Albany Program aims to show students about health care careers

CHRISTINE MARGIOTTA Special to the Times Union

Four boys from Arbor Hill Elementary School watched as certified nurse midwife Jaime Ness placed a sonar device on the womb of Tamisha Morales of Watervliet.

The small examination room at the Whitney Young Health Center in Arbor Hill echoed with a rapid thumping, the heartbeat of Morales' 21-week-old fetus.

"Oh, that is amazing," Morales, 24, said, as the fifth-graders stared.

The students at the health clinic were participating in M.A.S.H (Medical Academy of Science and Health) Camp, a two-day program sponsored by both the Health Center and Albany Medical Center.

The program, which continues today, gives about 20 Arbor Hill Elementary School students the chance to play doctor with visits to both Whitney Young and Albany Med.

Dressed in mint-green scrubs complete with professional name tags, students learned about a variety of medical procedures, from taking X-rays and ultrasounds to using heart monitors and defibrillators.

The goal is give the youngsters a glimpse of the medical and dental professions and to let them see the demands of the workplace. Organizers hope the experience will help cultivate an interest in health care careers and foster good work habits.

"These kids have little vision of their own future and little opportunity to see what's out there," said Jeff Kellert, the students' elementary school teacher. "A program like this gives a broad range of job opportunities and provides them with a chance to see adults in the workplace."

Kellert hoped that, as a result, students would choose to further their education and then use their expertise to help their communities.

It was the second time M.A.S.H. Camp was offered. The program, recently created by the Hudson-Mohawk Area Health Education Consortium, first began at Moses Ludington Hospital in Ticonderoga.

The program also gave medical professionals the chance to share their knowledge and to answer youngsters' questions throughout the day.

Nurse practitioner Mildred Patnode helped students prepare slides containing their own cheek cells to view under a microscope.

Physician's assistant student Michael Gorman then showed a slide containing cells that can cause disease. Patnode explained that while the moving cells may have looked ``cool,'' they were something the children never wanted in their bodies.

At the health center's dental facilities, dental assistant Sophia Ford explained how to make dentures using actual molds of patients' teeth. After watching, Daeshawn Turner, 11, thought he might want to become a dentist someday.

"It was fun," he said of learning about dentistry. "They get to make false teeth. I just like it, it's cool."

But some students realized that health professions were not for them after only one morning of activities. Though Alfred Winfrey, 11, liked what he saw at the health center, he concluded that he would never want to become a doctor.

"If I saw a brain or a heart, I would faint," he said.