IU School of Medicine students inspire the next generation at Doctor Camp and Camp Medical Detectives

June 13, 2013

Unlike many small children, Tia Robinson always loved going to the doctor.

Now a junior at North Central High School in Indianapolis, Robinson’s taking an early step to achieve her dream of becoming a physician by attending a special program for middle and high school students interested in science and medicine.

Doctor Camp, a one-day program for students in grades five through eight, and Camp Medical Detectives, a two-day program for students in grades nine through 12, took place June 5 to 7 at the IU School of Medicine. The camps, led by student volunteers from the IU School of Medicine, provide students from across the state the opportunity to get a taste of the medical school experience as well as tour labs and other facilities related to a career in health care.

“I really want to be a pediatrician,” said Robinson, who also participated in Doctor Camp as a middle school student last year. “When I saw the doctor as a little kid, I remember thinking that all the machines and things were so interesting -- I always wanted to play with them! And my doctor, she just always seemed like she knew everything. I wanted to be her.”

Derryl Miller, a second-year student at the School of Medicine who served as student leader for this year’s program, said Doctor Camp and Camp Medical Detectives aim to inspire a love of science and medicine in the next generation. The program keeps the instruction hands-on and interactive to capture the students’ attention and maintain their excitement about learning.

“We’re basically getting kids interested in science,” said Miller. “We’re doing experiments and showing them the ideas behind medicine and being a medical professional. They're getting the chance to use some tools and hear about how medical professionals think when they conduct a physical exam… plus they get information about all different sorts of careers in medicine and science.”

Miller was joined during the morning session by fellow students Rishi Megha, a second-year medical student at the IU School of Medicine-Muncie; and Kenneth Moore, a second-year medical student at the IU School of Medicine-Evansville. Overall, about 10 IU School of Medicine students volunteered to assist at the camps.

The programs are also co-sponsored by the IU School of Medicine Office of Medical Service-Learning, the IU School of Medicine Health Professions Programs and Metropolitan Indianapolis Central Indiana Area Health and Education Center (MICI-AHEC), which is responsible for recruiting students from local high school and middle school classrooms.

“We want to help these kids start thinking about their careers early so they’ll have a fighting chance,” said Stephanie Wofford, outreach coordinator for MICI-AHEC. “We talk about keeping up their grades a lot because when they’re focused on a goal they’re less likely to get into trouble. If they’re interested in science or science clubs, they’re not going to be going out and doing things they’re not supposed to be doing.”

Both the middle and high school students spent the first part of the day going over the basics of the physical exam, including a lesson on the heart, lungs, brain, blood and circulation and musculoskeletal systems. Students also got the chance to practice hands-on learning, using a stethoscope and reflex hammer, as well as get up out of their seats during a short in-classroom “stress test.”

Clayton Cole, a junior at Franklin Community High School, had a personal reason for wanting to participate in Camp MD.

“I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes three months ago and ever since then I’ve wanted to be a doctor and help find a cure for other kids,” he said. “I’m really interested in the research side of things.”

Others came to the camp due to a family member’s experience with medical condition.

"My grandpa has a lot of health issues and I don’t like to see people hurt or suffering,” said Jalynn Evans, a junior at Lawrence North High School who’s interested in pursuing a career in pharmacy. “If I can contribute in any way that helps someone or makes them feel better, I want to be able to do that.”

Vikram Gill, a 10th grade student at Franklin Central School, who was interested in gerontology, also cited a grandparent as his inspiration for learning more about medicine. Others, such as Kayla Johnson, a seventh grader at Eastwood Middle School, pointed to family friends.

“I’ve been coming to this program for the past three years," she said. “My dad’s friend is a doctor and said that anesthesiology’s a great job."

Students from both Camp MD and Doctor Camp also got to learn how to use an EKG machine, including a lesson about electrical conduction and how to recognize a healthy EKG report. Camp MD students  got the extra opportunity during their second day to explore an ambulance and speak to paramedics outside Fairbanks Hall. They also visited a radiation therapy lab at the IU Simon Cancer Center, a respiratory therapy center at IU Health Methodist Hospital and a pathology lab at the IU Health Pathology Building.

Additional second day activities included a presentation about the path to medical school, such as how to build a strong application; a discussion about medical teams, including what goes on behind the scenes with nurses, technicians, researchers, pharmaceuticals and other members of patient care; and a presentation about undergraduate science education at IUPUI.

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