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Durham County | Duke AHEC Program

City of Medicine Academy students intern at hospitals

By Neil Offen
The Durham Herald-Sun
Jul 17, 2009

DURHAM -- The small hospital room in Zone 5300 on the fifth floor of Duke
University's Children Hospital was jammed.

There was 6-month-old Nathan Brindle, whose room it was, who was getting
ready to be discharged after a two-month stay there because of hypoplastic
left heart syndrome.

There were Nathan's parents, Michael and Maegan, getting final instructions
on the oxygen their son will need when he gets back home and other
procedures they must follow.

There was Kristina Madden, a speech pathologist and feeding therapist, who
was holding little Nathan and trying to get him to practice the moves he'll
need to learn to eat when the feeding tube is removed from his stomach.

There was Susan Dixon, a patient resource manager, in charge of the
discharge, going over equipment that will be needed and visit that will
need to me made.

And there was La'queaja Percell, a rising senior at Durham's City of
Medicine Academy, taking it all in, listening intently, learning about the
career she wants to have.

"I want to be a pediatric cardio-thoracic surgeon," said Percell, "and so
I'm really in the right spot being here."

Percell is one of 11 academy students who is spending the month of July at
Duke and Durham Regional Hospital as part of a summer internship program
with the medical center designed to fuel the students' desire to work in
the health care field.

Percell doesn't need much fueling.

"This is what I've wanted to do for a long time," she said. "And being here
has really reinforced that idea."

Shadowing different hospital professionals, Percell has learned how to take
blood pressure, pulled the syringe when blood has been taken and listened
in on lots of different medical conversations, like the rounds conducted
this week by pediatric cardiologist Michael Carboni.

"Sometimes it seems like they're speaking a different language," Percell
acknowledged. "But I've really learned so much."

She's learned, among much else, she said the other day, how different each
patient is. "I didn't know that babies could have catheters, for instance,"
she said. "That was pretty amazing."

The internship program was put together by Duke Hospital's Office of
Community Relations and Duke's Area Health Education Center. The goal was
to match the students' particular areas of interest -- which ranged from
cardiology to anesthesiology to neo-natal nursing.

"Each student expressed an interest in a particularly specialty, and we
tried to get them a close match to the field they chose," said Linda
Chambers, a health careers coordinator and fiscal director of the AHEC
program.

Keona Hughes, another rising senior at the academy, has always had, she
said, "a passion for babies."

That's why she wants to be a neo-natal nurse, "and then an OBGYN, and then
own my own birthing center."

For the moment, she was sitting at a small table, right off the waiting
room for the Intensive Care Nursery where the little brothers and sisters
of the infants in the nursery waited with their parents. Wearing her Care
Bear scrubs, Hughes worked on decorating tiny T-shirts for the patients'
siblings, using markers and putting on stencils.

She's enjoyed that, she said, but the best part of the internship so far
has simply been being around the hospital.

"You really get a feel for what I'm going to do," she said. "You see how
hard you have to work, But this is something I really want to do and I
really want to get the experience, and that's what I'm getting."

The experience is good for Duke, too.

The interns are minority students and "diversity is one of our core
values," said Pamela Edwards, deputy AHEC director. "The health care
workforce isn't representative of our population, so it's important to keep
improving the number of minority care providers."

And some day, the students might even work at Duke, she said. "It makes
sense to grow our own right here in the community."