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by Terry L. Whipple, MD

Cynthia was a sophomore in college when she decided she wanted to become a nurse practitioner and work in women’s health. However, as an honor student in the English department, she lacked the necessary prerequisite science courses in order to apply to attend nursing school. Michael wanted to be a pharmacist like his dad, but did not take the necessary chemistry and math courses in college to qualify for pharmacy school.

Both Cynthia and Michael were frustrated when they realized that they would have to take additional semesters of undergraduate studies to obtain the necessary credits to apply for a medical program. A similar scenario is repeated every year for students interested in radiation technology, medical school, veterinary school, even counseling. Preparation for health care careers must start early to satisfy all the educational requirements.

A Health Club

Youth Health Club visits Richmond Ambulance Authority

When we saw a need to help provide youth with more information on health care professions, we formed the first Youth Health Club at Richmond’s First Baptist Church. The Health Club is a special interest club for young people in grades 9 – 12, and those who are in college, who have an interest in health care or are considering any career related to health care.

Through the activities and programs of the club, they have the opportunity to learn many of the skills and much about the subject matter related to a variety of careers in health care. And, it helps them to either affirm their interests in pursuing a health care profession and plan their college programs accordingly, or confirm that their aptitudes lie elsewhere.

A Health Club

As a club, they choose which topics they want to learn about, research those topics in teams, present their research findings to one another in lectures, and then select their next topic of study. A team of adult guides is available to assist and mentor the youth as they select the topics to research. And, the guides or guest instructors provide the participants with training in basic health services and testing, such as taking blood pressures, screening body mass index (BMI), infection prevention, or even administering hearing tests, but the youth run the Club, researching the subjects and teaching one another.

With this knowledge, the Youth Health Club participants become available to serve in the community. They are equipped to take part as an organization in Health Fairs around the city—providing education and training on the topics they have studied, and are able to administer simple medical tests for which they have trained. Additionally, they can present brief health education programs to Sunday school classes and other church groups.

Most importantly, the youth are empowered to make an informed decision on whether health care is the profession for them.

If you think you might be interested in a health care profession, this is your Club. If you’re an adult who is interested in guiding youth in what it takes to be a health care professional or are interested in mentoring youth as they research health-related topics, consider joining the adult guides. Check it out on Wednesday nights at FBC in the Youth Suite at 6:30 p.m.

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