/////MASH Surprises, Inspires High School Students
MASH Surprises, Inspires High School Students 2018-01-05T09:16:50+00:00

JULY 14, 2006 | Seventeen-year-old Brett Forsythe had envisioned two weeks of lectures during the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) summer program.


What he and the 11 other high school students from Pulaski County got were eye-opening, hands-on experiences that, as Forsythe said on the program’s final day, “I’ll have for the rest of my life.”


The program, MASH (Medical Application of Science for Health), is designed for above-average students interested in health care as a career and who are chosen through a competitive application process. Statewide, about 350 high school students participated in MASH programs organized by UAMS Area Health Education Centers (AHECs) and community hospitals.


For the 12 Pulaski County students, jam-packed days on campus included dissecting pig hearts; making soap, lip balm and other products in the hospital lab; making casts; and shadowing a different health professional each day.


Students enrolled in the free program typically arrive with a limited view of the health care careers available. Forsythe, a North Pulaski High School senior who wants to be a nurse, said one of his best experiences was shadowing a respiratory care therapist – a field he hadn’t realized existed.


“I was surprised at the number of different health careers,” said Lynn Ibekwe, 17, a Parkview Arts and Science Magnet High School senior. “You usually just hear about surgery, pediatrics, the regular things you see on television, and then you come here and find out about orthopedics, prosthetics, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and just so many different careers you can choose from.”  </P>


Ibekwe said her career goal is pediatrics, and after visiting the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, she was able to narrow her preferred specialty even more.  “I was looking at the babies and seeing the people help them,” she said. “I think that’s what I want to do.”


The MASH program at UAMS was adapted from the UAMS Area Health Education Center (AHEC) in Pine Bluff, which started the program in 1988. With strong public and private sector support, MASH has become a staple in almost 30 Arkansas communities, where local hospitals and the six other UAMS AHECs have embraced the program.


The success of the program is a tribute to its supporters in the Arkansas MENTOR Partnership, whose members are the AHEC and the UAMS Rural Hospital Program, Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield, the Arkansas Academy of Family Physicians, Arkansas Farm Bureau, Arkansas Community Health Centers, Baptist Health and the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce/Associated Industries of Arkansas, Inc. 



The UAMS Office of Volunteer Services funds the Pulaski County program and faculty and staff go all out to provide inspiring experiences that will propel students into a health care profession, said Pat Vannatta, the UAMS AHEC associate director for education.


“You can imagine how many people here on campus we have to call upon and how much time faculty and staff give,” Vannatta said. “Folks at the AHECs and at community hospitals are doing the same thing for their MASH students.”


Each MASH program is organized locally, calling on whatever resources are available to expose students to a variety of health care fields. Private-practice doctors, dentists, ambulance services, emergency medical technicians and even veterinarians volunteer their time and facilities. Many MASH programs based outside Pulaski County also schedule field trips to the UAMS campus and Arkansas Children’s Hospital.


Tracking the former MASH students once they get to college is difficult, but Vannatta said a high percentage will pursue a health-related career.  Of the students attending UAMS in the 2005-2006 academic year, 152 had participated in a MASH program and about 70 of those are in the medical school.


The success of MASH has given rise to a program for junior high students called CHAMPS (Community Health Applied in Medical Public Service). This one-week program started in 1995 in Crossett, McGehee and Warren. This year seven communities offered the program, serving about 60 students. 


Like MASH, CHAMPS is free and shows students the variety of health care fields available. Students get to interact with health care experts and learn how science is applied in caring for people.


One of the highlights of CHAMPS is a community service project. Students have written and recorded their own radio ads, performed anti-smoking skits, and taught health educational programs to youth at a local day care.


Find out more at http://rpweb.uams.edu/healthcareers/default.asp