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Mount Mercy Academy: Successfully Preparing the Healthcare Professionals of the Future

                As society continues to age and people live longer, there is a pressing need for workers to join the medical field.  There are many areas in the medical professions that are in desperate need of people to fill positions but many are not aware of the plethora of options for careers in the medical field. Nine years ago Mount Mercy Academy recognized this and established a program to fill that void. 

                During the 2010-11school year Mount Mercy Academy established a partnership with Mercy Hospital and Catholic Health to offer its students a unique career experience.  Students have the opportunity to gain exposure to many medical fields as well as the chance to interact with professionals in the field of their choice.  Students join the Health Care Career Club as freshmen and sophomores and then as juniors and seniors they have the opportunity to continue on to the Academy of Science and Healthcare (ASH).

                Since the inception of the program, over one hundred young women have “graduated” from the program and received their white coats.  Most of the students have continued their pursuit of a medical career in college.

                The Healthcare Career Club attends various field trips which expose them to many of the different medical career paths that are available to them.  Among the sites that students have visited are dental offices, Mercy Flight, UNYTS, Mash Camp and the Buffalo-Niagara Medical Campus. 

                Several graduates from the Class of 2018 reflected on the benefits of this unique program.  All of the graduates appreciated the opportunity to take field trips to various health related places.

                “I enjoyed that I was able to see and experience so many things that I would not have had the opportunity to do without the club. I loved having hands-on activities that showed us what it is really like to have a job in those particular fields,” stated Sophie Robinson of Buffalo. 

                Alexis Sandor, also of Buffalo, who is majoring in Biology with a minor in Public Health and plans to go onto Medical School to become a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine concurred with Robinson’s thoughts, “I enjoyed being able to explore different careers in the medical field. It was very eye-opening. 

I didn’t know how many different careers there actually were until participating in the field trips.”

                The students were impressed by what they observed while on the various field trips. Visiting the

Jacobs Institute had a prodigious effect on some of the students.  Emily Lewandowski of East Aurora, who attends Saint Bonaventure and has already been accepted into the SBU - Lake Erie College of

Osteopathic Medicine B.S./D.O. 4+4 Dual Admissions Program commented “I was most impressed by the Jacob’s Institute. Seeing firsthand the revolutionary technology and medical advancements that are being employed right here in Western New York was incredibly inspiring.” 

                Mary Bala, of West Seneca, who is attending the University of Rochester for Biomedical

Engineering, with the career goal of becoming a biomedical engineer, working and innovating within the walls of a hospital to give people the tools they need to be healthy and well agreed, “The field trip to the Jacobs Institute at Buffalo General Hospital influenced my decision for my career after high school most. It wasn’t until after this that I realized I made the right decision to go into Biomedical Engineering.”

                Another meaningful trip was the visit to ECMC.  Julia Acosta of Buffalo, who is attending Daemen College for their Physician Assistant program, commented “The field trip to ECMC for the Let’s Not Meet By Accident Program was very impressive because we were given a thorough walkthrough of what happens when a victim of an automobile accident comes into ECMC. The staff did a great job giving us a step by step demonstration of what happens following a car accident.  I thought it was extremely important because it focused on issues revolving around teen driver safety.”

                Chloe Manikowski of Depew, who intends to major in science in college said, “The field trip to ECMC impressed me the most. We were able to see just how efficiently the hospital is run and the many different jobs that go into doing that. Seeing the emergency room and the medical staff that works in it was truly amazing. The intensity and pressure on them while they work to save someone’s life was incredible to learn about. We were also able to see the medical tools and machines that go into it.”

                During the junior year interested students participate in a shadowing program of approximately 16 hours.  Students are able to shadow in the fields of Radiology, Anatomy, Maternity, Nursing Units, Respiratory Therapy and more at Mercy Hospital.  All of the students enjoyed the chance to experience the atmosphere of a hospital. 

                Christina Billittier of Angola, whose college major is Sports Medicine with a Pre Medicine concentration and hopes to become an orthopedic sports medicine doctor commented, “I enjoyed being able to experience the atmosphere of Mercy Hospital during rotations. I also really enjoyed interacting with patients and learning about the different medical technology.”

                Students also found it beneficial to experience so many different departments, enabling them to see many of the facets of medical care.  Manikowski recalled, “Something I enjoyed most about my rotations was being able to go into the rooms with the nurses’ aides. They were so hard-working and this allowed us to interact with the patients and help them with certain things.

                “I enjoyed watching the radiologist reading the CT scans and analyzing them in real time. It was crazy how the scans were just being taken and appearing right on the screens so quickly. He could click on the images and completely rotate the visual, so that it made a virtual 3D image so he could diagnose the issue,” Sandor stated.

                 Lewandowski said “During rotations, I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to be in the hospital and to envision myself working in a similar environment in my future. I enjoyed the variety and fast paced work. “

                While on rotations the students were impressed with what they saw happening during a normal day at the hospital.  They were impressed with the demeanor of the health professionals and how calm and composed they were, as well as how much they loved their jobs. Manikowski observed, “What I found most impressive was when the nurses in the NICU would get a call for an emergency C-Section how quickly they suited up and ran to the operating room. It was amazing to see how quickly and efficiently they work.”

                DesTiny Overton of Buffalo, who is attending Canisius College and majoring in biochemistry with hopes of attending medical school commented, “What I found impressive was watching the nurses in phlebotomy and how they were able to know which vein was the right one to draw blood. They also were able to identify what the blood meant to sort and freeze them for later uses.”

