July 31, 2002 | By: Laura Skillman

Joe Pruden is thinking of becoming a pediatrician and used a special program this summer to explore the medical field.

Pruden, an incoming senior at Madisonville-North Hopkins High School, is participating in the Rural Scholars, a program of the Trover Foundation and Madisonville office of the Western Kentucky Area Health Education Center operated by the University of Louisville, that partner with other organizations in the area.

One of those organizations is the Hopkins County office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, which is funding Pruden’s position through a CYFAR (Children, Youth and Families at Risk) grant. He spends part of his day shadowing people in the medical field, part of his day studying for his ACT test and part of the day working at the Extension Service.

Nancy Kelley, Hopkins County Extension agent for Family and Consumer Science, said she and Carey Renfro, CYFAR health educator, are members of the community health council and learned one of the three schools in the county might not have funds for the program this summer. They were able to step in and help fund a position using some of their CYFAR grant money.

“As a rural agency, we are very supportive of this program,” Kelley said. “We hope to continue our involvement.”

The three-year-old program allows students who will be seniors to shadow health care workers in their community to give them an idea of what is available in these fields

in their community, said Steve Fricker, director of student affairs for the Trover Foundation Education Division. It exposes them to opportunities at home and may encourage them to return there to participate in their chosen field.

“One of the great things about this program is we have so many partnerships at the community level,” he said. “The Cooperative Extension Service’s involvement was a way to expand the program to include another student that wouldn’t have otherwise been involved.”

Dr. Wallace Alexander, an internist, has been shadowed by a number of rural scholars and is a firm believer in the program.

“I think it is excellent. Medicine needs continued input from young people who are truly interested in medicine and all its broader aspects,” he said. “You never know what will click in a young person’s mind and set the stage for a life’s career.”

Pruden saw several aspects of medicine during the three-week program. Exposure to different medical areas is what interested him in the program, he said

“I want to be a pediatrician, but I thought if I go through this I might find something I like or would rule out,” he said. “I didn’t realize how many jobs there are in the medical field. It was the experience of a lifetime, I think.”

Pruden said he also enjoyed his time at the Extension office where he worked

with Kelley and Renfro. During that time, he worked with the Master Gardeners and youth in Community Garden, and at 4-H camp where he helped teach fitness, sun safety and health classes.

“Joe has been exposed to a lot of different audiences and programs,” Renfro said.


Nancy Kelley, (270) 821-3650