The University of Oklahoma is looking to diversify the medical industry with a camp targeting high school students from under-represented groups in the field. The SPARK program aims to spark their interest.
Walking the halls of a hospital as a doctor takes about a decade of training, but these kids are gaining access into a world some of them never even thought was possible. Spending a week immersed in each department at the OU College of Medicine has been eye-opening.
“We want people to come in, the best and brightest of every variety,” said OU’s anesthesiology residency program director Dr. Pramod Chetty.
College of Medicine outreach coordinator Brent Ross says they are looking for “female students, African-American students, Native American, Hispanic populations, and most of the schools that we focus on have a large population of those.”
Despite historical and financial barriers in the field, many of the students here have had an interest in medicine from an early age.
“My mom bought me a really tiny first aid kit, and I would carry it around everywhere,” said 16-year-old camper Jacqueline Pelayo.
Going into the profession was still a daunting thought, though.
Pelayo said, “I was like oh I really want to be a doctor, but I don’t know if I really want to be a doctor.”
Having the chance to use the same robots and simulators as medical students, for free, just helps the campers re-affirm their aspirations.
Lilia Soto, 15, said, “I don’t necessarily come from a poor family, but we don’t come from a lot of money, so I never would have thought I’d be able to have the experience that I’m having.”
Recent technological advances in robotics have also played a major role in making the industry more accessible.
Dr. Chetty said, “It’s a golden opportunity for our learners to actually go through this feeling, the sense of urgency and the need to make decisions quickly, without a patient actually having to suffer the consequence.”
The SPARK program works with OKCPS high schools to identify students for the program. If you are interested in applying for a 2019 session, look for coordinators on your campus throughout the school year.