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First Medical Scholars complete health care program
East Hall's Gema Gomez tries on a pair of goggles that emulate a visual affliction Wednesday morning at the Brenau University East Campus. Gomez and other area high schoolers in the "Medical Scholars" program visit Brenau once a month to immerse themselves in different health care modules, including sessions exploring Brenau’s nursing, occupational therapy and pre-physician's assistant programs.

Medical Scholars 2015-16
Chestatee High: Cody Cagle, Amanda Norris, Alberto Reynaud
East Hall High: Noah Dyer, Gema Gomez, Bailey Jarrard
Flowery Branch High: Peyton Brick, Gloria Smith, Shea Walker
Gainesville High: Daisy Cruz, Leslie Espinosa, Jennifer Rubio
Johnson High: Alondra Chagoya, Baylea Gaddis, Ashley Torres
Lakeview Academy: Jerrod Abee, Morgan “Hunter” Clarke, Ansley Rochester, Tyler “T.J.” Wolcott
North Hall High: Austin Lovell, Trevor Oaks, Chelsea Stephens
Riverside Military Academy: Austin Lam, Ivan Pearson, Ramses Sanchez
West Hall High: Charmie Adajania, Anna Banda, Allison Busbee

Putting in an IV, wearing gloves to try to button a shirt, making a splint for a wrist, balancing on one foot with eyes closed and open were exercises Wednesday for the first group of “Medical Scholars” from Hall County.

The program is a cooperative venture among Brenau University, the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, Hall County and Gainesville schools and private schools in the county. It seeks to expose students to a variety of health care fields and talk with them about their potential “fit” into those fields.

Gale Starich, dean of the College of Health Sciences at Brenau, said the discussion began with the need to provide real experiences for students in health care. Most students are too young to get hands-on experience, she said.

Medical Scholars is based around the Youth Leadership Hall concept. Junior students are chosen from the high schools.

They spent four days during the spring semester — one day per month starting in January — immersing themselves in health care fields. Those days include the “internship experience” — taking students into labs and hearing from health care professionals.

Careers in nursing, occupational therapy, psychology, physical therapy and pre-professional studies (medical, dentistry, pharmacy, veterinary, physician’s assistant) are explored.

Twenty-eight students were selected for the program this year from nine high schools. That included Hall County high schools, Gainesville High, Riverside Military Academy and Lakeview Academy.

Starich said the program will be expanded to 60 students for the 2016-17 year. The students will be split into two 30-student groups and will meet every other month for the full year.

Nursing students on Wednesday worked with walkers, wheelchairs, crutches to get a sense for the difficulty of moving around.

Sandy Davis asked student Chelsea Stephens how tired she was from using a walker. “Very tired,” Stephens said.

The students also put an IV in a mannequin’s arm, dealt with “disabilities” by trying to put on clothes with large gloves on hands and heard about catheters and sterile gloves.

“One of the most important things we do when we do an IV is clean,” Davis told the students. She also warned them not to stick themselves — “these are real needles,” she said.

“We spend several weeks on just learning how to do this (an IV) correctly,” Davis warned the students.

She encouraged them to “not just memorize” information.

“Why, why, why — ask yourselves a dozen times,” she urged.

Mary Shotwell, teaching students to make splints in occupational therapy, said, “Cut, cut, cut, mold, mold, mold — quick.”

She also had a warning: “The hardest thing with patients is they want to help you.”

Mary Thigpen gave students exercises to demonstrate balance — and how it is affected by the lack of one sense, such as vision.

Standing on one leg with and without a blindfold and walking heel to toe while blinded demonstrated the students’ lack of balance when vision is taken away.

The students were reminded in multiple sessions that “so much of what we do in health care now” is interprofessional — working in groups with multiple fields represented.

The program’s goal, Starich said, is to help the students think about “where are you going and where might you end up.”

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