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Inspire Upstate, a health professions camp, spotlights health careers, education for city youth

Inspire students are set for a tour of the Operating Room

Kim Harvey, a family advocate for PEACE Inc., echoed the thoughts of the nearly two dozen Syracuse City School District students who spent three days last week touring Upstate Medical University and meeting employees and students.

“These kids did not realize that there are all these jobs in health care available right here,” Harvey said. “Everyone focuses on doctors and nurses, but there are so many more roles people can play when caring for others.”

Showcasing the various health care jobs was a key goal of Inspire Upstate: a hospital professions camp, held July 9 to 11 and coordinated by Upstate’s Health Sciences Library.

“We wanted to show that there is a fit for everyone to play a role in improving the health care in our community,” said Olivia Tsistinas, the library’s clinical outreach coordinator.

This year, the Upstate program was open to students in PEACE Inc.’s Summer Youth Program. During the three-day camp, students met and heard from a respiratory therapist, a physical therapist, nurses, physicians, stroke team members, a music therapist and others, including admissions officials, all with the message that these jobs are attainable and available for all with hard work and the right education.

Tsistinas said this message is important to deliver, especially during the summer when many youth stop thinking about academic achievement. “When I heard ‘summer camp’ I thought of woods, cabins, and spending the night. This was WAY better,” one student reflected.

A program like this provides a fun and active way to bridge the summer education gap,” she said. “This program is geared toward middle school students, because they tend to be underserved when it comes to activities like these. We know this kind of exposure can put them on a good track to support bigger goals when they get into high school, and that’s important.”

During the camp students also learned about intubation, taking vitals and toured one of Upstate’s state-of-the-art operating rooms in the Upstate Cancer Center, getting gowned up in bunny suits.

Health literacy education was the cornerstone of the camp experience. Students learned what separated quality from questionable health information on the web. This program feature is similar to classes offered for adults by the library’s Clinical Outreach department at community centers and public libraries.

As a keepsake of their experience in the camp, students created “zines” about a health care issue that was important to them. The small personalized magazine was a key project to mark the end of their time at Upstate, Tsistinas said.

“The zine is something these students can take with them and show their peers and others,” she said. “It continues the discussion after the camp experience is over—and tells the kids in our neighboring communities that we want them to join us here at Upstate.” The Health Sciences Library and PEACE Inc. are discussing plans to expand the program in the coming years.

For more information on Health Sciences Library programing and partnerships, contact Olivia Tsistinas [email protected].