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About the organization:Missouri Area Health Education Centers are dedicated to enhancing access to quality healthcare, particularly primary and preventative care by growing and supporting Missouri's health care workforce. Visit the organization website.
(Travis Brown, pictured left, conducting a mink dissection.) How did you first get started volunteering with AHEC? And, can you tell us how AHEC supports your volunteer efforts?I first got started with the Area Health Education Center (AHEC) in Saint Joseph, Missouri, during my freshman year in college. In St. Joseph, I would visit local schools and provide small presentations about the body or host health professionals to share with students varying perspectives about careers in medicine. I really enjoyed the experience in St. Joseph, and when I came to Kansas City, I began looking for ways to continue visiting schools and educating students about health care professions. I connected with the Missouri AHEC office in Kansas City, and since then I have partnered with AHEC to collaborate with schools that are interested in learning about science and health care, specifically. AHEC is a great organization for this and has provided an outlet for me to teach about areas that I am interested in, while providing an audience and the support to provide programming.
Why do you enjoy volunteering for this particular organization/program?I enjoy working with the AHEC because they allow me to teach what I am interested in, they provide all the materials I need for each presentation, and they are able to put me in contact with students and teachers that have a desire to learn about health care.Why is it important for people to get involved and give something back to the community?Volunteering your time is a great way to learn about and get to know your community. The more you learn, the more you are able to recognize the specific needs of your community and get involved in projects that you enjoy.
How does it make you feel to be able to help out?I have always enjoyed teaching others about science and medicine. It is especially rewarding when the students you are presenting to are really interested in what you are teaching. More than anything, I just have a lot of fun going out to schools and talking with kids about what they want to do when they grow up.
How do you know you have truly made a difference?The one constant I hear at almost every school is a student saying they could never become a doctor because they are not smart enough or because it is too hard. I never walk away from a group of kids before I address their concerns. I try to instill in students that if they truly want to do something, and if they are willing to put in the time and effort, then there is little that will stop them. I would like to think that, in addition to sparking interest in a future in health care, that I also offer motivation for their futures.
Can you share one of your favorite volunteering experiences? What makes that situation stand out as memorable?One of the most memorable experiences occurred while in St. Joseph. I was completing a brain dissection with students and pointing out important areas of the brain and their function. After I had completed the lab, a teacher with aphasia came up to me and explained how a stroke had damaged the left side of her brain. She thanked me and told me how my presentation would allow her and her students to better understand her speech problem. This experience stuck with me because it showed how knowledge about the human body can actually reassure and comfort people who suffer from an illness.
What has volunteering taught you? What have you learned about yourself and/or others?Through volunteering with the AHEC I have found how much fun teaching can be. I feel it has played a role in growing my interest to work in an academic setting when I graduate from medical school and finish my residency training.
How can others get involved?Anyone interested in health care can get involved with AHEC. Go to www.mahec.org, find an office near you, and contact the staff to ask how you can help. Most areas are in need of individuals willing to provide educational presentations or lend a hand with events.
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