Mercer University School of Medicine and the Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center virtually welcomed 47 students, representing 21 counties including 16 from rural and underserved communities in Georgia to a week-long medical camp focused on education surrounding COVID-19. Mercer Med Camp began in 2018 as a Distinction in Service to the Community (DISC) Project by two Mercer Medical School students at Dalton Middle School. With the many challenges that the pandemic has brought for in-person events, Mercer University School of Medicine (MUSM) and The Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center (GRHIC) teamed up to take Med Camp virtual and offer it to students in rural and underserved communities throughout Georgia. Both partners have a commitment to resolve the grand challenges of healthcare in rural Georgia through education, research, community engagement and promoting STEM education, and activities, to middle and high school students as an important part of their missions. Tori Culpepper, the Director of Pipelines, PTIP and Outreach worked with members of the faculty and staff to develop a plan and curriculum for a week-long camp introducing students to reliable and scientific information concerning COVID-19.
On Monday, students joined Dr. Gretchen Bentz and medical students Roxie Laxo-Gonzales, MS2 and Kendra Moore, MS2 to learn about the transmission of germs, proper hygiene as well as activities to lower the risk of transmission. Students and their medical student mentors participated in experiments to show the ease and prevalence of germ spread and made soap to demonstrate proper handwashing.
On Tuesday, Dr. Lynn Denny and Les Evans from Georgia Partners in TeleHealth explained symptom onset, testing and demonstrated the capabilities of telemedicine. Students and mentors built a COVID virus.
On Wednesday, Dr. David Baxter and Christian Reinhardt, MS3, taught symptom management and quarantine with a really fun game. The students then did activities identifying taste and smell to demonstrate how and why those senses are affected by the COVID virus. The students finished the day with a social distancing activity.
Thursday was a big day with Dr. James Drummond explaining how vaccines are developed and how they work. Dr. Drummond taught students how to recognize misinformation regarding vaccines and the basic concepts behind vaccination, their testing and approval. The students and their mentors had a great pathogen and antibody activity along with a demonstration of how herd immunity works. The students demonstrated their vaccine proficiency with a concluding game of vaccine trivia.
Friday rounded out the week’s activities with Chris Scoggins, MPH, who talked to the students about COVID and the community. Through games and activities, he demonstrated health disparities, social determinants of health and how to recognize and become a trusted health driver in the community. The students and mentors also explored the world of healthcare careers with SOWEGA AHEC Health careers recruiter, Ismael Haynes.
The Med Camp cohort will continue with quarterly activities from MUSM and GRHIC throughout the next year. If all goes well, the plan is to offer a live event on the Mercer Campus and continue to provide a virtual experience for those students unable to attend the in-person events.