Family Medicine Summer Academy introduces students to possibilities of primary care

Over the course of two weekends, the UNC Family Medicine Summer Academy hosted a total of 14 recent high school graduates from rural North Carolina. All of these students have an interest in a future career in medicine.

Family Medicine Summer Academy introduces students to possibilities of primary care click to enlarge Kyle Melvin and Catherine Coe with students from the first UNC Family Medicine Summer Academy
Family Medicine Summer Academy introduces students to possibilities of primary care click to enlarge Catherine Coe looks on as a camper takes the vital signs of a standardized patient

By Jamie Williams, jamie.williams@unchealth.unc.edu

Every summer, UNC’s campus hosts camps of all kinds. Just one has recent high school graduates learning suturing technique in the UNC School of Medicine Surgical Skills lab. Over the course of two weekends, the UNC Family Medicine Summer Academy hosted a total of 14 recent high school graduates who are interested in a future career in medicine.

The camp, which is in its first year, specifically recruits students from rural parts of North Carolina. The goal is to expose these students to medicine and to mentors who can help them along the way.

“We want to ensure that students from rural parts of our state have an equal chance to succeed. Getting them in the door for an event like this, and also providing them with mentorship and guidance as they progress into college can help do that,” said Kyle Melvin, MD, a recent UNC School of Medicine graduate and current resident in the Department of Family Medicine.

Melvin, who grew up in Beaver Dam, NC, a small community in Cumberland County, was among the first class of the UNC School of Medicine’s Fully Integrated Readiness for Service Training (FIRST) Scholars program, which allows students to graduate from medical school in three years before going into the UNC Department of Family Medicine’s residency program and on to service in a rural part of North Carolina.

He started the Family Medicine Summer Academy along with Catherine Coe, MD, chief resident in the Department of Family Medicine.

“We need to keep building the pipeline from rural North Carolina to medical school,” Coe said. “We know that students who are exposed to medicine early are more likely to go into it.”

The 14 students accepted into the Summer Academy this year have all recently graduated high school. Most will be attending colleges, universities, or community colleges here in North Carolina. Melvin and Coe did outreach to schools throughout the state, working with college advisors and guidance counselors who nominated students. Once students were nominated, they then went through an application process. Coe said many of the applicants mentioned that this opportunity was unlike anything they had access to in their hometowns.

The experience is free of charge for the campers and sponsored by the Department of Family Medicine and the UNC School of Medicine’s Office of Rural Initiatives.

During camp, students received three days of hands-on workshops, shadowing, and lectures. They learn how to take vital signs, perform basic suturing, and receive tips on things like resume writing. There is also an interprofessional panel with students from across multiple health affairs schools at UNC.

“I think it’s important to show that you don’t have to be a doctor to make a major impact in our health care system,” Coe said. “For us, a win is getting them into any of the health professions and serving here in North Carolina.”

Following the conclusion of the camp, Melvin will serve as an advisor to the students, staying in touch through their college experiences to check in, provide guidance, and serve as a reference when needed.

“Being from a rural background myself, I understand that some students don’t have the mentors that they need to show them the path towards medical school. I’m excited to be that person for these students and show them what it takes to be successful in medical school or whatever they choose,” Melvin said.

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