Christian Keenan wants to help his community be healthier. That’s what is motivating the Piedmont High School student to learn more about being a physician.
“I want to be an osteopathic physician in a rural Oklahoma community because I come from a rural community,” said Keenan. “I think that would be an awesome thing.”
Keenan was one of the more than 300 Oklahoma high school students who attended Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Operation Orange. The summer camps give participants a chance to experience a day in the life of a medical student and learn more about what it takes to become a physician.
“The camps are an opportunity for us to showcase our mission to train primary care physicians for rural and underserved Oklahoma to students outside of the Tulsa area,” said Dr. Kayse Shrum, president of the OSU Center for Health Sciences and dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine. “It offers these students the chance to engage with us and let them know that a medical career is an option anywhere you live.”
Shrum said Oklahoma ranks 48th in the nation for the number of physicians practicing per capita, with rural communities suffering the most.
“That is why it is critical for us to recruit and train physicians who want to live and practice in rural Oklahoma,” she said.
The College of Osteopathic Medicine hosted five camps at partner institutions across the state in June, including Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant, Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford, Cherokee Nation W.W. Hastings Technology and Education Center in Tahlequah, the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond and the main OSU campus in Stillwater.
“Operation Orange gives us the opportunity to meet with high school students, talk to them about our experiences and show them a side of medicine they might not otherwise be able to see,” said Nicole Warren, a fourth-year medical student from Sand Springs and Operation Orange volunteer. “They can learn and participate in some interactive, hands-on activities that give them a little bit of the experience of what it’s like to be at OSU’s medical school.”
Participants practiced chest compressions on simulators, learned how to suture, listened to respiratory, digestive and cardiac sounds, intubated mannequins and studied the anatomy of the heart, lungs and brain. They also had the opportunity to meet with current OSU medical students to ask questions and learn more about the process of applying to medical school.
“By coming to Operation Orange, they see how passionate we are about medicine,” said Darren Vargas, a second-year OSU medical student. “We hope it ignites a fire in these students to be a doctor and contribute to their communities.”
Shrum launched Operation Orange in 2013 as a way of bringing OSU’s Tulsa-based medical school to rural communities across the state. The camps are part of an effort by OSU’s Center for Health Sciences to solve the state’s physician shortage.
Plans are currently underway for the next series of Operation Orange summer camps in 2015. Visit www.healthsciences.okstate.edu/operationorange to learn more and register for updates.