A group of 74 high school students from across Arizona is spending the summer exploring health-care career opportunities that could change the direction of their lives, thanks to the Med-Start program.
The innovative academic summer program is being offered in Tucson and in Phoenix by the University of Arizona College of Medicine's Office of Outreach and Multicultural Affairs.
Through the program, hands-on experience and college-level coursework are offered to encourage participants to pursue health-care careers.
"The Med-Start program is an intensive experience in which the students acquire basic medical knowledge while learning about health-care careers," said Dr. Ana Maria López, the UA College of Medicine associate dean for outreach and multicultural affairs. "In addition, they're introduced to college life, which is vital to students entering health professions."
The program in Phoenix will be held through July 7 with 24 students participating on the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix campus. Those students also participate in clinical activities at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center each Thursday and visit all three state universities during their five-week program.
The six-week program in Tucson, with 50 participants, runs through July 14. On June 15, those students will learn how to handle a trauma situation during a simulation to be held 9 a.m. to noon at the Tubac Fire Department, 333 Camino Josephina in Rio Rico.
Paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) from the Tubac, Rio Rico and Green Valley Fire Districts and the Southeast Arizona Area Health Education Center (SEAHEC) will guide the students during a trauma simulation.
Med-Start participants will use fire extinguishers and water hoses; employ the "jaws of life" rescue tool to remove a "victim" from a wrecked car; "package" a patient (including attaching a neck brace, securing a patient to a spine board and loading a patient into and out of an ambulance); and put on "turn-out" gear.
The students also will practice skills learned in Med-Start, including taking blood pressure, checking vital signs and performing basic first aid. In addition, the LifeNet helicopter may arrive, giving students an opportunity to talk with the LifeNet Air Medical transport crew and inspect the helicopter.
All told, Med-Start participants come from high schools not only in Tucson and Phoenix, but other areas including across Arizona including Avondale, Bisbee, Chandler, Fort Defiance, Goodyear, Kayenta, Nogales, Page, Rio Rico, Sells, Surprise, Tolleson, Topawa, Tuba City and Yuma.
The participants include students who are the first in their family to attend college or to pursue a career in the health professions, who are from ethnic groups that are underrepresented in the health professions, who live in medically-underserved rural or urban communities or who are economically or educationally disadvantaged.
The program is supported by The Merlin K. "Monte" DuVal Memorial Med-Start Endowment and the Arizona Area Health Education Centers (AzAHEC).
In Tucson, the program is supported by the UA College of Medicine's Arizona Hispanic Center of Excellence, Office of Outreach and Multicultural Affairs and Arizona Health Opportunities Pathways to Excellence (AZ-HOPE) program, the Arizona Latin-American Medical Association and the Community Advisory Board of the Office of Outreach and Multicultural Affairs.
Part of the Med-Start Phoenix program funding also comes from grants from the Phoenix Suns Charities, Casino Arizona and the Greater Valley Area Health Education Center (GVAHEC).
In the beginning, the program was championed by a group of idealistic and innovative minority medical students, including Marcos Duarte, Ruth Smothers and Yuel Tom, all of whom later completed their medical degrees at the UA. In 1968, they received the support of UA College of Medicine Founding Dean Dr. Merlin K. "Monte" DuVal.
Just two years after opening its doors to the first class of medical students in 1967, the UA College of Medicine in Tucson welcomed a group of about 20 high school students who came to the campus to attend the first Med-Start summer program, developed to improve health care in rural and economically disadvantaged areas and to increase the number of minority health-care professionals in Arizona.
The late Dr. DuVal probably is best remembered for his role in shaping the fledgling College, providing support for numerous programs and initiatives that have contributed to recognition of the College as one of the top medical schools in the West. After his death in 2006, generous gifts from family and friends established The Merlin K. "Monte" DuVal Memorial Med-Start Endowment, which pays tribute to the founding dean while supporting this vital program.
Since it was launched in 1969, several thousand students have participated in Med-Start and, in 2004, the program expanded into Phoenix.
"The real magic of Med-Start is revealed in the personal stories of career success," said Patricia Rodríguez, associate director of the Office of Outreach and Multicultural Affairs at the College of Medicine - Phoenix.
In addition to the Tucson and Phoenix summer programs, Med-Start promotes youth exploration of health careers year-round through tours of the Arizona Health Sciences Center, high school career days, student health events and other activities.
"Whether the youth who have benefited from Med-Start became direct-care providers or chose career paths outside of the health professions, many have had a tremendous impact on the lives of others," Rodríguez also said.
Closing ceremonies for the Med-Start program will be held in July. The Phoenix ceremony will be held July 7, 10 a.m. to noon at the UA College of Medicine - Phoenix Virginia G. Piper Auditorium, 550 E. Van Buren St. Tucson's ceremony will be held July 14, 8-10 a.m. in the North Ballroom of the Student Union Memorial Center, 1303 E. University Blvd.