North Carolina AHEC Program
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Dare to Soar: SEAHEC Hosts Future Leaders in Healthcare Conference

From May 17-19, 2013, the South East Area Health Education Center (SEAHEC), as part of the North Carolina Area Health Education Centers (NC AHEC), hosted the 14th Annual North Carolina Future Leaders in Healthcare Conference.

Held at The University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW), 190 students from across the state gathered on a Friday afternoon and were greeted by Charles Hardy, PhD, dean of the College of Health and Human Services. Barry Price and former Future Leaders participant Brittany Macon led the keynote lecture. Christiana Ajewole, who will be entering the Brody School of Medicine this fall, was part of the keynote panel and is a former Future Leaders participant. The other panelist was Whitney Murrill, who graduated from UNCW’s School of Nursing in May. She is a former UNC-Chapel Hill Science Enrichment Program participant.

Attendees got moving early Saturday morning at 6:30 a.m. on a fitness walk followed by the day's keynote address by Kwain Bryant of Empowerment Exchange. Students then rotated through seven concurrent sessions ranging in subject from patient simulation to nutrition to ethics.

Jorge Figueroa, PhD, community health professor at UNCW, delivered the lunch plenary lecture, which was followed by a health careers expo with representatives from the UNCW admissions office, Campbell University, a pharmacist, an EMT and each of the AHECs.

Sunday morning also started early at 6:30 a.m. with another fitness walk followed by the fourth annual Larry Keith Memorial Lecture presented by Terry Houston, UNC-Chapel Hill's former senior director for recruitment and multicultural programs.

Throughout the conference, students were also challenged to take charge of their own health. They did this by monitoring their steps with pedometers and completing food journals both electronically, using their smart phones, and manually. During the debriefing on Sunday, students reported they were unaware of their daily caloric intake and the number of calories in junk foods versus fruits and vegetables. Because of this activity they reported plans to make better choices in the future.

The primary purpose of the Future Leaders in Healthcare Conference is to provide a forum for high school students from across the state interested in pursuing a career in health care to learn more about jobs in health care, the delivery of health care, and managing their own health.

Through educational workshops and discussions, students had the opportunity to learn about current health care issues with special focus given to pressing issues like obesity and eliminating health care disparities. Importantly, the conference provided students with strategies, information and tools for managing their own health. Students got a glimpse of college life and learn about preparing now for the health career of their choice, including requirements for admission to higher learning programs.