Medical Students Earn Valuable Insight Into Physician, Hospital Role

Four medical students recently completed a six-week summer Medical Education Community Orientation Program, gaining valuable insight into the medical field. Based at WCA Hospital, Brooks Memorial Hospital and Westfield Hospital, the medical students Laura Carlson, Chelsea Ryan, Jillian Smith and Alex Walker, rotated through both clinical and nonclinical areas of the local hospitals and physician medical office practices. The program emphasized the study of patient-oriented healthcare delivery and the relationship of the patient to the total healthcare system.

Coordinated through The Chautauqua County Health Network, MECO is a summer externship program that offers first and second year medical students who graduated from a Chautauqua County high school (and are in good academic standing) a unique educational experience not necessarily offered by a medical school curriculum.

WCA Hospital and Brooks Memorial Hospital in Dunkirk, are the coordinating sites of the program. Each coordinating hospital works with the medical student to develop a curriculum for the six-week program. Students rotate through departments at the coordinating hospitals and other area hospitals or primary care offices.

“The program allows medical students the opportunity to explore multiple disciplines while building relationships with Chautauqua County physicians,” explains Kerri Brown, MECO program coordinator. “The hospital-based orientation program provides our students with an invaluable, interactive experience in clinical and nonclinical settings both within and outside the hospital.”

Based on the student’s interest, the experiences could include exploring different departments within the hospital and/or clinics, observation and participation in physicians’ offices, and study of the function of health-related agencies and institutions within the community. During the six-week orientation, the four medical students observed in cardiology/catheterization lab, emergency, gastrointestinal care, obstetrics and gynecology, pathology, pediatrics, radiology, surgery, and physicians’ medical specialty practices in the area.

Laura Carlson, born and raised in Jamestown, attends Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine. Interested in family medicine, Chelsea Ryan attends Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. A Falconer resident growing up, Alex Walker is enrolled in medical school at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Medicine.

“I have always had an interest in science and learning,” said Jillian, a Jamestown High School graduate who attends medical school at LECOM. “My passion is to help others and comfort them during their time of need.”

Dr. Bert Rappole, director of WCA Hospital’s Medical Education Program, says the intent of the program is to engage medical students in a variety of ways to increase their awareness of the medical field while inspiring them to explore career options, locally.

“The orientation is a mutually beneficial program for the students and participating hospitals and physicians that gets students out of the books and into the hospital and physician offices where they can see patient care through the eyes of the provider,” Rappole said. “The students are able to discover career options, gain first-hand experience into the medical profession, and build professional ties to our community.”

“I had one of the most positive experiences when I began my medical career at WCA and the rest is history – I’ve never looked back,” adds Dr. Wolf-Dieter Krahn, a board-certified family physician in Jamestown who has practiced medicine in the area for more than 30 years.

The Medical Education Community Orientation Program is a full-time, six-week program. Each participant will be eligible to receive a stipend. Interested first- and second-year medical students who graduated from a Chautauqua County high school may apply by contacting Kerri Brown, MECO program coordinator, at 338-0010.