by Peg Bolgioni, Marketing & Communications Manager, Southern Vermont Area Health Education Center
Twenty southern Vermont high school students spend three full days of work shadowing, team activities, clinical skills, and mentorship at Rutland Regional Medical Center in Rutland, Vermont. They participated in the Southern Vermont Area Health Education Center’s MedQuest program to gain a deeper, deeper understanding of the health careers available to them in Vermont.
Southern Vermont Area Health Education Center (AHEC) is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to growing and supporting the health workforce in southern Vermont, especially in rural and underserved communities. Through its early career pipeline programs, Southern Vermont AHEC connects students with exploring health careers, meaningful community-based college internships, and mentoring opportunities.
One of Southern Vermont’s AHEC signature programs, MedQuest was founded more than 20 years ago as a week-long residence for high school students on a regional college campus. This summer, AHEC in southern Vermont piloted MedQuest 2.0, a three-day program held onsite at a local health facility. The redesigned program model is based on lessons learned during the pandemic and the need to further reduce or remove barriers to participation for young people from rural and disadvantaged communities.
“We wanted to build a program that was accessible to all students while retaining the key elements that make MedQuest such a fun and engaging learning experience,” said Jennifer Scott, Executive Director at Southern Vermont AHEC. “Rutland Regional Medical Center has been an excellent partner in bringing our vision to life. They are unequivocal in their commitment to the future health professionals in Vermont.”
Under the guidance of first-year medical students at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine, the students immersed themselves in a curriculum that explored topics such as social determinants of health and empathy, medical ethics, and basic clinical skills. One learning module introduced knee anatomy, injuries and assessment, with students practicing knee exams in pairs. Students also learned how to perform interrupted and continuous sutures with the kits provided. All learning modules and mentoring activities are designed and delivered by the medical students.
Maddy Powell, mentor of medical students, commented, “I had a great time working as a MedQuest mentor! It was a wonderful experience to share what I learned in my freshman year of medicine with such intelligent high school students. I was constantly impressed by the students’ curiosity and dedication to learning, and it was also a pleasure to learn more about the students’ aspirations and what drives them to a career in healthcare.”
Over a three-day period, students were presented with health panels representing a dozen health professions ranging from physicians, nurses and behavioral specialists to those in critical areas such as nursing, pharmacy rehabilitation and biomedical medicine. The program culminated in a student showcase where participants presented a poster reflecting their unique interests and plans for achieving future career goals.
“The MedQuest program encourages students to explore a variety of health careers as part of their professional development,” said Amanda Richardson, director of Health Careers Exploration. “Healthcare is filled with so many interesting and tiered career opportunities with pathways to completion that can meet any student’s aspirations. I am proud to say that the vast majority of MedQuest students graduate from high school and all participants are considering pursuing a career in healthcare.”
MedQuest has grown from an average of 40 students per year regionally to 40 students in the Rutland area alone. Collaboration with the Rutland Regional Medical Center has added tremendous value to the program, benefiting students, hospital staff, and leaders as well as AHEC team members. The plan is to bring MedQuest to each of the five counties in southern Vermont in the coming summers.
“Southern Vermont AHEC takes a long-term view in addressing the critical health workforce shortage in Vermont,” explains Scott. “It can take years to see the impact of career pipeline programs like ours on these kinds of shortages. What motivates us is to know that by inspiring students into meaningful and rewarding careers in healthcare, we are helping to build healthier communities in Vermont.”
For more information about the Southern Vermont Education Center, visit www.svthaec.org
About the Southern Vermont Health Education Center
Southern Vermont Area Health Education Center (SVTAHEC) is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to growing and supporting the health workforce in southern Vermont, especially in our rural and underserved communities. We invest our resources in connecting students with health career research programs, meaningful college internships, and professional mentoring opportunities that will lead to better access to primary and preventive care and healthier communities. Southern Vermont AHEC is one of two independent, non-profit regional AHEC centers funded by federal, state, and community support in conjunction with the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine’s Office of Primary Care and the AHEC Program.