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Boy Scouts program opens up medical careers to students

Jan. 31, 2007

They've heard stories about faces being ripped off and seen graphic slides from plastic surgery.

They've toured the emergency room and donned scrubs in a surgical suite.

It has been a busy two and a half months for the 45 students enrolled in the Medical Explorers program, a joint effort between Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare-Elmbrook Memorial and the Boy Scouts of America. The program, which targets high schoolers interested in pursuing medicine, allows students from throughout Waukesha County to learn about a wide array of jobs, including anesthesiology, emergency medicine and family practice.

"It gives them an insight into real people and real jobs," said Sue Juntenen, program adviser and Elmbrook Memorial's public relations and communications manager.

Test driving a career

Juntenen said the Medical Explorers program has been around at Elmbrook for more than 20 years and always draws a lot of interest. She said 50 to 75 students - boys and girls - sign up for the October-to-March program every year and get an opportunity to "test drive a career."

"The kids love it," she said. "It's a chance to learn about the different jobs that are available in health care."

The group meets for an hour-long session once or twice a month with a professional in a different medical field, and students have a chance to hear about that field and ask questions. Some of the sessions include tours of hospital departments, while others might just be a lecture or a slide show. Juntenen said while students aren't required to attend all of the meetings, most of them do.

The students - who come from Brookfield, New Berlin, Menomonee Falls and other locales - said it's valuable to hear about a number of different medical careers.

"I think it's really nice to be able to get some experience in all the different areas of medicine," said Chris Krausert, 18, a student at Catholic Memorial High School in Waukesha.

Waukesha North student Brittany Mursch, 14, said it's neat to get "a perspective from each field" about what kind of classes different disciplines require. She said she's interested in becoming a paramedic, a nurse or an obstetrician.

Topics vary year to year

Juntenen said the program changes from year to year, but some of the more popular topics - including emergency medicine and plastic surgery - stay constant. She said the first few sessions are planned well in advance, but as the program progresses, she asks students what other areas of health care they'd like to hear about. This year, that has led to upcoming sessions on psychology and behavioral health, pharmacy and nursing.

While the Medical Explorers is one of the Scouts' most popular programs, students can pick from a number of other career-study options, said Connie Bielinski, the Exploring director and director of marketing for the Boy Scouts' Potawatomi Area Council. She said the medicine, law and engineering Explorer programs draw the most interest, but there are also programs covering police science, fine arts, veterinary medicine and the military.

"Everyone wants to be a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer," she said.

Students are recruited through career-interest surveys at their schools, and Bielinski said the program reaches almost all of the high schools in Waukesha County, including Brookfield East, Brookfield Central and Brookfield Academy. Explorers also extends to parts of Dodge, Jefferson and Walworth counties.

Students land in careers

Students pay a one-time fee of $7 and can sign up for as many Explorer programs as they want. Bielinski said about 600 students are enrolled in the Explorer programs, and many continue from year to year.

Bielinski said she's heard from parents that a lot of former Explorers eventually end up in the career they've studied.

That could turn out to be the case with 17-year-old Brian Kelly. Brian, another Catholic Memorial student, said he has only missed one Medical Explorers session so far.

"It helped me confirm the fact that I really want to do this for the rest of my life," he said.

More information

For details about the Boy Scouts' Explorers programs, contact Connie Bielinski at (262) 544-4881, ext. 25, or e-mail cbielins@bsamail.org.

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