By David Pittman, Amarillo Globe-News, Texas
Jun. 12–A day of job shadowing last year at Pampa Regional Medical Center changed Ashley Murray’s life.
The girl, now about to start her junior year at Groom High School, witnessed her first delivery of a baby last summer while at the hospital for a summer camp aimed at sparking teen interest in health care careers.
Since then, Murray has volunteered in labor and delivery at the Pampa hospital.
“I saw a delivery at the camp last summer, and it made me look at the career more,” Murray said of the Panhandle Area Health Education Center’s MASH camp.
Since 2005, Panhandle AHEC has hosted the four-day camp that offers a glance at a range of health careers.
The center targets young people, particularly from rural areas, to steer them toward careers in the health industry.
“For us to get them hooked, we have to start early,” Program Coordinator Jennie Russell said.
The center also makes presentations to area schoolchildren and connects rural health providers with potential future employees.
If students enter a medical field, they can help ease a growing shortage of health care workers.
Center Director Tommy Sweat said almost every rural hospital is hiring for positions across the board from physicians to nurses’ aides to X-ray techs.
Federal grants fund Panhandle AHEC through the Texas Tech University Marie Hall Institute of Rural and Community Health. Tech subcontracts out with West Texas A&M University College of Nursing and Health Sciences to run Panhandle AHEC.
“We try to give people education and connect people because one of the missions of AHEC is to make people healthier through education,” Sweat said.
Campers who come from Amarillo and surrounding communities such as Memphis, Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch, Dalhart and Happy pay $55 for the camp.
Seven campers attended this year’s advanced camp. Twenty-seven just completed a basic camp.
The students visited the Texas Tech School of Pharmacy, job shadowed at Pampa Regional Medical Center, studied athletic training with WT athletic staff, trained on simulation mannequins at the WT school of nursing and participated in other health-related activities.
Twenty-eight students who graduated from high school in 2006 or 2007 have either attended a Panhandle AHEC summer camp or job shadowing experience, Sweat said.
As of last summer, 15 were pursuing a medical career, including nursing, pre-medicine and pre-pharmacy.
This is the second summer Gwen McGaugh has attended a Panhandle AHEC camp.
McGaugh, a rising senior at River Road High School, is considering becoming an emergency room doctor, pediatric surgeon or veterinarian.
“I found out this is what I want to do,” McGaugh said.
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