By Stefanie Jackson – Northampton County Public Schools are teaming up with Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS), in Norfolk, to provide rising ninth and 10th-grade students hands-on opportunities to explore careers in the medical field.
“It’s not just doctors and nurses … we have lots of different things in the health sciences,” said Carol McCammon, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at EVMS.
The EVMS Health Science Academy is a two-week summer program that exposes students to possible careers in medicine, including traditional healthcare but also physical therapy, art and music therapy, public health, global health, food science, lab research, and clinical research.
Kurt McCammon, chairman of the urology department at EVMS, was also present to discuss the program.
The McCammons reached out to school board member Paul Bibbins, who arranged their Jan. 23 visit to the Eastern Shore to invite Northampton high school students to participate in this year’s science academy.
The summer program was started in 2019 with a group of students from Portsmouth, Va.
The McCammons want to expand the program this year.
EVMS promotes diversity “whether it’s socio-economic, racial, ethnic – we want to include everybody and become the most inclusive place that we can possibly be,” Carol McCammon said.
Carol and Kurt McCammon, both doctors, were inspired to start the summer program when their sons were in high school and the couple arranged job shadowing opportunities for their sons’ friends who were interested in the medical field.
“But not all kids are lucky enough to have those opportunities, and it just stunned us to think, ‘Gee, you know what? We’re missing a whole lot of people,’” Carol McCammon said.
Students who attended the first science academy learned medical skills including CPR, suturing wounds, splinting, casting, and conducting an ultrasound.
Ultrasounds are “the new stethoscope.”
The students learned neuroanatomy, the study of the parts of the brain and how they function.
A cardiologist talked about how the heart works and showed them EKGs (electrocardiograms).
The students met medical professionals working in a variety of disciplines including emergency surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, and art therapy.
The kids participated in an Alzheimer’s disease virtual reality experience, in which they learned firsthand what it’s like to live every day with the progressive and debilitating brain disorder.
While participating in hands-on activities and listening to lectures, students also learned about goal setting, planning for college, and study skills.
Other experiences included tours of the nearby Children’s Hospital of The Kings Daughters and Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, where the high-school students met and talked to pre-med students, medical students, and hospital faculty members.
The program allows students to “see what’s exciting about medicine, and it gets them excited about their own potential,” McCammon said.
Northampton school board members were concerned that travel considerations could pose an obstacle for students wishing to participate in the summer program.
Eastern Virginia Medical School is about a 50-mile trip across the Chesapeake Bay from Eastville.
School board members Randy Parks voiced concern over the costs of gas and tolls.
School board member Jo Ann Molera wondered aloud if, instead of making a long road trip every day for two weeks, Northampton students could be permitted to stay on campus with a chaperone.
McCammon was confident that arrangements could be made to ensure the participation of Northampton students.
Each cohort is comprised of about 20 students, and the rising ninth graders who participated last year will be invited back this year. The Northampton school district was asked to choose between five and 10 students to join the program this year.
The 2020 science academy dates for new students are July 20 to July 31.
The McCammons recommended Northampton High School begin the selection process in March, with final decisions by May.