North Carolina AHEC Program
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North Carolina's Future Leaders in Healthcare Meet in Winston-Salem

health careers studentsOn May 21-23, 2010, more than 300 students, parents, educators and chaperones participated in the 11th annual NC AHEC Future Leaders in Healthcare Conference. This year’s conference theme Connecting the Dots: Creating a Blueprint for Healthcare Leadership provided an excellent opportunity for students to realize the limitless accessibility and the enormity of the resources available to them through their relationship with NC AHEC programs.

This conference is an annual event sponsored by the NC AHEC Program in collaboration with the North Carolina Health Careers and Workforce Diversity Council (consisting of nine NC AHEC Centers) and the NC Health Careers Access Program. This year’s conference was hosted by the Northwest (Winston-Salem) and Mountain (Asheville) AHECs in a wonderful collaboration with Wake Forest University, WFU Baptist Medical School and Winston Salem State University -- where many of the conference activities were held.

The conference kick-off on Friday evening was opened with a rousing welcome from conference hosts and collaborators. The opening sessions of the conference included the NC HCAP Inspirational Speakers in Science Lecture, featuring Ernest Grant, RN, MSN, from the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center. Grant challenged the students to be intentional about getting an education. He gave them a snapshot of the extraordinary opportunities that he has experienced throughout his career. The students were also provided opportunities to see some graphic photos of the many experiences in which Grant’s medical expertise was needed in the most catastrophic situations: Hamlet chicken processing plant fire; the devastation of Hurricane’s Hugo, Fran and Floyd on the NC coasts; and other NC aviation disasters. This session was followed up with medical and health science students as part of NC HCAP’s Health Professions Student Panel.

Conference Leaders and GuestsAnthony Atala, MD, director of the Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine delivered Saturday morning’s keynote. Atala (photo: 3rd from the right with conference leaders) is a well-known and international expert in regenerative medicine. He provided insight into cutting-edge research and technology that looked more like science fiction but is actually real therapies being used today. He exposed students to the amazing science of implanting laboratory grown organs, engineering blood vessels, growing an ear for implantation, and an informative discussion on stem cell research.

There were six breakout sessions presented by faculty from NC State, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem State University and NC Communities in Schools. Students benefited by attending two of the six sessions covering topics on Leadership, Gang and Team Violence, Biotechnology, Global Heath, Research, and Regenerative Medicine.

Kwain BryantA powerful luncheon presentation by Kwain Bryant (photo right) on personal empowerment reminded the students that “leaders commit themselves—they stay the course and complete the task” and that “to get to the top, you must get off your bottom.”

Following the plenary, students transitioned to simulation and motion analysis labs on the campuses of Wake Forest University and Winston Salem State University, where they experienced hands on and minds on activities. They were able to experience simulation modeling by observing how using virtual humans may actively diagnose and treat patient problems. These labs provide a safe environment for exploration and thorough understanding of the many physiological and pharmacological concepts that will play a major part in preparing our future health care leaders for the twenty-first century. Both universities’ admissions officers greeted the students and provided campus tours.

For the inaugural Larry D. Keith Memorial Lecture, Patrena Benton, PhD, delivered a very inspiring and motivational closing plenary titled "If You Can’t Go Though the Front Door….” Benton worked very closely with Keith, who was the director of the Medical Education program at UNC-Chapel Hill until his recent passing in February. The NC AHEC Health Careers and Workforce Diversity Council renamed this lecture as a tribute to Keith’s significant contributions in North Carolina and the United States to the development and entry of underrepresented students in health careers.

Future Leaders in HealthcareAfter the long days of presentations, workshops, labs, and lectures, students received some well-deserved entertainment from Tam Tam Mandingue Winston-Salem, a school of West African drummers dedicated to preserving and transmitting the Mandingue musical tradition. In addition, the Prometheus Bound Poets (PBB) from Durham, NC, performed. PBB is a group of urban youth working together to communicate their perspective on life through spoken word performance. This was PBB’s second year at the conference. A pizza party and ice cream social followed each of these cultural events.

Most students responded that this conference definitely exceeded their expectations. Mountain AHEC's Director of Health Careers & Diversity Education Jacquelyn Hallum, MBA, MHA, stated, “Opportunities like this did not exist when I was in high school. These programs give our students opportunities they might not otherwise have. Our conference has been hosted at NC A& T State University, Duke University, East Carolina University, Fayetteville State University, North Carolina Central University, UNC-Chapel Hill, Wake Forest University, and Winston-Salem State University. This experience lets students know that college is not beyond their reach.”


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