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June 08, 2010

Rural Health Careers Camp returns June 10

DeKalb, Ill. — Grab some popcorn: Students enrolled in this week’s Rural Health Careers Camp at Northern Illinois University are going to the movies, searching for clues in a medical mystery and competing in an “amazing race.”

When the 50 campers from small towns across northern Illinois arrive Thursday, June 10, their first activity is to watch a video about a snowboarder who crashed and suffered a traumatic brain injury. Afterward, faculty from NIU will describe their specific areas of health care and how they would assist in the treatment of the injured athlete.

The campers’ busy agenda also includes:

  • a movie about Typhoid Mary and the public health issues that surrounded her.
  • a “disease detective” game where they must determine how two of eight people on a camping trip to the woods became ill.
  • a competition modeled on the CBS reality TV program “The Amazing Race” that requires students to complete tasks based on lessons presented Thursday and Friday.

“Our main purpose is to bring high school students from rural areas to learn about health careers. NIU College of Health and Human Sciences and UI-Rockford offers numerous health care degrees. It is our hope to spark the interest of these students in health care and provide information as a guide for seeking a college education. These rural areas need healthcare providers so hopefully many of these students will seek a degree and return to their home communities to practice,” said camp coordinator Stacy Jackson, who works in the dean’s office in the NIU College of Health and Human Sciences.

The camp’s concept was developed during a 2004 summit in Rockford at the University of Illinois National Center for Rural Health Professions, a co-sponsor. NIU CHHS and UI-NCRHP have continued to organize and co-sponsor this event.

Students ranging from incoming high school freshmen to high school juniors will visit campus labs to learn more about clinical laboratory sciences, mental health, nursing, nutrition and dietetics, and physical therapy. Students conduct “hands-on” activities in each of these laboratories.

Campers will journey to NIU’s Tri-County Community Health Center, housed at Kishwaukee College in Malta. The academic nursing center, staffed and managed by nurses and nurse practitioners, provides affordable, primary health care to low income, uninsured, underinsured and Medicaid families of DeKalb, Ogle and Lee counties. This clinic is operated in partnership between NIU and Kishwaukee College.

“We’re reaching out to minority groups this year, and we’re going to have a pretty large Hispanic population with us,” Jackson said. “The trip to Tri-County will allow students a glimpse of the operation of a federally designated rural health care clinic. The campers will experience the interaction of medical interpreters and patients for which English is not their native language.”

Six health care graduate students from NIU and six health care graduate students from the College of Medicine in Rockford will serve as counselors and mentors to the campers. The campers will be housed in the residence halls at NIU, allowing them to experience the college environment.

A final component takes place Saturday morning when parents will join the campers to learn more about the steps to be taken for a smooth path to college as well as financial aid.

“The campers are excited because this experience gives them a chance to see other areas of health care they might not have considered,” Jackson said. “Some arrive with the idea that, ‘What I really want to do is physical therapy.’ Then they see what public health has to offer, or what clinical laboratory science is about, and then they think, ‘I might be better fitted for another.’ ”

Campers represent these high schools: Belvidere, Bureau Valley, DeKalb, Earlville, Erie, Galva, Genoa-Kingston, LaMoille Community, LaSalle-Peru, Lena-Winslow, Marquette, Mendota, Millidgeville, Ohio, Oregon, Orion, Pearl City, Pecatonica, Polo Community, Putnam County, Rochelle Township, Rock Falls Township, Seneca, Stark County, Sterling, Stillman Valley and Sycamore.

For more information, call (815) 753-0031. 

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Media Contact: Stacy Jackson, NIU College of Health & Human Sciences
Phone: 815/753-0031
Email: sljackson@niu.edu