By Faye Fujimoto

Arizona Summer Wildcat

After serving as a camp counselor at a leadership camp, Fai Mo knew he wanted to pursue a career in pediatrics.

He enrolled in the UA's Med-Start program, which introduces Arizona high school students to health fields, in the summer of 1991 to chase that goal. He liked it so much he went back this year as a counselor.

"The Med-Start program has opened my eyes to various medical fields and the dedication it would take to continue and attend medical school," Mo said.

Since his participation in the Med-Start program, Mo has decided to pursue his career in the medical profession but through a different field, electrical engineering.

He said he liked the science and technological aspects of engineering (creating the latest in medical technology) and the fact that engineering would still provide him with a solid base if he chose to pursue a career in the medical field.

The Med-Start program was developed over 25 years ago to improve health care in rural and economically disadvantaged areas and to increase the number of minority health care professionals in Arizona, said program coordinator Linda Don.

It was originally instituted in each of the three state universities, but due to federal cuts, the program has now become a part of the Minority Affairs Office in the UA College of Medicine.

Students eligible for Med-Start are Arizona high school students between their junior and senior years who are either minorities or whose families are at lower income levels, Don said.

The Med-Start program has been successful, she said, noting that several years ago a study showed that 80 percent of former Med-Start students continued their education after high school.

There are 58 students participating in Med-Start this year, who are put through a tough schedule during their six-week stay at the UA's Yavapai residence hall.

Every weekday, they are up at 8 a.m. to attend a series of lectures about CPR, first aid, and vital signs training. Students are taught in the actual classroom used by first- and second-year medical students.

After the lectures, the students have group meetings to discuss the day's events and upcoming events. From there, they go to an English class.

After their class gets out around 5 p.m. they are generally free, except on Wednesday nights from 7-8:30 p.m., when they have a minority writer visit them and read his or her work and on Thursday nights from 7-9 p.m., when they attend a Spanish/English medical terminology class.

Jesus Hernandez, a junior at Kofa High School in Yuma, said, "I think the medical terminology class has been helpful because I live in Yuma and some of the people do not speak English. My mother can only speak Spanish and I think if something were to happen to her, it would be important for the doctor or nurse to be able to communicate with her in Spanish."

Last Friday, the Med-Start students assisted with physical examinations of pre-school children entering the Pascua Yaqui Head Start program. Students assisted in taking vital signs such as eyesight and giving urine tests.

They also were given a cultural sensitivity class before they visited the site. Native Americans from the Pascua Yaqui Head Start program visited the students before their arrival to prepare them for cultural differences for example, shorts above the knee were not to be worn.

Eunice Lopez, a junior at Tucson's Amphitheater High School who wants to pursue a career in neo-natology, said she learned that the Pascua Yaquis do not like to expose their shoulders and like to touch each other to show affection.

Lopez said it is important for students to be culturally aware of the Native American traditions and respect them.

A graduation ceremony for the Med-Start students has been scheduled for July 29, where students will be presented with a certificate for completing the program.

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