                The program concludes with an internship during the senior year.  Students take part in an internship in the field of their choice, either at Mercy Hospital of another approved location.  Students must complete a total of 50 volunteer hours, create a log of their participation and then research colleges that offer majors in related fields.

                The graduates of 2018 had a spectrum of internship experiences.  Some of the internships included shadowing a doctor, participating in Roswell Park’s Junior Robotic Surgery Challenge, working at UBMD Urology, working in a hospital or at Roswell Park and assisting at a nursing home in the activities department.

                Billittier interned in the activities department of a nursing home and appreciated the opportunity to make a difference in the residents’ lives by spending time with them.  She felt that this experience helped to make it clear to her that she would prefer to work with youths and athletes as a sports medicine doctor.

                Bala spent her internship working at a medical practice.  She enjoyed witnessing the bonds that form between the patients and the doctors and nurses.  The internship also helped to make her career path more obvious to her. “My experience impacted my possible career choice, as I witnessed the difference between working in a private practice office and a hospital,” Bala remarked. “ I realized that although I enjoyed both, I would like to work in a hospital and experience the wide range of practices that go on within the walls of it.”

                Sandor’s internship was spent at both Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Mercy Hospital.  Her experience included spending time in the operating room and practicing on the actual robotic surgery system that the surgeons use and learning to suture.  At Mercy Hospital she assisted people in the ER as they awaited treatment.

                Lewandowski interned at Geraci Spine and Sports Medicine.  “I enjoyed every minute of my internship and found it incredibly beneficial. My favorite part of my internship was experiencing an operating room with Dr. Geraci and observing spinal injections,” Lewandowski responded. “This allowed me to learn that I am comfortable in an O.R. setting and to gain direct experience with patients.  My internship solidified my desire to go to medical school and even allowed me to discover a specialty I am interested in pursuing. “

                Overton spent her internship at Roswell Park and enjoyed working with the other student interns.  She worked in the lab assisting with research, which solidified her desire to continue with medical research in the future.

                All of the students feel that the Health Care Career Club and the Academy of Science and Health

Care has given them a distinct advantage compared to other college students.  It has provided them with a better vision of what their future paths will be.

                Manikowski stated, “Without this program I would’ve never been able to explore various types of medical career choices and been able to see the growing medical technology. This program allowed me to have experience moving into college and my future. It really exposed and opened my eyes to the many diverse options that are available in the medical field. The more I was exposed to various medical careers the more my interest grew in the field. “

                Acosta had the following thoughts “This program has put me at an advantage because I was able to apply to colleges and programs knowing exactly what I wanted to do. It has been an amazing career exploration program that really stands out compared to other schools. I have friends that go to different schools who were completely lost on what to major in college, while I felt extremely prepared because of all the exposure I was given through the program.”

                “The whole experience of being a part of Health Care Career Club and the Academy brought to life the medical field for me,” Bala shared.  “The advantages it brought to me are endless. I am so thankful for these programs that shaped my decision-making for a college major, and a career choice. After viewing many different offices and hospitals and seeing many different types of healthcare jobs firsthand, I confidently have an idea regarding my life after high school, and I have confirmed that the healthcare field is for me.”

                “I was able to participate in the Junior Robotic Surgery Challenge at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. It has enhanced my resume and college applications,” Sandor stated. “I have been able to explore areas of medicine I never even knew existed. I know more about the healthcare field that many of my peers. I have an insight into the numerous careers the field has to offer, which is definitely something I’ve been able to use to my advantage, especially when choosing a college and an area of study.”

                Mount Mercy Academy is the only school for young women to offer this partnership and is one of just a few in Western New York to allow its students to gain invaluable, practical and hands-on-experience in the medical profession while still in high school.

"Mount Mercy has positively changed my life forever. Through the inviting community, I was able to grow as a woman, as a daughter, as a friend, and as a member of society. Throughout my time here I have gained an education in both academic areas and life in general through the school's ongoing efforts to educate students on gender inequality, racial injustice, and environmental crisis'. Furthermore, Mercy has given me the space to gain confidence that 4 years ago I never would have guessed I would have. Mount Mercy has helped me take that initial step toward becoming the strong woman of color I am today. At Mercy you are more than just a student, you are whoever you wish to be."

Melina Courtney

Class of 2022

"My future, success, and the ability to be an empowered woman in society come from Mount Mercy. My school is a strong foundation for my role in life. From attending Mount Mercy, I can say with confidence, that I will graduate with the mindset that I can accomplish anything. Mercy is my home and my sanctuary to be whoever I want. Mount Mercy has been bringing forth generations of strong intellectual women into the world, and I am more than honored to be one of them. Mercy teaches girls more than academics, but also about the world around us. As a mercy community, we give back to the world because it is our home. From my four years at Mercy, I have been educated on pushing for equality and peace and the understanding that there is no limit to what I can do. I have the confidence to go out in the world and make a difference because being a Mercy girl has given me that opportunity. "

Cassidy Reid

Class of 2022

"Mercy is more than just a school. Mercy is my second home and a shoulder to lean on. Mount Mercy has given me the confidence and resources to pursue my passions and make the world a more inclusive place, propelling me to take strides into male-dominated fields. Mercy blessed me with an environment to grow intellectually and in the community, giving me the foundation to make a tangible impact while making lifelong friendships."

Adrianna Awald

Class of 2022

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