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| University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) students gathered at Barton High School in Helena-West Helena for an annual event encouraging high school students from the Arkansas Delta to pursue careers in healthcare.
The Raising Exposure and Awareness of Careers in Health (REACH) session marked a return to face-to-face outreach after two years of holding the event virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The UAMS Edith Irby Jones Chapter of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA) is sponsoring the event with support from the UAMS Division for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DDEI).
About 100 juniors and seniors from Barton High School attended the event, which included presentations from UAMS College of Medicine students describing their personal journeys to medical school. Recruitment specialists from several regional UAMS campuses also spoke about careers in healthcare and the opportunities available through the campuses’ pipeline programs.
“This commitment to high school students has been meaningful to both our current and future student populations,” said Renisha Ward, director of outreach programs at DDEI.
The event also gave high school students the opportunity to participate in simulated medical procedures. They learned how to do ultrasound scans of the heart, kidneys and lungs. Anesthesia students from the UAMS College of Nursing demonstrated intubation techniques on a manikin, and students from the College of Pharmacy demonstrated how drugs are administered.
Evan Hicks, a Delta native who hosted the event for the SNMA, welcomed the opportunity to offer encouragement to youth interested in careers in healthcare.
“Many children in the Delta region have not met health professionals who look like them,” he said. “These children often don’t know what to do with their passion for knowledge and desire to help people. An event like this shows high school students that careers in healthcare are achievable.”
The Arkansas Delta is among the lowest-ranked regions in the country in many health statistics, said Gloria Richard-Davis, MD, MBA, executive director of DDEI. Residents are disproportionately affected by heart disease, cancer, stroke, obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. In addition, the lack of healthcare providers in the area makes it difficult to treat chronic diseases or prevent them.
“That’s why it’s critical that we train medical professionals who live in the delta,” said Richard-Davis. “Statistically, students from the area are more likely to return after their medical training and help improve the health of their communities.”
The event was organized by Hicks and Quincy Gragg, President of the Edith Irby Jones Chapter of SNMA. They worked alongside UAMS students from the Student National Pharmacy Association and the Nurse AnAesthetic program.
The Student National Medical Association and Student National Pharmacy Association are focused on increasing the number of health professionals who are members of underrepresented groups.