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Published on February 25, 2019

Doctors with an eye on the futureDoctors with an eye on the future

If you think back to your chosen career, do you wonder what it would have been like to get a bird’s eye view of it before you made that decision to head off to college?

Falmouth High School students who are considering a career in healthcare are getting that opportunity through MedStart, a collaborative program with Falmouth Hospital. Through this program, students spend three hours of in-depth time learning about their area of interest with a specialist, technician or nurse who works in that field. They shadow them, ask questions, observe procedures and tests while experiencing first-hand what it will be like to have that career.

The program also offers them an opportunity to apply for an internship in their chosen field that is a four-credit course during their senior year of high school.

MedStart is the brainchild of Keith Bleiler, MD, a Falmouth Hospital urologist, his wife Monica, and Janet Rocha, business teacher and internship coordinator at the high school.

“MedStart has been a wildly successful program to get high school students involved in the healthcare field,” said Dr. Bleiler. “This is largely due to the support of Falmouth Hospital, Falmouth High School and the Falmouth Hospital physicians.”

Falmouth Hospital providers who have taken part in MedStart are orthopedic surgeons Donald O’Malley, MD, and Paul Dimond, MD; vascular surgeon James Knox, MD, FACS, RT; anesthesiologist Mark Kamp, MD; and Mark Colluci, PA –C, a physician assistant with Robert Wilsterman, MD. Also participating were Debra Poletto, MD; David Urbach, MD; Matthew Limburger, MD; David Rancourt, MD; Valerie Garland, NP; and Stacy Hostetter, APRN. Falmouth Hospital Director of Volunteer Services Susan Hanley organizes the students and is also a vital part of the program.

Many nurses, techs, and staff in various hospital departments and specialties who have participated include physical therapy, surgery, nursing, radiology, information technology, food services, dietary, transport and JML.

“The providers who have participated in the program have given us great feedback,” said Monica. “MedStart gives them the freedom to teach and to share their thoughts about what spoke to them when they were deciding on a career in medicine. It has helped many of providers have fun at work because they love having the students.”

The Big Picture

MedStart exposes students to the world of medicine, said Monica.

“There are technicians, nurses, physical therapists, surgeons, specialists and specialties within specialties such as pediatric neurology, neonatal surgery, and the list goes on.”

Students initially visit the hospital on Career Day in November, which includes a tour, a presentation by Dr. Bleiler and a Cape Cod Healthcare video that gives them an overview of the hospital. If they decide they want to participate in MedStart, they must fill out an application and complete hospital paperwork that includes proof of immunizations and a confidentiality form.

Rocha coordinates the application process with Susan Hanley, the Falmouth Hospital director of Volunteer Services.

Once the application process is completed, they can enroll in one of three program dates, which are December, February and March.

“We take a maximum of 10 students per session,” said Rocha. “If the students who go in December want to go back in February and I have open spaces, they can do that. When they go back, they usually want to try a different area.”

A Student’s Perspective

Madeline Lane, 20, of Falmouth is pursuing a career in medicine, thanks to the support and experiences she received through the MedStart program. Lane, who is a sophomore at Simmons University in Boston majoring in a pre-PA (physician’s assistant) program, plans to go on to graduate school to become a physician’s assistant.

“The MedStart program is so important because you get to be placed directly in the hospital where you realize what your interests are,” said Lane. “I realized radiology was something that interested me, but I wanted to know more about what happened after the X-rays and how to actually repair the problems. So, I shadowed in orthopedics, got to see a lot of X-rays and became more and more interested in surgery.”

Lane went on to participate in the internship program in her senior year at Falmouth High School with Donald O’Malley, MD, a Falmouth Hospital orthopedic surgeon.

“I saw six surgeries,” said Lane. “They were carpal tunnels, total knee replacements and arthroscopic shoulder surgeries. It was awesome!”

During school vacations and in the summer, she shadows Dr. Bleiler, observing some of his surgeries and learning how to set-up for procedures as well as working as a medical assistant in his office.

“For a person like me, who specifically wants to have a career in the medical field and trying to get into a PA program, this is all going to help me out so much because I already have so many observation hours,” said Lane.