Maine Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Network at the University of New England’s Center for Excellence in Public Health hosted its annual UNE Health Careers Exploration Camp this summer. The UNE Health Careers Exploration Camp is a three-day overnight camp on the UNE Portland and Biddeford Campuses. Thirty high school students participated, including 20 students from the New Mainer community, and 10 students from rural Maine. Campers participated in hands-on programming during the day at the University’s Portland Campus and then spent the night in dorms on the Biddeford Campus in order to learn more about the college experience. The camp was funded this year through a donation by Martin’s Point Health Care and with additional support from the Maine Health Access Foundation.
The camp was offered in partnership with two local organizations, Maine Access Immigrant Network, and New Mainers Public Health Initiative, as well as several health profession programs at UNE. The participating UNE health profession programs (faculty and students) included dental medicine, dental hygiene, nursing, occupational therapy (OT), osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, physician assistant (PA), physical therapy (PT), nutrition, and public health. Additionally, during the camp Martin’s Point Health Care offered a learning activity on medical assistants, and UNE’s Maine Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program provided an activity on how a variety of health professions support individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other Neurodevelopmental Disabilities.
The camp is designed to create opportunities for high school students from rural and medically underserved communities to learn about health careers, gain an understanding of the education required for different career paths, and experience life on a college campus. With interactive hands-on activities, the camp aims to increase the interest of participating campers in pursuing secondary education and health careers. The long-term goal of the camp is to reduce health disparities in rural and medically underserved communities.
Campers were asked to share some of their thoughts about the camp, stating:
“I think it was fun how each time they gave us an activity, we got a glimpse into what they [healthcare professionals] did in their field. I thought that was helpful, especially if you want to go into that field, it showed you a taste of what’s going to happen in the next few years.”
“If you’re interested in multiple careers [camp] helped narrow down what you might want to do. It helped give an idea of what each professional actually did. I liked the social aspect of having a roommate, too.”
“I found exploring helpful – and I also made connections with friends from around here. I made a lot of friends. We talked about careers that we might be interested in going into, colleges, and really, just knowing someone has the same interest as me, makes the transition ten times easier going into the career field that I choose.”