Wearing a white coat, Savannah Berger, a rising senior from Hendrickson High School in Pflugerville, Texas, held up a cow’s heart during the cardiovascular rotation at one of Dell Medical School’s Health Sciences Summer Camps. As she turned the organ over in her hands, Reginald Baptiste, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon, explained how its valves work together to pump blood through the body.
“Learning about an organ while holding it is so much better than looking at a diagram,” Berger says. “It gives you a much deeper understanding of how everything really works.”
This summer, Dell Med brought 100 high-school and 100 middle-school students to The University of Texas at Austin to explore health care careers hands on during two week-long camps. Activities included performing ultrasounds and colonoscopy simulations, working with a surgical robot and observing a cadaver dissection. Led by counselors who are pre-med undergraduate students at UT Austin, campers gained insights into the day-to-day lives of health care professionals and learned about sophisticated tools and procedures. See photos of the students in action >
Baptiste, who manages the program as director of pre-health professions, says the camps work to foster in young students a passion for health care and a desire to help others — while appealing to students on their level.
“We try to make the camps as interactive and hands on as possible because we realize we have to compete against their Xbox, Netflix and, of course, sleeping in,” he says.
Throughout the camps, students spoke with and learned from a variety of professionals, including local EMTs, UT Austin’s athletic trainers, nurses and physicians in a number of specialties.
“This experience broadened my understanding of the medical field and how many opportunities there are,” says Sierra Green, a junior at Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders in Austin. “Before, I had considered only one of the specialties, but being at camp showed me that there are so many options out there.”
To succeed in a medical career, students must begin educational preparations long before they reach college.
“It is our hope that at this early level of exposure we can make some impact in their educational futures,” Baptiste says.
The camps aim to provide students with the background knowledge and inspiration to pursue a long and difficult yet rewarding journey.
“This camp helped me realize what medicine is really like and how it helps people,” says Alexandra DeAvila, a sophomore at IDEA Allan College Preparatory in Austin. “I feel more motivated to work hard in high school so I can one day do the same important work as the doctors we met.”
Campers in the high-school group attended from July 17–21 and left with CPR, AED and Stop the Bleed certifications. The middle-school students attended camp from August 7–11 and earned AED and Stop the Bleed certifications.
The Health Sciences Summer Camps are fully funded experiences made possible by Dell Med’s generous donors. Philanthropic support allows the camps to attract Travis County’s brightest, most engaged students, no matter their ability to pay. For many students, this won’t be the last time they’ll don white coats.