Inaugural Health Careers Institute Offers Teens a Look into Healthcare Professions

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August 29, 2023 | Downers Grove, IL

High school students experienced a series of informational sessions about healthcare fields.

Midwestern University held the inaugural Health Careers Institute on the Downers Grove Campus. As part of the four-day experience, 25 high school students from the surrounding suburbs discovered more about various professions in the healthcare field and the ways an education at Midwestern University will help students achieve their career goals.

Ayah Kabbani, a senior at Universal School, said, “We got a taste of several medical fields, and what it’s like to work in healthcare. I really enjoyed how interactive it was. I have always respected the healthcare profession, and I come away from this experience with deeper respect. This is not an experience I would get anywhere else. I think everyone should apply to this program.” She expressed that the instructors leading the sessions genuinely cared about the students interests and gave them personalized attention. Ayah plans to go into dentistry in the future, and she enjoyed holding and using the tools, such as drilling and filling a cavity on the model in the session on dentistry. She also found the session on research interesting, seeing how researchers spend years gathering information on one question, and how one finding can impact so many people.

Isabella Pannarale, a senior at Benet Academy, enjoyed both the dentistry session and the experience in the simulation lab. “I love the hands-on activities and seeing what a dentist does, drilling and filling a molar and making a mold.” She said the sessions solidified her vision of a future career in the medical field, where she plans to become a nurse practitioner. “I know that I do want to practice medicine. I want to go to college and medical school.” Isabella added, “This program was an amazing opportunity to glimpse what’s out there.”  

Sara Ryan, a senior at Downers Grove South High School, also plans to study dentistry in the future and become an orthodontist. “This is what I see myself doing and being happy with. I really like what we’re doing. This is where I feel my passion is.”

As part of the Heath Careers Institute, local high school students practiced washing and scrubbing for surgery.

The students had a variety of hands-on, interactive sessions from all the colleges or programs that introduced them to different aspects of the healthcare field.

They were taught about different career paths in psychology such as healthcare, education, and leadership, and the different types of psychologists including clinical, forensic, and developmental psychologists. Students practiced a mindfulness activity, and they took the Big Five Personality Test to have a deeper understanding of their actions and the structure of their personality. Students learned about precision medicine, which is a way to customize disease prevention and treatment based on a patient’s genetic information. Students participated in an activity that looked at the genotypes of labrador retrievers to determine the color of their coat. The Speech-Language Pathology session offered students a chance to use technology that assists patients who have difficulty speaking. They also learned about patients with difficulty swallowing and the interventions done to assist the patients. Students also learned about the career options in speech-language pathology and in occupational therapy. They used some of the equipment used by occupational therapists, such as tools to assist patients using kitchen utensils.

Occupational therapy patients use equipment to accomplish daily tasks. Students attending the health Careers Institute had the chance to practice utilizing the equipment.

In a session on osteopathic medicine, students were shown how to adjust the body to address issues of physical pain, as well as address the cause of that pain, such as life adjustments to manage stress. Students were taught proper questions to ask patients in a clinical setting, including the onset of pain, the location of pain, and severity of pain. They had a tour of the research lab and heard short presentations about different research projects. They saw ultrasound imaging examples with several images including a heart beating. In the anatomy lab, students viewed specimens from cadavers including the bones and the brain.

The student mentors were Tiffany Thompson, Julia Kavanagh, Donna Mehdiyar, Ava DiGirolamo, Daniel Misioura, Mallory Suhling, Amanda Abrams, and Azaan Khan.

The students were accompanied to all the sessions by eight Health Careers Institute mentors, who were all Midwestern University students in the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine (CCOM). Azaan Khan (CCOM ’26) shared his experience. “The biggest impact on me was the relatability I felt with the high school students. I remember the kind of excitement and inspiration I felt at that age when I learned something new about the human body, or how the future of medicine could change how I live my life. Seeing that in the kids felt nostalgic, and I imagine it will impact their future by inspiring them to pursue a health career with passion as well.” He added, “I really hold high the value that education has on students. I feel that most of what inspires people, in general, is how they are taught on a topic, especially when they are around high school age. Further in my future, I hope to someday become a teacher, or at least be a part of higher education to some degree. Being a mentor for HCI (Health Careers Institute) has been beneficial for me, as I’ve gained experience with education for my future, on top of helping make a positive experience for the students who took part in HCI.” 

The Health Careers Institute is a part of Midwestern University’s outreach to provide educational opportunities to high school students in the community who are interested in a future healthcare career. The Glendale Campus also holds a similar event for high school students in the summer.