October 22, 2003 | By: Laura Skillman

Students planned their own healthy or not-so-healthy menu, filled gel caps with sugar, performed a simulated surgery and enjoyed a couple of autumn days outdoors.

The activities were part of a health career camp at the West Kentucky 4-H Camp for some fifth-graders from Lyon, Trigg and Caldwell counties. The activity was a joint effort between the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service 4-H/Youth Development agents in the three counties and the Purchase Area Health Education Center.

“We’ve partnered to educate our children about health careers that are out there and some of the opportunities they might have,” said Wanda Paris, Lyon County Extension agent for 4-H/Youth Development. “We realize that in the fifth grade all these students aren’t going to go back knowing that they are going to be a respiratory therapist. We are hoping that they will realize that whatever they want to do, they need to start now planning their classes so whatever path they choose when they enter college, they are prepared for that.”

Partnering with an agency that has access to all the health professionals and the equipment is an opportunity to provide information in an area in which Extension agents don’t have expertise, Paris said.

The health career camp is a pilot program being conducted across the state, she said.

Missy Stokes, Health Career Coordinator for the Purchase Area Health Education  Center, put together the program for the camp.

The Kentucky AHEC system is a collaborative effort of the University of Louisville Health Science Center, University of Kentucky Medical Center and eight regional centers. The Purchase AHEC is located on the campus of Murray State University. The program provides a variety of health-related activities in schools.

Each summer, Stokes conducts a weeklong health career camp for older students. So when the opportunity came to work with younger students, she said, she thought it was a good idea.

“So 4-H recruited the kids and I came up with the program,” she said. “We’ve had an osteopathic medical student, respiratory therapist, emergency medical technician, nutritionist and later this afternoon we’ll have pharmacy. We are going to teach them how to compound with sugar cubes and then fill gel caps.”

“Tomorrow we will have a physical therapist and then we will have the simulated surgery,” she said.

During the surgery, they will wear gloves and gowns and learn different roles such as the surgeon, nurse and surgical technician. Stokes said when children are asked about health careers, they always name doctor and nurse and the camp exposes them to many more careers.

“We are hoping they take away from this the knowledge of different health careers and the opportunities that are out there,” she said. “Also we hope they realize the courses and curriculum they need to take to pursue that. I know they aren’t going to know what they want to do when they leave here, but we use math and science skills in every activity we do so we are hoping that influences them to realize how important math and science skills are in the things they do in life.”

One Lyon County fifth-grader attending the camp said she’s known for several years that she wants to pursue a career in the medical field.

“I came today because I love 4-H and I was really interested in what different health careers they would have,” said Arielle Tullar. “I’d like to be an obstetrician/gynecologist.”

Arielle said she hadn’t seen anything that would change her mind about becoming a doctor or cause her to switch to another career within the health field.

“I like to help people and I like to take care of babies,” she said.



Writer: Laura Skillman  270-365-7541 ext. 278