UWSOM Students in Spokane Host Business After School Event

stethoscopes on table

April 23, 2020
UWSOM-GU Regional Health Partnership

Greater Spokane Incorporated event gives high school students a glimpse of medical school

High school juniors and seniors face myriad decisions when pondering possible career and education choices. Recently, students contemplating healthcare careers received informative inside information when University of Washington School of Medicine in Spokane hosted a Business after School event.

Greater Spokane Incorporated began sponsoring these events in 2012 as a way to connect employers with future talent.

"Instead of a career fair where students talk to business owners at a table, we take the students to the businesses," explained Cassidy Peterson, director of education and talent for GSI. "We provide the space for professionals to lead an interactive learning experience inside their own building."

In February, long before the coronavirus restrictions closed schools, that place was Gonzaga University. Students from UW's Med for Ed program organized hands-on activities, and facilitated a Q&A panel for more than a dozen high school students, parents, and teachers.

Katie Combo is the co-director of the Med for Ed program. The program develops and mobilizes medical students to become leaders in their community, while expanding opportunities for children and youth. 

In Spokane, UWSOM students relish the opportunity to reach out to kids in their community. Some students tutor in science classrooms, others walk kids to their bus stops, and others facilitate Sleep Over for Science events, or help high school students shadow med school activities. 

Combo was delighted that so many of her fellow students were willing to help with the Business after School event.

"We had 14 medicals students and two PA students participate," she said. "Our goal was to give the teens a feel for what it's like to be in medicals school."

North Central High School student, Gigi Gonzales, confessed to being a bit nervous at first/

"I didn't know what to expect," she said. "But the medical students put me at ease. We got to use stethoscopes and listen to each other's hearts. They showed us how to take blood pressure and explained how it works."

Combo said the UWSOM students set up two stations with four activities had the group rotate through them.

Julie-Ann Pearson, college prep advisor at North Central, said her students really enjoyed the hands-on activities.

"They got to learn how to basic things using the actual equipment," she said. "They loved it! Their enthusiasm was contagious and they left with a lot of knowledge."

The teens also appreciated learning about the ins and outs of medical school.

"Everyone was interested in what we did as undergrads," said Combo. "They asked great questions. We told them they didn't have to just focus on science-- that it's great to have other passions, too."

Gonzales said hearing the medical students' experiences was impactful.

"One guy told us his grades were terrible in high school, but college changed everything for him," she said. "I get good grades, but I was relieved because I feel there's so much stress placed on high school grades."

A career in medicine intrigues her.

"I'm interested in PA school, but I'm keeping my options open."

Other attendees had already set their sights on medical school.

"I'm extremely interested in a medical career – it's my number one choice, "said Karli Reed, a Lewis and Clark High School student.  "I learned the difference between a PA and doctor during the student panel. It was interesting to see how much more school you need to be a doctor, and how demanding each route can be. It opened my eyes to how many different paths and opportunities my future may hold surrounding medicine."

Maura Ruiz, interim college prep advisor at Lewis and Clark, said she's facilitated the attendance of many students to GSI events in the past, but this was her first time at the UWSOM workshop.

"The exposure students had to the personal narratives about getting to med school was helpful," she said. "They learned there is more than one way to get to med school. Creating the time and pace for our students to intermingle and discuss the realities of med school broadened the possibility of them considering a healthcare career."

Peterson said creating that broader perspective is part of the vision of the Business after School events.

"Medical schools are important to feature alongside our business," she said. "Catching students at an earlier age can help inform their career choices."

Participating high school students came away invigorated.

"It was very educational, and the students that presented were very nice and accepting," said North Central student Tilah Elizondo.  "They made me excited for college!"

They weren't the only ones refreshed by the interaction. The UW students facilitating the event enjoyed the opportunity to connect with the teens.

"It was a lot of fun," said Combo. "It was great to take a break from studying and give back to the community, and the next generation of doctors and PA's."