Jan. 2, 2014
STATE Magazine: Operation Orange
Oklahoma high school students get a taste of life in medical school during OSU-CHS summer camps.
Ali Nolan wants to save lives.
Diagnosing diseases, performing medical procedures and treating patients are what this Oklahoma high school senior plans to do in the future. She is going to be a doctor in rural Oklahoma.
“I’ve always been interested in the medical field and being a doctor,” Nolan says. “Math and science are my best subjects in school, and a career in medicine is something that just comes naturally for me.”
To learn more about what it’s like to be a doctor, Nolan signed up for Operation Orange, a series of summer camps offered by the OSU Center of Health Sciences. The June camps let middle and high school students experience a day in the life of a medical student and practice the skills they will need as physicians.
“Operation Orange was a good way to get some key experience and see what it’s like to be a doctor,” said Nolan. “I had never gotten to do any kind of medical work before, and Operation Orange gave me perspective on what I will be doing in medical school and in my own practice.”
Nolan was among the more than 200 Oklahoma middle and high school students who participated in the inaugural camps, which were hosted by regional universities in Ada, Enid, Lawton and Tahlequah.
The camps are one of the new initiatives launched under the direction of Dr. Kayse Shrum, president of OSU Center for Health Sciences, to recruit rural Oklahoma high school students to the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine.
“One of the primary factors that determines where a physician will set up their practice is where they grew up,” Shrum says. “With Oklahoma experiencing a growing shortage of primary care physicians, particularly in rural areas of our state, it is imperative for us to recruit and train students who want to return to their hometowns to practice.”
The OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine has made a concerted effort to meet with students while they’re still in high school. Faculty and current medical students provide guidance and mentorship prepare high school students for the rigors of medical school.
“The camps are a fun way for us to connect with these students and for them to get an idea of what they will learn in medical school,” said Shrum. “It also helps to let them know that medicine is a career they can do, even if they live in a rural area.”
In addition to the camps, OSU-COM offers several recruitment programs including Med-Xtravangza and Mini Med School, and conducts outreach to key organizations such as high school FFA chapters.
“We want potential medical students to know how fun and challenging medical school can be. It is a big commitment, but it is a very rewarding profession,” says Lindsey Kirkpatrick, director of osteopathic college admissions. “We organize many opportunities for potential students to meet our current medical students, who can share their own experiences about preparing for medical school. Our medical students are our greatest recruitment tools.”
About 12 current OSU medical students attended each camp, demonstrating activities and answering questions about medical school. The medical students also met one-on-one with the high schoolers to share their personal stories about applying for medical school.
During the camps, Nolan and the other attendees tested their suturing skills; studied anatomy with a human heart, lungs and brain; learned how to check blood pressure and examine the inner ear; and inserted a breathing tube into a practice mannequin.
“Performing the intubation was the most exciting part of the camp,” said Nolan. “I liked being able to practice a medical procedure for the first time.”
With ongoing interest from students, OSU-CHS is already planning for summer 2014 camps. For high school students interested in being a doctor, Nolan recommends signing up for the camp.
“I really enjoyed it and you will get some great hands-on experience,” she said. “I would do it again.”
Nolan knows her future lies at the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine. Her father, Dr. Douglas Nolan, the director of the residency programs at W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah, is a graduate of the medical college.
But ultimately, her future lies in treating patients.
“I’d like to open my own practice in rural Oklahoma,” she said. “I’m not sure what area I want to specialize in, but I know that’s where I want to work.”
This story originally ran in the Winter 2013 issue of STATE Magazine.