Girls Exploring Medicine & Service (G.E.M.S.) Workshop was held August 26 to 28, 2011 on the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) campus. The event was developed through a collaboration with the Warroad Girls Lead program and medical student Erica Bohan, MPH, who is originally from Bemidji, MN.
Bohan is assigned to the community of Warroad, MN for her preceptorship experience in the new Rural Medical Scholars Program at the University of Minnesota Duluth Medical School. This course is comprehensive over the first two years of medical school and once completed Bohan will have spent a total of six weeks working with Warroad's only full-time family practice physician, Dr. Deborah Erickson.
On her outreach in Warroad, Bohan had the chance to work with a girl's leadership program called Warroad Girls Lead. This program is an extracurricular activity for high school girls in Warroad who are interested in leadership training and community advocacy.
Bohan said that working with this group opened her eyes to several needs in the community and particularly within this population. With a total population of 1,781 and its location in the northernmost part of the state, Warroad is not only rural but remote. Besides just the one full-time physician, the closest four-year university is over 140 miles away in Bemidji.
"It has come to my attention that these young women are under the impression that their career opportunities are limited to those in nursing, teaching, or secretarial work. For many of the students, the most convenient and accessible post-secondary education option is the technical college located in Thief River Falls," said Bohan.
Through collaboration with the leader of the Warroad Girls Lead program, Kim Hruba, Bohan invited girls in the Warroad Girls Lead program to attend a pilot program at the UMD Medical School campus called G.E.M.S., a hands-on workshop in health careers.Six girls traveled to Duluith with Hruba and Dr. Erickson. The girls were invited to stay at the homes of several of Erica's fellow female medical students during the two nights that they were in Duluth. Dr. Joy Dorscher, with the Center for American Indian and Minority Health at UMD, hosted a "get-to-know-you" dinner at her home on Friday evening.
During the workshop, the girls toured both the College of St. Scholastica and the University of Minnesota Duluth, as well as a tour and female physician shadow at Saint Mary's Duluth Clinic and the Hope Clinic.
They participated in various hands-on activity stations, including suturing pig's feet, delivering a baby in a simulation laboratory, viewing pathology specimens, and reading X-Rays. During lunch Lori Larson from Central Minnesota Area Health Education Center and a group of medical students talked about the many different pathways to health care careers and the support that is available.
"I think it is crucial to not only give the girls a chance to explore medicine and meet some inspirational female physicians, but to also ensure that they have access to resources and information about how to pursue a career in medicine should they be interested," said Bohan.