In recent years, a new program has popped up to help high school sophomores all around Kalamazoo. The Early Introduction to Health Careers II Program is a pipeline program that was started in 2015 by Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine to expose teens to the possibilities of a career in medicine. The medical school has taken approximately 50 sophomores each year since late 2015. They run sessions the second Saturday of each month for three and a half hours in order to build social skills within their groups, practice medical techniques and learn other important abilities, such as medical terminology. The program spans from December to June and teaches students important medical skills and systems in the body, such as respiratory and cardiovascular functions, how to use an Epipen and more.
Leadership member and Kalamazoo native Theron O’Halloran is a second-year student at the medical school. As a leadership member, Theron is one of the medical students in charge of teaching the sophomores. He’s also in charge of giving the other medical students instruction and helping them with their groups of sophomores.
“A program like this [EIH II] didn’t exist when I graduated,” said O’Halloran. “I thought if there was a possibility to help others get to the spot I was able to come to, I should.”
O’Halloran explained that many of the current medical students at Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine had help getting into medical school, so they wanted to help return the favor to the community.
The program was created and is run by WMed [Western Medical] faculty, staff and students hoping to not only expose students to a career in medicine but teach important medical skills that could come in handy in everyday life. The sessions are held at the school’s W.E. Upjohn M.D. campus in downtown Kalamazoo, which sports everything from a lecture hall for the students to a simulated hospital on the building’s ground floor which helps familiarize students with hospital scenarios and allows them to practice skills such as CPR and Epipen injections on practice dummies that breathe, blink, move and make sounds.
“We [the staff] realized that some portions of the community might not be exposed to large parts of medicine and science in general,” said O’Halloran. “The program was created to help individuals get early exposure to medical careers.”
EIH II is also done in cooperation with KPS in order to allow students to learn about and apply for the program. Many students learn about it in many different ways, whether it be through the announcements or their teachers.
“My debate teacher recommended it to me after my second debate,” said Loy Norrix sophomore Matthew Vestal.
Vestal has been interested in the medical and science fields for some time now. When his debate teacher, Mary Johnson, learned of this, she recommended the course to him. She also recommended it to the rest of class realizing I might not be well publicized.
Vestal was one of the lucky candidates to be chosen to be a part of the EIH II program. To enter the program, students have to fill out a form and then write an essay about why they feel they’re qualified and want to join the program.
“I wanted more insight into the potential field I want to go into,” said Vestal.
According to O’Halloran, the program is not only helpful to the sophomores exploring the pipeline program, but is also helpful to the medical students at WMed.
“This is a good review for the material we learned,” said O’Hanrahan. “It’s a nice way to make sure we’re capable of explaining parts of the body to anyone that comes into our office.”
Students like Vestal have much to learn. In order to do this within the timeframe given, classes must utilize their time wisely. To do this, students are divided into ten groups of roughly five students each, along with some WMed medical student instructors and even alumni of the program.
Loy Norrix junior Elizabeth Elliot-Redlin is an alumna of the EIH II program, being included in the 2016-2017 sessions.
“They asked me to [come back as an alumni] because they thought I’d be able to help people,” said Elliot-Redlin.
The program is not only a great place to learn about the field of medicine, but it’s also an overall enjoyable program to be in, with much to like about it besides what is taught.
“I like helping people and talking to the students here,” explained Elliott-Redlin, “I like helping them out with the project and what’s going on because I’ve already done that.”
“I like how quick it is,” said Vestal. “It’s much better than the standard classes that we have that move far too slow for me. We also learn stuff in more detail.”
The WMed students stick to a tight schedule, using slideshows, activities and discussions as their main way of teaching the material. The work done in the class is often quick and relatively simple, but captivating and detailed.
There’s also a group project done by the students on a topic of their choice, such as Alzheimer’s Disease or other medical conditions. After each sessions’ main activity is done and groups begin to go to the virtual hospital, there is open time to research and talk on the research topic in each group.
This year, the medical school decided to add what they call a humanitarian element to the program by distributing to each student a new copy of the novel “X” by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon, a book about Malcolm X and the hardships he faced through his life. This humanitarian element comes as an attempt to expose the students to social justice issues in the healthcare system.
Elliot-Reddlin explained how she thought that it was nice to have something to read to enrich the learning experience. It’s a definite change since she was in the program.
“I honestly really enjoyed it, and I loved coming here,” said Elliot-Reddlin on her experience in EIH II. “It was very informative, and I’ve decided what I want to do in the future thanks to this program.”