Students and faculty from the University of Mississippi and University of Mississippi Medical Center did their part to inspire elementary students last week at a medical careers fair in Clarksdale.
"We are embarking on a bit of an adventure by coming to Clarksdale for this event," said Dr. Robin Rockhold, deputy chief academic officer for UMMC. "I see this as the start of a brand-new era in education orientation for health care. The mission of the Medical Center is to improve health for all Mississippians - we're just starting a little bit earlier than we have in the past."
At Kirkpatrick Elementary, the inaugural fair was designed to expose students to a variety of health-care professions. The Schools of Health Related Professions, Nursing, Pharmacy, Dentistry, Medicine and Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences were represented.
"I hope that by participating in this event, our students receive a bird's eye view of what it would take to actually pursue a career in health or medicine," said Rasheda Barksdale, magnet resource coach for Kirkpatrick. "Oftentimes, our students only think of family medical practitioners when they think of health and medicine, but I want them to know about other disciplines that fall under this umbrella. I also want our youth to see that a goal of a career in health and medicine is attainable as long as they work hard and stay focused."
Chris Cathey, third-year dental student, instructs young students on how to properly brush their teeth.
Clarksdale's school district recently received a federal grant to aid with education, one of the outcomes of which was a reconfiguration of its schools into academies. Kirkpatrick Elementary was reorganized into a magnet school with a theme of health and medical science. The school's goal is to emphasize careers in the health-care field, while also teaching the students about personal health and well-being.
"We're finding that in the Mississippi Delta areas especially, kids are not exposed as frequently to health-care providers," said Dr. Lisa Haynie, professor of nursing. "With this career fair, we are able to tell these students more about what we do in nursing and other health-care professions."
Students participated in a number of interactive activities during the fair that ranged from using a mortar and pestle to learning the proper way to brush their teeth. Jadarius Dotson, a third-grader, told his fellow students that he wanted to be a pharmacist when he grows up because he wants to "help sick people."
Meredith Oliver, a first-year professional pharmacy student from Collierville, Tennessee, said it is important to help young students understand what pharmacy and other health-care professions are all about.
"If we can inspire just one student to think, 'Wow, this is what I want to do,' then this is all worth it," Oliver said.
Zian Sims, right, Brian McCray and Desiree Strong learn the importance of pharmacy while participating in a mock pill-counting demonstration.