Area teens get hands-on approach to health care

By Wayne Bryan Published June 26, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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Ethan Simpson, 16, who will be a junior at Fountain Lake High School this fall, suited up and used the Jaws of Life and a saw in a mock exercise to extradite a person from a wrecked vehicle on June 19 during the Summer MASH program at CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs hospital. Simpson said he plans to become a cardiologist.

HOT SPRINGS — For the past two weeks, students at CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs have been busy making rounds at the hospital.

They have shadowed physicians, nurses and therapists at patient visits, stitched up cuts, observed an operation, made casts for “broken” arms, attended an accident “victim” at the hospital’s emergency room and even used the da Vinci surgical robot. One of the students used the Jaws of Life and a saw to free a “patient from an auto accident.”

Not bad for a bunch of high school kids.

The 15 students, who will be juniors and seniors next fall, came from Bismarck, Caddo Hills, Fountain Lake, Jessieville, Lake Hamilton and Lakeside high schools for an intensive MASH (Medical Application of Science for Health) program that offers an experience into many aspects of health care at a hospital.

“They’ve done great; I’m impressed,” said Douglas Ross, vice president of medical affairs for the Catholic Health Initiatives-run hospital. “They’ve had a great experience for the two weeks, with an inside look at health care.”

Ross, a veteran emergency-department doctor, taught the students to suture body tissue together using a surgical needle and thread during a training session last week at the hospital. The students closed cuts made in the skin of a pig’s foot that had been preserved for practice.

“Within 30 minutes, they were making stitches like pros,” Ross said. “This was not only a good experience for them if they are interested in medicine, but it’s a good skill to have. Knowing how to close a wound securely could be a great thing to know if someone is hurt while you are camping a long way from any other help.”

Lyanna Buck, who will be a senior at Lake Hamilton High School when school resumes in the fall, said it didn’t take long to get the hang of stitching up a cut.

“The skin was thick, but after a few times, I got the feel of it,” she said, while finishing the sutures. “The biggest thing was pulling them tight enough.”

All of the students said they were interested in pursuing a career in health care. The students applied for the summer program during the school year, said Mandi Bohlen, a co-director of the program.

“They had to make an application, and they had to complete a basic biology class,” she said. “They all had to have good grades and be a student in good standing at their schools.”

During the first week of Summer MASH, the students learned about HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that set the rules on patient privacy and the confidentially of medical records. They received training in CPR and on how to operate a respirator. The students also learned about the many duties and services performed by hospital workers.

In the second week of the classes, along with the stitching practice, the students learned about extracting someone from a wrecked vehicle. The course’s developers said the exercise, held at Tommy’s Wrecking Service in Hot Springs, was to show the students how emergency personnel get injured people out of vehicles, using the Jaws of Life and other spreading and cutting tools.

Ethan Simpson, one of the MASH students, donned a firefighter’s turn-out gear and operated the rescue equipment, opening the crushed passenger compartment of one vehicle.

A junior at Fountain Lake High School this fall, Simpson said he applied for the summer program in order to have firsthand experience with medicine. The 16-year old said he wants to become a cardiologist because of heart problems in his family.

The class also learned the proper way to put a cast on an injured arm or leg. Under the direction of orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Brandon Byrd, class members placed casts on each other.

“It is very important for these students to have this experience,” Ross said. “They are our future.”

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be contacted at (501) 244-4460 or at

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or

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