Champlain Valley AHEC helps local high school students explore careers in healthcare

Champlain Valley Area Health Education Center (AHEC) completed the 13th year of MedQuest: Health Careers Exploration Program on July 11. MedQuest is a six-day residential, educational summer program held at the University of Vermont.  The program provides an opportunity for rising junior and senior high school students who are interested in healthcare to explore a variety of disciplines and specialty areas first-hand. “MedQuest is ideal for students looking for more information on possible careers in the medical field and will allow students to experience what they couldn’t in a classroom environment,” said MedQuest 2014 member Rachel Morse, of Essex High School.

This year, MedQuest participants from Essex High School include rising junior, Hannah (Annie) Bovee, of Essex Junction, and rising seniors, Rachel Morse, of Westford, and Daniel Ro, of Essex.

Students explored careers in nursing, dentistry, pharmacy, pathology, home health, mental health, geriatric care and emergency medicine through workshops that included professional panels, simulation labs, small group discussions and other hands-on activities.  The students also had the opportunity to work individually with healthcare professionals in private job shadows at Northwestern Medical Center and Fletcher Allen Health Care.  During each job shadow, participants were able to experience what it would be like to work in a hospital setting, learn about the primary responsibilities and tasks of the professional, and ask the professional questions about his or her career path.  Daniel Ro identified shadowing has his favorite part of the program “because it was fun to see health care professionals in action.” MedQuest is punctuated with presentations on various aspects of healthcare, such as confidentiality, infection prevention and cultural competency.

Historically, medical students from UVM College of Medicine served as assistant directors and mentors to these eager students as they explore possibilities in healthcare. This year we also invited Nurse Practitioner (NP), Master of Social Work (MSW) and Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) students at UVM to apply for the assistant director positions to incorporate an atmosphere of interdisciplinary teamwork during MedQuest.  The assistant directors guide the students through the MedQuest program, facilitate discussions, lead workshops and teach the students basic medical skills. Assistant Directors this year described their experience as “a great opportunity to work with and mentor high school students interested in healthcare.”

Along with guidance and knowledge, students leave MedQuest with tangible skills to serve their own communities; they received training in CPR/AED.  On the final day of the program the students attend a live telemedicine surgery, during which students can ask questions of the surgeon (Dr. Edward Borrazzo, General Surgeon, FAHC), while he is performing surgery.  He explains everything that happens in the operation clearly and loves working with this enthusiastic group each year.

Surveyed following their participation in the MedQuest Program, 39 of 40 participants said their interest in a healthcare career and attending college after high school had increased. The one student volunteered, “I enjoyed it, it’s just not for me. Whether you come out of the program knowing you want to go into the medical field or not, it is an amazing experience and 100 percent worth it.”

In partnership with Fletcher Allen Health Care, Northwestern Medical Center, the University of Vermont’s College of Medicine, Addison County Home Health and Hospice, Counseling Center of Addison County, Richmond Rescue, Essex Rescue, Vermont Student Assistance Corps (VSAC) and Helen Porter Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, and additional financial support from the Vermont Women’s Fund, the State of Vermont and the Health Resources and Services Administration, Champlain Valley high school students had a unique opportunity to explore an array of health career possibilities for their futures.

Champlain Valley AHEC encourages these youths to continue to explore the healthcare field through the Vermont health careers website at and through their participation in future health careers exploration programs, including Focus on Health Careers Conference on Nov. 8. More information about this program and other healthcare exploration programs can be found on Champlain Valley AHEC’s website at or through “liking” the organization on Facebook. The dates for the 2015 MedQuest programs will be posted in September, as well as sent out to area high school guidance counselors.