Scenic Rivers AHEC health careers campers receive first-hand medical experience

By Alana Erickson, Scenic Rivers AHEC marketing assistant

“I loved this camp. Coming here was a great experience that I will never forget. I will not forget any of the new family that I have met here either,” stated Earl Lamont, one of the 10 American Indian students who attended a Health Careers Camp in La Crosse this month. He was addressing his peers from the Wanblee, SD and Oglala Lakota Sioux tribe, new friends from Black River Falls (WI) and the Ho-Chunk Nation tribes, and the many collaborating organizations who attended the 2013 Native Students Health Careers Camp graduation ceremony.

Scenic Rivers AHEC is known for high-quality camps that introduce rural students to health careers in the local area. The Native Students camp, piloted in 2012, is specifically designed to give this experience to students of American Indian heritage. The camp’s developer, Ian Stormont (a third-year medical student with the Wisconsin Academy of Rural Medicine based at Gundersen Health System) received the John Snow, Inc. Student Achievement Award at the 2013 National Rural Health Associate Conference, for his work to launch the camp.

Continuing the student-led project this year was Michael Brenner (now a fourth-year medical student). The camp served as his community engagement project, a requirement for 3rd-year medical students. “Taking a leadership role in this camp rejuvenated my passions for community involvement and the possibility of making a difference,” he says. “Coming from a small rural Wisconsin town, being a contributing member of my community was instilled in me at a young age. Its importance in my life has only grown stronger. A sense of community is something that I shared with this year’s campers and it was an incredible experience exploring new opportunities, paths and possibilities together.”

The four-day camp gave students first-hand experience in CPR training, casting, suturing and nursing workshops, a diabetes education seminar, facility tours at Gundersen Health System and the Ho-Chunk Health Care Center, plus campus/admissions tours at Viterbo University, UW-La Crosse and Western Technical College. All of the activities culminated in a trauma simulation on the last day. Students traveling to this camp come from areas with health vulnerabilities and limited access to health care. The low representation of health providers from their culture makes the path to health careers less obvious. All of the partners, Scenic Rivers AHEC, the Wisconsin Academy of Rural Medicine, Gundersen Health System and the La Crosse Health Science Academy, hope to make that opportunity a realistic option for the career choices of these students.