New program gives students access to medical fields

Sahara Kilic lives in Skagway where there is only a clinic that provides health care, so she wanted to learn as much about the medical industry as she could.

That is why the 16-year-old took part in the Southeast Alaska Area Health Education Center (AHEC) — a program of Southeast Regional Resource Center (SERRC) — trip that brought in 15 students from Metlakatla, Yakutat and Skagway to Juneau to explore health care careers this week.

“I am undecided about what I want to study (in college),” Kilic, a junior at Skagway City School, said. “There is a big need for health care workers and it is something I have thought about doing.”

The program allows students from these areas, who do not have direct access to many different health care facilities to explore the options they have going forward. The students were able to explore Bartlett Regional Hospital for two days this week, took part in CPR training from Capital City Fire/Rescue staff and spent another day at the University of Alaska Southeast’s Technical Center. Students also visited the Pioneer Home, Southeast Radiation Oncology Center, Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium Dental, the Public Health Clinic (SEARHC), Juneau Alliance For Mental Health, Inc. (JAMHI) and Airlift Northwest.

“The idea is to get the students interested,” Joan Pardes, Director of AHEC, said.

Some of the students, like Lily Goebel, Danny Marsden and Jennifer Hansen, have family members in the medial industry, but were not entirely sure they wanted to get into that field.

“I hoped coming on this trip would spark something,” Goebel, a 17-year-old senior at Skagway City School, said.

The trip also opened their eyes to other positions within the medical industry.

“We got to go up front and behind-the-scenes,” Hansen, 15, a sophomore at Skagway City School, said. “We did not realize how many careers in the medical background are behind-the-scenes.”

The students said they met up with accountants, receptionists and others in the administration field.

“Those jobs are not appreciated like they should be,” Marsden, a senior at Metlakata High School said.

Marsden, 18, said he thought he was sure of what he wanted to do post high school, but after attending the trip, he may have changed his mind.

“I really thought I wanted to study one aspect of the medical field,” he said. “After meeting and hearing with the different people we did, I am thinking of changing my aspect.”

The group learned that many of the people they spoke to also changed their mind after learning about other medical fields.

“I bet 80 percent of the people we talked with told us they changed their degrees and found something they were more interested in,” Marsden said.

For Kilic, the trip was “100 percent worth it” and she found a part of the medical field that was particularly interesting.

“I think I want to concentrate on oncology now,” she said. “I for sure want to research it more.”

This was the first year for this particular trip, but the group of students think it should not be the last.

“Not everybody gets this kind of opportunity,” Marsden said, “I think if everybody heard what we got to do, they would hop right on it.”

• Contact reporter Gregory Philson at or call at 523-2265. Follow him on Twitter at @GTPhilson.

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