Elementary students graduate from Rocky Vista University Young Doctors Academy

Students in the Rocky Vista University Young Doctors Academy program prepare to graduate, Ivins, Utah, May 10, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Kristen Kaiser, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Over 50 elementary students have graduated from Rocky Vista University’s Young Doctors Academy, which aims to inspire kids to become doctors and teach them about medicine.

A student graduates from the Rocky Vista University Young Doctors Academy program, Ivins, Utah, May 10, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Kristen Kaiser, St. George News

A select group of 5th graders from Red Mountain Elementary School and Diamond Valley Elementary School were able to participate in the program, which lasted from January to May.

Students were taught about the human body, learning about things like the chambers of the heart, parts of the brain, germs and bloodborne pathogens. At the end, each student had to research and present on a different medical specialty, Jennifer Leavitt, principal of Red Mountain Elementary School, said.

“It gives them an opportunity to see what some of their options are for education as they get older, and I think it exposes them to the field of doctors and gives them some background on what it looks like to become a doctor,” she said.

The program is run by Rocky Vista medical students in the academic medicine and leadership track. Four students led in teaching the program, though 20-30 students helped.

The program is free to the elementary students, who apply to the program by writing an essay about why they are interested in participating. The elementary school administration then goes through the applications and chooses 30 students from Red Mountain and 26 from Diamond Valley to participate.

Students in the Rocky Vista University Young Doctors Academy program listen to a speaker during the graduation ceremony, Ivins, Utah, May 10, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Kristen Kaiser, St. George News

Students who are selected then attend a class for about an hour a week. Every two weeks students attend the class on the Rocky Vista campus where they learn about the different parts of the body, and on the alternating weeks, student teachers from the university travel to the school to teach the students about the medicine that they are specializing in.

“They really tried to make it feel like a mini medical school,” Rocky Vista marketing director Kristen Kaiser said.

The university started the program with hopes to inspire the next generation of doctors and to spark interest in their current medical students to become physician educators.

“I’ve read lots and lots of medical school application essays, and it is amazing how many essays I read about students determining that they wanted to be a physician when they were around this age group,” Dr. David Park, vice president and dean of Southern Utah campus, said.

As a Title I school, Leavitt said that the program has given some students with lower income the chance to see what is possible for their future, an opportunity they may not have otherwise had.

“For some of our kids it was just something that I don’t feel like they would have had a chance to experience until they were much older,” Leavitt said. “I think it’s great for them to get the exposure at this age so they can start thinking about what they want to do when they get older.”

The student teachers of the Rocky Vista University Young Doctors Academy program at the graduation ceremony, Ivins, Utah, May 10, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Kristen Kaiser, St. George News

While the medical students teaching the program do not receive credit for participating, it does allow them to learn about teaching and provides them with an experience to include on their resume and helps prepare them for residency programs.

“Working with the young doctors has been one of the most rewarding parts of medical school for me thus far. … I’m also routinely blown away by how smart they are. They have such detailed and specific questions that I would often find myself going beyond my prepared material to answer their question. They remind how excited I should about being here at school learning about how to be a doctor,” Joel Speir, a student teacher for the Young Doctors Academy, said.

The graduation took place May 10 at the university’s Southern Utah campus, where family and friends of the graduates filled the auditorium. Several speakers had the chance to share how proud they were of the students and their eagerness to learn, including Park and several of the student teachers, Kaiser said.

Each child’s name was called individually and they approached the stage to receive a certificate of completion, a Young Doctors Academy T-shirt and to shake hands with the dean and the medical students who helped run the program.

“I’ve never seen our auditorium so filled,” Kaiser said.

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Twitter: @STGnews | @MikaylaShoup

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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