Students learn about health care in summer stint

This summer, 18-year-old Mogboluwaga Oginni shadowed physicians as they repaired shattered hips, twisted ankles and dislocated shoulders. He also learned about patient billing and the steps to cast broken legs.

“I got to see just about every aspect of the orthopedic surgery department,” says Oginni, a Saint Louis University High School graduate who just began his freshman year at Creighton University. “It was a great experience to see so much of the health-care field.”

Oginni spent six weeks at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis as part of a paid internship program affiliated with the East Central Missouri Area Health Education Center (AHEC).

The East Central Missouri AHEC program, part of a national and statewide network, introduces rural and underrepresented students to health professions and promotes health-care work in rural and urban areas. Participating students are offered learning opportunities while they’re in high school, college and professional programs.

“We have found that many youth from rural and inner city areas don’t pursue careers in health care,” says Alfreda Brown, executive director of the East Central Missouri AHEC. “This program provides them with the support they may not find at their schools or in their communities.”

The summer internships at the School of Medicine were offered to high school and college students for the first time this year, thanks to the Office of Human Resources and financial support from the dean.

“We had a great response from departments wanting to work with students,” says Legail Chandler, assistant dean and executive director for human resources at the School of Medicine. “I think it’s beneficial for these students to be on our campus and get practical experience.”

Oginni, who grew up in Florissant, was one of eight students to participate in the internship. Other students worked in psychiatry, radiation oncology and internal medicine.

Creating an experiential opportunity for a high school student interested in health care intrigued Jean Szerzinski, clinic administrator in orthopedic surgery. “And the feedback I received from everyone — physicians and staff — after having Mo in their work place was always positive,” she says. “Staff members were impressed with his questions and his willingness to learn a variety of jobs.”

Chandler hopes the internship program confirms the students’ commitment to careers in health care. “If it gives them a real-world view and helps them sort out their career choice, that’s a big step,” she says.

Oginni says his internship confirmed to him that he’s on the right track. He’d like to become a physician.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.