In what ways do social and economic factors influence a person’s ability to make health choices and access healthcare? Twenty undergraduate students who recently completed South Carolina AHEC’s Summer Careers Academy (SCA) had the opportunity to find out. The Academy is a one-week summer experience designed to promote the preparation of undergraduate students for entry into health profession education programs in South Carolina. Emphasis is placed on the development and preparation of underrepresented minority and disadvantaged students to address persisting health care workforce disparities. This year’s SCA Fellows also completed a series of sessions and exercises to increase their awareness and understanding of social determinants of health as part of their Summer Academy activities.
In collaboration with the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Library and Colleges of Dental Medicine, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy, South Carolina AHEC delivered a six-day experiential learning opportunity for students preparing to pursue careers in health. Faculty and staff throughout MUSC support the instruction and delivery of student development workshops and didactic, laboratory and clinical sessions. This year’s agenda also focused on improving cultural awareness and sensitivity through partnerships with Fetter Health Care Network and Mental Health America of South Carolina.
Jeanne Sinkford, D.D.S., kicked off the week by joining the Academy Fellows over lunch following a campus presentation. Sponsored by the MUSC College of Dental Medicine, Dr. Sinkford, ADEA Senior Scholar-in-Residence and Professor and Dean Emeritus of Howard University-College of Dentistry, shared her experience of becoming the first woman to serve as dean of a dental school.
“Having the great opportunity to interact with Dr. Sinkford and multiple MUSC deans gave me a better understanding of what admissions committees look for when reviewing applications,” stated Rohan Brebion, Temple University junior and future physician, “This experience will help me to become a stronger applicant.”
In addition to informational workshops, didactic seminars, lab and clinical sessions, Academy Fellows completed community-based service learning experiences to raise their awareness of population health. New Academy partner Fetter Health Care Network involved the Fellows in providing health-related services at an outreach clinic held at the Marcela/Solomon Migrant Camp. Located on Johns Island, the camp is a residential facility for migrant and seasonal farmworkers. Despite facing the same health issues as the general population, the mobility of migrant workers causes a poor continuity of care and also increases the need for care. As a federally qualified health center, Fetter Health Care Network strives to address this issue by providing primary and preventative health services for migrant and seasonal farmworkers in Charleston and Colleton Counties. The health clinic experience introduced many of the Fellows to serving vulnerable populations while also allowing them to interact with and observe health professionals, MUSC faculty and students in action. “Amazing!” is how Claflin senior and future dentist Mikayla Brown described her time at the camp, “Observing the workers come out to participate in the clinic was a great experience. I loved interacting with the workers and volunteering alongside the [fourth-year] dental students.”
This year’s Fellows also collaborated to tackle the topic of mental illness. Approximately 100,000 South Carolinians are served by the South Carolina Department of Mental Health each year (Magill, 2017). Completion of the Mental Health First Aid certification course, facilitated by Mental Health America of South Carolina, established a basis for the development and implementation of community-based service projects for members of the Our Place Clubhouse. Our Place Clubhouse offers a non-clinical, collegial community for adults in mental health recovery and empowers members to achieve their goals through mutual support. Under the direction of Mental Health America of South Carolina program administrators and staff, the Fellows used games and activities to guide Clubhouse members’ application of strategies for managing anxiety, depression and stress.
Mirakle Avery, a sophomore at Claflin University and future physician assistant, found the experience as “something I’d love to continue to do when I return home as an opportunity to help people and make them smile. It was a great experience”.
The Fellows used their experiences and the knowledge gained during the week to develop and present innovative, research-based team projects designed to increase awareness of and decrease stigmas associated with mental illness in South Carolina. MUSC faculty and staff from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) judged the presentations.
Congratulations to the winning project team members:
1st Place Team: Austin Merritt, Pennsheila Griffin, Keira Alexander, Ansley Hamer and Vineeth Sama
2nd Place Team: Marlayah Lagare, Rohan Brebion, Joshua Woo, Mikayla Brown and Mirakle Avery
3rd Place Team: Daisha Devore, Nikayla Riley, Angel Gilmore, Danielle Dantzler and Fadiana Mendoza
Rohan Brebion, was selected by his peers as the Summer Careers Academy 2018 Role Model of the Year for exhibiting the professional qualities of success.
Reflection, journaling, debriefings and mentoring rounded out the 2018 Academy experience. Currently enrolled health professions students modeled life as an MUSC student and provided perspective on the student experience. Keira Alexander, Winthrop University sophomore and future physician, found her Academy experience as an opportunity that has “impacted my future and what I want to do.”
Visit the SC AHEC Health Careers Program Facebook page to view pictures and videos from the 2018 Summer Careers Academy and find out more about the program on the SC AHEC website.
Magill, J. (2017). Public mental health in South Carolina. South Carolina Department of Mental Health. Retrieved from https://www.state.sc.us/dmh/dmh_presentation.pdf.