Steve LaTurco, a Med-Start alumnus, talked to the students during the career chat. LaTurco is now the assistant principal.
Photo by Varun Bajaj
By Sierra Schulze

High school students from across Arizona have the chance to experience what it’s like to work in the healthcare field through a hands-on health and science summer program at the University of Arizona.

The six-week long program, which kicked off June 3, helps high school students entering their senior year enhance their skills and desire to be in the medical field.  They explore different UA health programs such as, medicine, pharmacy, public health, and nursing. The program is also offered in Phoenix. 

Med-Start gives students a chance to explore their interests, said program coordinator Alma Aguirre-Cruz.

“The students have an interest in the healthcare field, but they get to learn what they want to be,” she said. 

The program started in 1969 to train minority students from rural and economically disadvantaged areas who will be the first in their families to attend college. 

Jacquel Rivers, a senior at Baboquivari High School in Sells, Ariz., discovered the program early.

“I heard about the program when I was a freshman and I was really interested in it,” Rivers said. “I couldn’t wait to get started as a junior.”

Participants might have a particular career in mind, but might find a new interest through the program. 
Nadia Jose, another student from Baboquivari High School, said she wanted to be a pediatrician, however she is aware of other possibilities.

“I know there’s other things I can go into,” Jose said.  “This will give me more [information] about it.”  

Med-Start participants are provided with college-level coursework in chemistry and English and can earn college credit.
Alma Aguirre-Cruz
Med-Stat coordinator
Photo by Keith Perfetti
A typical week consists of presentations on health careers, paired with college workshops, homework and weekend activities. 

Off-campus activities consist of tours of healthcare and research facilities, including the health center at Northern Arizona University, which help prepare the students for work in the medical field. 

“You get a taste of what you’re going to do for your career and the rest of your life,” said Alexandra Rivera, a student from North High School in Phoenix.

Joi Nipales, also from Baboquivari High School, expects to make the best of her time at UA. 

“It’s very fun because you get to meet new people and actually experience college life,” Nipales said.

The students are required to stay in residence halls on campus to get the full experience of a college student. 

This is the first time Rivera has ever been away from her mother for a long period of time. A few days into the program she was a bit home sick.

“Friends help out a lot,” Rivera said. “They take your mind off of everything.”

After completing the program most of the participants continue on to study in the healthcare field, even at UA.

"About 90 percent of the students come back," Aguirre-Cruz said. 

Rivers hopes to be one of those people.

“I hope to pursue my dreams of being a cardiovascular surgeon and to get the credits,” Rivers said. “Also to be recognized at U of A because this is where I want to go.”

Although much of the six weeks is full of hard work and extensive training, many participants build lasting friendships, Aguirre-Cruz said.

“The most exciting part of this program has been meeting all of these people of different ethnicities and just hanging out,” Rivers said. “Being a student in college, even though I’m not in college yet, having this experience has been awesome.”



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