Campers learn about health professions

Laurie Stickler, assistant professor of physical therapy, introduces sHaPe campers to the profession.
Laurie Stickler, assistant professor of physical therapy, introduces sHaPe campers to the profession.

Forty students from Grand Rapids Public Schools are learning how to suture a banana, make their own sunscreen and learn about careers in the health field during a week-long day camp.

The fourth annual Summer Health Activities and Professions Exploration (sHaPe) Camp continues through July 18 at the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences. It is sponsored by the College of Health Professions and the Regional Math and Science Center. Faculty members from CHP and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences are leading classes.

Ranelle Brew, assistant professor and director of public health, said the camp is geared for students who are entering either the eighth or ninth grade, a key period when considering careers. Students attend free thanks to grants and sponsorships from local businesses and health care organizations.

Staff members at Mercy Health, one of the sponsors, are presenting the sHaPe students with careers not offered at Grand Valley. Brew said Mercy Health’s Saint Mary’s Campus has arranged for students to learn about careers in surgery, pharmacy, respiratory therapy among others.

“They have had time with surgical equipment and practiced suturing a banana, they’ve made their own sunscreen in the pharmacy and they’ve talked with the head of nutrition about healthy eating,” she said.

Meijer and the Meijer Healthy Living team has helped camp organizers by providing healthy lunches and snacks daily. Other sponsors are the Michigan Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, and Lake Michigan Credit Union.

Brew is conducting research to see if the camp has influenced a student’s decision to attend college and if his or her career choice leans toward health professions. During each year of the camp, students respond to surveys about health, being healthy and career interests. Brew and others are collecting that data for a longitudinal study. In August, she will start analyzing data from the first year of campers, who have now graduated from high school.