Students participate in Tomorrow’s Health Care Elite Program


Stazi Prost

8 Marty Runyan
Listening to the instructor, sophomore Prarthana Patel learns about incubation in the SIMS center. Members of Tomorrow’s Health Care Elite learned how to insert a tube down a dummy’s trachea. Photo by Patrick Smith
Sophomore Prarthana Patel watched as the mannequin’s eyes flew wide opened and its legs stretched apart: it was about to go through the agonizing birthing process once again. A clear ‘pain’ was evident on the mannequin’s face as the ‘baby’ was pushing through. In just in a few short minutes, the baby would pop out just like it had done so many times before.
Usually used as a teaching tool for medical students on their obstetrician gynecology (OB-GYN) rounds, the mannequin at this particular time had an expanded audience. During one of their sessions, the 10 members of  Tomorrow’s Health Care Elite, four of them RBHS students, were learning about the job of a gynecologist and were taken to see the dummy give birth. Because of the program’s set-up, these 10 participants had the opportunity to undergo such hands-on experiences in the health care field. Whether that meant delivering a fake baby or cauterizing a hot dog to simulate burned human skin, members of the Tomorrow’s Health Care Elite were never bored.
“Well, first we got in the [OB-GYN] room. There were two babies and he [a medical school teacher] was controlling it [the dummy] from an iPad and so he pressed stuff [buttons] and then the dummy started talking like ‘I’m having a baby. Please help me. Please help me,’ and then the baby was kind of coming out,” Patel said. “First we were kind of laughing at how the dummy was reacting and then they talked about how it is really serious. It [was] really cool how they managed to take out the baby.”
Tomorrow’s Health Care Elite is a 12-week program that started in 2005. As indicated by their website, the purpose of the program is to “identify, cultivate and motivate future health care leaders.” High school students from around mid-Missouri are eligible to participate. Members of the program are exposed to all aspects and careers of the health care field, whether it is nurses, technicians, paramedics or doctors. With its wide focus range, the program educates participants about the many jobs health care has to offer and not just a few jobs that are commonly thought of.
“There are so many aspects of health care that are really interesting and really cool but people don’t think about that when they think of health care. They just think of doctors and nurses,” senior Lily Qian said. “There are also jobs you can get in management that still have a hands on approach to health care and you still get to do stuff with patients and you don’t necessarily need an RN or an MD just to do it.”
Co-founder of Tomorrow’s Health Care Elite program, Kym Pieper, said this was one of the main reasons why the program was even created. Certain jobs were just not taken into consideration by aspiring health care workers simply because these occupations were not as well known.
“It really was to allow those students that don’t necessarily have family or some sort of influence in health care careers to have the opportunity to explore them and to bring more individuals into the positions that aren’t as well known [like] respiratory therapists, radiology tech[nicians], even some areas of nursing,” Pieper said. “Physicians are not the primary focus of our program because just about everybody knows that there are doctors. So that’s really not the emphasis of our program. ”
Current participants started the program in late October and will continue until December at the University of Missouri Hospital. While there is still some time left in the program, a few members have already decided the health care field is something they want to pursue.
“[The program] has definitely made me want to go into the [Emergency Room] even more because they do mock things and I was able to see someone actually land in the helicopter and be brought in,” senior Hannah Dougherty said. “I just like the way the nurses interact with the patients and just the upbeat environment, but also the rest of the program has made me more knowledgeable about how everything works together in the hospital. It also has showed me different areas I could possibly take if I decide to do otherwise.”
While Dougherty is set on doing something with the ER, other members are not as sure on which specialty to pursue. Even with the sessions they have had so far, some are still not ready to make a decision just yet about things they do and do not want to do. Some still need a little more time.
“I don’t think that there is specifically anything that I don’t want to go into [in the health care field] because they are all like really cool jobs,” Patel said. “We talked to an Emergency Medical Technician, a radiologist and a therapist, and people who work in burn intensive care units, and they all love their jobs because there is always something cool about their job. So I’m not sure which major I would be, but I don’t think right now I am refusing to be open to any stuff.”
Members meet up twice a month on Tuesdays from 4-6 p.m. For each each session, they tour two parts of the hospital, reserving an hour for each. Qian can recall several favorite instances when touring these different parts of the hospital.
“One of the memorable moments was when we got to see someone airlifted in from the helicopter when we were doing our session in the ER,” Qian said. “Another memorable part was getting to go see in pathology the different things that they look at including some ladies breast job, saline bag and a removed part of someone’s colon and kidney stone.”
Even though these experiences could be too much for some, for Qian and other Health Care Elite participants, it was these moments that further solidified their choice to go into health care. The activities of the program showed members how influential health care could be.
“I thought it was an opportunity to learn more about health care and just actually get hands on experience because it is the field that I am interested in,” Qian said. “I think it is really cool how it deals with the human body and it deals with real life people which is about as real as you are going to get towards anything in life because it is actually dealing with life itself.”
 By Stazi Prost