Penn State Mont Alto’s MedCamp educates future healthcare professionals

Jordyn Hartsock in MedCamp

Jordyn Hartsock, front left, performs mock surgery at the Chambersburg Hospital, as part of Penn State Mont Alto's MedCamp.

Credit: Penn State

MONT ALTO, Pa. — Fourteen-year-old Haley Gilbert of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, has known that she’s wanted to be a neonatal nurse since she was in second grade. When she found out about Penn State Mont Alto’s MedCamp, she knew it was a camp she had to attend.

It would have taken her about 45 minutes every day to get to campus from her home. So, Haley decided to spend the week at her aunt’s house in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, to make sure she arrived promptly at 8 a.m. everyday.

“It’s been really fun, and we’ve learned a lot of different things about the body and the medical field,” she said.

This is the 12th year for the one-of-a-kind, medical camp that provides incoming ninth- and tenth-graders opportunities to learn about careers in the health care and medical field. This year’s camp was held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 19-23. The cost of camp was $280 which included lunch, snacks and transportation to field trips.

The week-long camp introduced participants to medical careers with hands-on activities and field trips to Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey; Summit Health in Chambersburg; Wilson College in Chambersburg; and Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia.

Student campers explored a number of healthcare careers, including nursing, anatomy, neurology, radiology, emergency medicine, surgery, dentistry, physical therapy, occupational therapy and veterinary medicine.

Director of Continuing Education Helen McGarry said MedCamp 2017 was the biggest so far.

“We’re very excited about this year’s camp. I think that MedCamp grows year after year primarily because of word of mouth. It’s a high-quality, low-cost medical camp that is unique in our region,” she said.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment of healthcare occupations is projected to grow 19 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations, adding about 2.3 million new jobs.

This is a rare opportunity for high school students to get hands-on experience and fully explore the health care field, McGarry said.

MedCamp Medical Director Renee Borromeo is proud of the medical camp model she helped develop for Penn State Mont Alto more than 12 years ago.

“There aren’t any other camps of its kind in the area. I’ve seen other camps, outside the area, that are similar, but I wouldn’t say as good, that are thousands of dollars,” Borromeo said. “Our goal is to provide a rich, hands-on experience for the students while keeping the costs as low as possible.”

Aspiring neurosurgeon Jordyn Hartsock, 14, of Bendersville, Pennsylvania, could barely wait for the chance to hold a human brain in her hands. She finally got that chance during a MedCamp field trip to Shenandoah University and its cadaver lab.

For Hartsock, the weeklong camp has solidified her career path.

“I would encourage anyone interested in a medical career to attend (MedCamp) because everything is so detailed, and it really gives you a good aspect of what the career is about,” she said.

Enrique Del Leon-Raya, 15, of Chambersburg, attended MedCamp to explore healthcare career options.

“I knew I wanted to go into the medical field, but I didn’t fully know what field I wanted to go into,” he said.

Del Leon-Raya seemed perfectly at home making the tough decisions during a simulated terrorist attack at Penn State College of Medicine's LionReach Mobile Training and Evaluation Center, where he served as mock incident commander.

But after seeing nursing and anatomy, he thought “those were really cool fields,” as well.

“It’s a great opportunity. There’s a lot of hands-on fun. In school, we’re sitting at desks and getting lectured to. But when you come here, it’s completely different. It’s a better way for kids to understand,” said Del Leon-Raya.

MedCamp 2018 will be held in June. More photos from this year's MedCamp are available here.