A dozen high school students from Umatilla and Morrow counties were among the 37 chosen from across the state to participate in the 27th annual MedQuest Health Career Exploration Camp. In addition, two local residents — who are currently working or studying for careers in the health care field — have been selected to serve as camp counselors.
Based at Eastern Oregon University in La Grande, the special summer camp is offered to students interested in pursuing a career in the medical field. The Northeast Oregon Area Health Education Center announced that local students selected to participate in the June 16-21 camp include Brooklynn Been, Kyra Ford, Nicole Lee, Ashlynn Madril, Sidney Schreier and Natalie Sieders, all of Pendleton High School; Venus Gonzalez and Cindy Quezada, both of Hermiston High School; Edith Gonzalez, Irrigon High School; Yeidi Ramos Mendoza, Riverside Jr./Sr. High School; and Hunter Nichols and Hannah Palmer, both of Heppner Jr./Sr. High School.
A past MedQuest camp participant, Marti Erice is returning for a third year to serve as a camp counselor. The 2015 Pendleton High School graduate is a certified nursing assistant at St. Anthony Hospital. Erice plans to attend nursing school in the future.
Yessenia Garcia-Sanchez, who had the unique honor of being selected to participate as a MedQuest camper in both 2016 and 2018, is new to the camp staff team this year. A 2018 Umatilla High School graduate, Garcia-Sanchez earned dual credits at Blue Mountain Community College, where she is currently studying to obtain an associate’s degree. She hopes to attend the Oregon Health & Science University School of Nursing at La Grande.
During the camp, students will engage in a variety of unique medical experiences, including job shadows, panel discussions with local health care providers, tours of medical facilities and more. Many past campers have gone on to pursue careers as doctors, nurses, dentists, physical therapists and other health care professions.
NEOAHEC selected the applicants based on extracurricular involvement, essays, academic performance and passion for the health care field.
With a shortage of people in the health care field, especially in rural areas, Brittany Hargrove said the program contributes to the philosophy of “growing your own” health care professionals. The hope is that many of them will return to work in underserved communities.
The camp, Hargrove said, provides an immersive experience of life on a college campus and offers a clearer picture of work in medical careers. In addition, it often leads to an increased passion to pursue a career in a rural health care setting.
Many are health care workers who have been supportive of the program, including Dr. Don Benschoter. A former NEOAHEC board member, the retired Pendleton dentist provided a substantial scholarship donation to assist with tuition for students in need.