Leadership | 12.09.20
Rural Area Recruitment Program — Medical Staff Youth Advisory Board
In rural South Georgia, there is a little town named Vidalia. Does that ring a bell? It is the home of the Vidalia onion. It’s a friendly town located 90 miles west of Savannah, Georgia. There is no mall and only a handful of nice restaurants. Even though Vidalia boasts of a new state-of-the-art hospital, recruiting practitioners is difficult. We found that practitioners who grew up in Vidalia and returned here to practice tend to stay and thrive in the community.
In 2007, a Vidalia native and local physician, Dr. Geoff Conner, was in a nearby town and saw a billboard advertising a youth advisory board for a local bank. He went into the bank and requested more information about the program. They gave him detailed information, which he brought back to Vidalia and formed a committee to establish the Meadows Regional Medical Center (MRMC) Medical Staff Youth Advisory Board. The program’s goal is to expose the students to various healthcare careers, encourage their interest in healthcare careers, support them in their chosen career path, and recruit them back home to practice. In 2013, Vidalia native and local physician Dr. Susanna Meredith became the director of the program.
The application and selection process has criteria to determine the students selected to serve on the board. The first board in 2009 was comprised of 15 high school juniors and seniors from five area schools. It has become a competitive program and has grown each year. The 2019–
2020 youth board consisted of 33 students from eight schools and five counties. The eight include six public schools and two private schools.
The board meets the second Monday of each month September through April. Dinner is served at each meeting and a healthcare-related program is presented.
Past programs have included a behind-the-scenes tour of the hospital, roundtable discussions with practitioners, STD/pregnancy prevention, contagious diseases, CPR, first aid, emergency procedures, and a safety program. The behind-the-scenes tour includes the students dressing up in bunny suits to see the OR. The roundtable discussions have been compared to speed dating. Four or five students sit down with a healthcare professional to discuss the career path, education, training, and ask questions. After 10–15 minutes, the students move to the next table and healthcare professional. The healthcare professionals invited to the meeting are based on the group’s interests and vary each year. Nursing, pharmacy, physical therapy, nurse anesthetist, and physician assistant are usually top interests along with various physician specialties.
The topics and programs involve hands-on activities and fun, and the students are encouraged to shadow healthcare professionals. The shadowing program includes an additional process to ensure immunizations are current, confidentiality is understood, and that students are matched with a healthcare professional. Program alumni are encouraged to return for shadowing during summer breaks and school holidays.
In addition to the monthly programs and shadowing, the students can apply for scholarships. The MRMC medical staff awards at least two $1,000 scholarships each year and has awarded up to five $1,000 scholarships in a year. The medical staff funds the entire program and scholarships through medical staff dues. The hospital donates the conference room and supports the program through supplying the personal protective equipment, use of the facility for shadowing, shadowing identification badges, and related items.
The medical staff office was involved with the initial planning committee and continues to coordinate and support the program. As the students move on to college, the medical staff office stays in touch with them. Many of the students return to Meadows for clinical rotations in their professional programs. The medical staff office at Meadows also coordinates clinical rotations for medical and advanced practice students. Students returning to do clinical rotations are already familiar with the facility, physicians, and staff coordinating and onboarding them for rotations.
Since 2007, seven students have gone on to medical school and two to dental school. Five of the physicians are now in residency programs across the United States. Their names and contact information are provided to the Meadows recruiter for follow up. In addition to physicians, alumni include physician assistants, nurse practitioners, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, and many registered nurses, many of whom are now Meadows employees.
Hunter Richman is a physician assistant in the Meadows hospitalist program. Hunter attended an area high school and was a member of the 2011–2012 Meadows Medical Staff Youth Advisory Board. She attended Georgia Southern University and majored in kinesiology. She continued her education in the physician assistant program at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) — Georgia Campus in Atlanta. During her training, she returned to Meadows to complete three clinical rotations with MRMC physicians.
Upon her graduation from PA school, Meadows recruited her to the hospitalist program. It was exciting and rewarding to watch Hunter develop as a student and professional. When asked about the inﬂuence of the program, Hunter says, “It was a tremendous honor to be selected to be on the MRMC Youth Advisory Board as a high school junior. I grew up in a family of healthcare providers and I knew that my passion was within the medical field, but I was not quite sure what path fit me best. Through the Meadows Youth Advisory Board, I became aware of the vast array of occupations within healthcare. Luckily for me, one of the professions I learned about was a physician assistant.
The Youth Advisory Board was my first exposure of just how much collaboration happens within a medical team and a hospital system. I was intrigued by how PAs could play an integral part in helping provide expanded access to high-quality medical care in rural areas like I grew up in. Fast forward eight years, and you can find me rounding in the halls of the hospital I once toured as an eager high school student. The MRMC Youth Advisory Board provided me the necessary stepping stones into my current career. When I graduated from my physician assistant program in July 2019, I knew exactly where I wanted to start my career. I am so grateful to now practice as a hospitalist medicine physician assistant at Meadows Regional Medical Center. I could not be more proud to be a part of an organization that actively works to educate the youth in our community about potential professions within healthcare.”
Dr. Meredith says, “Upon returning to my hometown after completing medical school and residency, I was eager to get involved with the already in place youth advisory board. I was on a similar board for our county in high school, and it opened my eyes to the opportunities and resources our rural area provides that I would not otherwise have known. Coming home and practicing where my family lives and I went to school has shaped me into the physician I am. I owe so much to my teachers, coaches, and mentors. I love being able to give a little of that back to motivated and interested high school students and hopefully inspire them to pursue their dreams in healthcare or other fields. Our main goal through YAB is to start the spark of interest and fan the ﬂame as they shadow and learn about different fields. Our hope is they will pursue their education to the highest calling and then use their skills in their hometown or another underserved area. I am so fortunate to have this community to care for and raise my own children, and I look forward to working with the next generation of area students for many years to come.”
As an MSP involved with the program from the very start, I have had the opportunity to get to know many impressive students and have been rewarded with watching their dreams become realities. I am so proud and excited when one of our students returns to Meadows to practice. The program is very special to me and has touched me personally. My son Corey was a member of the 2010–2011 Medical Staff Youth Advisory Board. At the beginning of his senior year of high school, he was not sure of a career path. By the end of the Youth Advisory Board program, he was interested in nursing and declared as a pre-nursing student during his college orientation. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in nursing and went on to obtain his Master of Science in nursing. He is now licensed, certified, and practicing as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. My family will again benefit from this program as my niece was selected to serve on the board this upcoming year.
For more information, pictures, and videos, visit the MRMC MSYAB Facebook page.
This feature was originally published in the Q4 2020 issue of Synergy.
Karen Claxton, CPCS, CPMSM, FMSP, is the director of credentialing and medical staff operations at Meadows Regional Medical Center and a NAMSS Director at Large. Karen can be reached via email, on LinkedIn, or by phone at 912-535-5894.