DHI Media Staff Writer

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VAN WERT —Austin Welker of Venedocia and an incoming freshman at Lincolnview High School is one of 38 students chosen to attend CampMed at the University of Toledo.

The 18th annual program at the University of Toledo Health Science Campus allows students to experience medical school with hands-on lessons and is taking place on Thursday and Friday.

“This is the age where kids start to think that they might want to go to college and what they might want to do with the rest of their lives,” said Kathy Vasquez, director of the UT and Ohio Area Health Education Center (AHEC) programs and UT’s associate vice president for government relations. “CampMed exposes them to the possibilities of the medical and science world because each of these students has shown promise in those academic areas.”

Welker has considered a career in doctoring in the future and thought the camp would be a good fit for him.

“It’s a nice once in a lifetime opportunity,” he said.

Welker first heard of the program from the junior high school guidance counselor when she came into his science class to tell the students about the program. He did not decide to apply for the program until his friend talked about it and the deadline was nearing.

“The fact that I was accepted is astonishing because I turned in my essay late, but they said they liked it, so it’s pretty humbling that I was accepted,” Welker said.

Applicants were also required to have a recommendation letter, which Welker asked for one from his science teacher.

“If it wasn’t for her, I don’t know if I would have been chosen to go,” Welker said.

CampMed, sponsored by the UT AHEC program, is a scholarship program at no cost to the students, most of who would be first-generation college students. AHEC, along with other programs in the country, strives to improve the health of individuals and communities by developing the health care workforce.

“We are focused on rural and under-served communities as well as minority groups that might not get this opportunity without CampMed,” Vasquez said. “This opens their eyes to a variety of experiences that are only possible in a hospital setting.”

Every year, 100 students vie for a spot at CampMed. Students come from 19 counties in northwest Ohio. Many are from districts with smaller science departments that have limited resources.

“Going into ninth grade, it is important for these kids to take advantage of every science and math class that is available so they can get into a college program that would make it possible to go to medical school,” Vasquez said. “The long-range goal of CampMed is to make sure students are thinking now about everything that is involved in becoming a physician.”

The students began Thursday morning with a packed agenda that included multiple interactions with UT medical students, physicians and professors. They will participate in a medical simulation at the Lloyd A. Jacobs Interprofessional Immersive Simulation Center. They will also tour an anatomy lab and experience life in the ER.

“I want to use this to its full potential,” Welker said.