July 4, 2008

Aboriginal Youth Meet Medicine

Innovative Internship Program Introduces Students to Health Care Careers

Speaking from an operating table at Pan Am Clinic, Winnipeg Free Press
humour columnist Doug Speirs asked a group of Grade 9 Aboriginal students if seeing his torn Achilles tendon get repaired was "gross."

"I guess it's not gross for kids, today, with all the video games . . . this would actually be a really boring video game," Speirs joked. But 18 students from General Wolfe and Hugh John Macdonald junior high schools and Children of the Earth High School certainly weren't bored. They watched intently as a live operation - complete with real blood, and exposed bone and tendon - was broadcast in the conference room of Pan Am Clinic.

It was all part of the High School Medical Internship Program - an innovative educational program for Aboriginal students and a first for Winnipeg.

Winnipeg Regional Health Authority Aboriginal Health Programs and Pan Am Clinic partnered with the Winnipeg School Division's Children of the Earth High School to develop the four - year medical internship program. The program enables Aboriginal students to explore various healthcare
career options.

As part of the program a Grade 9 Discovery Year is open to all Grade 9
Aboriginal students in Winnipeg School Division, where students receive visual demonstrations and hands-on activity involving medical procedures and equipment.

"It's very interesting and good experience," Children of the Earth student Samya Wood said, adding that her favorite surgery to watch was the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) knee surgery. Her favorite activity was the "Gummy Bear Drop" which involves hands-on use of endoscopic equipment used in actual surgical procedures. Students tried out their fledgling skills on the specialized surgical tools, attempting to pick up gummy bears and moving them safely into a cup with out dropping them. The feat was challenging, however, as students could only view their progress via TV monitor.

Other hands-on training included blood pressure, muscle strength and body stability testing, as well as using an orthopedic simulator, normally used to teach knee surgeries to surgeons.

"Students gain exposure to various healthcare careers, mentoring relationships with health professionals, and support to complete pre requisite courses to be eligible for post-secondary health education," Annette Alix Roussin, Regional Community Project Coordinator with Winnipeg Regional Health Authority Aboriginal Health Programs, said.

Samya Wood said the discovery experience has intensified her interest in healthcare and now wants to come back to the medical internship program in Grade 10.

Students must go through an application process, and if chosen, must attend the Children of the Earth High School which exclusively offers the program. Students receive a credit for each year they are in the internship. Only six students per year are chosen to continue through Grades 10 to 12 in the program.

Through the four year High School Medical Internship Program students will learn by observing professionals treating patients, conducting lab tests, and operating sophisticated equipment at the Pan Am Clinic - an ambulatory surgical and medical centre with health professionals of diverse disciplines including physicians, nurses, therapists, technologists, and various support staff delivering surgical and medical procedures.

Children of the Earth High School offers a wide range of cultural activities allowing students hands-on experiences with culture and traditions from the collective histories of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, and to explore contemporary issues and topics important to each students' development as a future leader.

"The goal of the new High School Medical Internship Program is to raise Aboriginal youth awareness and interest in healthcare. And, ultimately, to have more Aboriginal people going into the healthcare professions," Alix Roussin said.

Speirs thinks the program is a great idea. "It made what I was going through more special," Speirs said, "(being part of) something the kids could learn from."

- Kathryn McBurney


For more health and wellness news, pick up the Summer 2008 edition of Aspire, now available at selected WRHA offices and facilities.

Aspire is also available for download here:

Aspire - Summer 2008

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