JEFFERSON — Camp Med at Ashe Memorial Hospital concluded its summer program on Thursday, July 18, offering students unique, hands-on learning experiences in the medical field.
Sponsored by an Area Health Education Centers grant through Wake Forest Baptist Hospital, Camp Med is a free, weeklong program designed for highschoolers in Ashe County to experience a week in the life of a medical professional.
This summer, two camps were held on July 8-11 and July 15-18, with 19 students participating in total. Students learned how to do CPR, collected vital signs, performed dissection, shadowed hospital staff and visited various medical providers in the community, including a dentist’s office and funeral home.
“They get an overall healthcare experience,” AMH Director of Community Outreach Melissa Lewis said. “It’s not just about the hospital setting.”
Lewis said that Camp Med allows students who are considering a career in the medical field to get an understanding of where they fit in.
“This allows them to shadow and see what sparks their interest,” Lewis said.
This year, a former participant of Camp Med returned to help teach and organize the program. Addie Fairchild, a nursing student at East Tennessee State University, attended Camp Med in the summer of 2016 and said that the program was her reason for deciding to pursue a career in medicine.
“I always knew I wanted to do something in the medical field, but then, when I participated in Camp Med, I kind of found my niche,” Fairchild said.
As a part of her scholarship program at ETSU, Fairchild was required to complete a six-week internship with any organization of her choosing. After talking with Lewis and Steve Cornett, director of education at AMH, Fairchild said she chose to complete her internship at AMH.
“I wanted to give back to my community rather than a community I haven’t been a part of,” Fairchild said.
In addition to helping with Camp Med, Fairchild said she completed various other tasks around the hospital, as well as taught a class on the opioid crisis in Ashe County for students.
“It’s a great way to get involved in your local healthcare society,” Fairchild said. “A lot of kids don’t realize that we have just as much here as other places do without having to work in a big city.”
Registration for the summer program starts in the spring, and students are asked to fill out an application, as well as a one-page paper explaining their interests in the medical field. Though the program works in conjunction with Ashe County High School, Lewis said homeschooled students are also able to apply for the program.
“We’ve been very fortunate so far to never have to turn a student down for the program,” Lewis said. “We’ve gone as far as to have three weeks of programs.”
Students who complete the program receive a certificate from AHEC, which Lewis said looks great on college applications.
“It’s very beneficial. It gives a lot of great experiences,” Fairchild said. “It solidified my passion for the medical field.”