up for Health Care Experience

by cnewman
Tue, Jan 10th 2012 09:00 am
WNY Catholic January 2012  [ View Original Article ]

Mount Mercy Academy and Bishop Timon-St. Jude High School in South Buffalo have teamed up with nearby Mercy Hospital to offer students a head start in the medical field. Through internships and one-on-one interactions with hospital personnel, students can learn about everything from emergency care to marketing. MMA administration is calling it a vivid learning experience.

Students begin interacting with the medical community as freshmen through the Health Care Career Club both schools offer. In their junior year, students receive a shadowing experience through rotations at Mercy Hospital to examine eight varied careers that are science related, including including respiratory therapy, physical therapy, pathology, emergency room, maternity, ambulatory surgery, medical/surgical floor and nursing radiology. Students work for an hour or two once a week over an eight-week period to experience each department. As seniors, students have an option to do an internship involving a more intense study in one specific field. They may spend up to 30 hours over the course of a school year, working with hospital staff. Not all internships will be in the clinical realm. Financing, marketing and even engineering positions are also available for those not interested in the blood and guts aspects of the health care field. The schools are reaching out to other medical campuses such as Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute for other internship opportunities.

"It is exposure to the careers through the facilities," said Candace Wagner, Mount Mercy health teacher. "They not only learn what they liked in the health care careers, they also found careers that they did not like, so there was the process of elimination in certain career fields. Some people were not into phlebotomy."

Both schools are in the second year of the program. Due to scheduling issues, Timon students have not yet had the opportunity to participate in the shadowing and internship experiences. Mercy has nearly 40 students involved at one of the three levels. The program appeals to girls who have an interest in the medical field.

"That's definitely where I want to go, but I am unsure what field," said Emily Diaz, 18. "That's why I'm trying to involve myself in everything they have to offer. I'm trying to get an experience in each field and see which one I like the most." She hasn't found her ideal path yet, but still finds the program useful. "I like the hands-on experience. I don't think it's good to go into a career without knowing exactly what it is. I think the hands-on experience is really helpful," she said.

At 16, Kelly Hess already has plans to get into pediatrics due to her love of children. "They put me on the maternity floor, and I attended a maternity MASH camp my sophomore year. That was really cool," she said. "We got to see all the rooms, what they do. And during the shadowing experience last year on the maternity floor, it was cool to see what they do with the newborn babies, how they have to check them over. It was a good experience just
to see the ins and outs."

Girls have already volunteered at the hospital or attended MASH where they participate in hands-on activities in different departments. "I used to watch shows like 'ER' and 'Grey's Anatomy,'" said Jannelle Lauciello, 17. "Being over at the hospital made me realize that what you see on TV is not what you get. I liked it more, just living out the experience in the hospital. I'd like to go into medicine and be an emergency physician because the emergency room is my favorite part, especially seeing all the action going on and being a part of it."

The program goes throughout the entire Catholic Health system. Students have worked at both campuses of Sisters Hospital, as well as having simulations with Mercy Flight. Bishop Timon-St. Jude High School is sharing a bioinformatics course with Mount Mercy. Bioinformatics is the application of computer science and information technology to the field of biology and medicine.

"Last year we reached out to the University at Buffalo, because they have a big bioinformatics program out there. In finding out about their program we also found out that the director of the program happened to be a Timon graduate, Dr. Tony Campanieri," said Timon Principal Thomas J. Sullivan.

Last year a few seniors took the bioinformatics course at school, then, in the second semester, went to UB once a week to work with a research scientist. "You get a little bit different perspective on health care by doing the research aspect of it. That has been a big addition," said Sullivan.

Catholic Health approached the schools about succession planning for health care personnel. There is a concern over the number of qualified candidates to fill local positions in the health care field. "If we can initiate programs on the high school level that can spill out into the colleges, they may be able to at least try to get the numbers down a little bit in terms of having to go out and recruit doctors and nurses from outside the area," said Sullivan.

"It's to develop a new workforce in Western New York that will stay in Western New York if possible," said Sister Mary Ellen Twist, RSM, Mount Mercy president. It also gives the students an edge when applying for college and scholarships. These opportunities can set them apart from the crowd.

"I'm really excited about it," said Hess. "I'm applying for college now and it's one more thing you can put on your resumé, and it's a big thing. A lot of other students won't have this opportunity, so it is one things that makes us stand out against the others."

Lauciello has already had one experience not too many other students have. "How many high school juniors can go and help dissect a heart and pull a brain? That's what I got to do in pathology last year," she said.