Hospital addressing need for rural doctors through MASH program - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

Hospital addressing need for rural doctors through MASH program

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NEWPORT, AR (KAIT) – The need is growing for more medical professionals in rural areas, so one local hospital has brought back a program to motivate the next generation of health care workers.

Harris Hospital in Newport has partnered with UAMS to once again offer the MASH program, or Medical Applications of Science for Health. The goal is to inspire high school students to pursue a career in medicine, and it appears to be working.

"We know that in the next decade, we are going to face a severe shortage of all health care providers – not just physicians, but allied health professionals also," says Rebecca Pearrow, the hospital's marketing director. "The intention is to allow students the opportunities to get some career exposure in all different fields of medicine."

The program this year included at least 10 students, including Aly LaFarlette of Jonesboro. The high school senior hopes to follow in her family's footsteps and become a nurse.

"My sister's a nurse. I have a lot of nurses in my family, so it's just kind of in my blood," LaFarlette says.

She says she's surer of her goal to become a nurse now, having almost completed the two-week MASH program.

"There are so many things you can do under nursing, just like there are so many things you can do under radiology or surgery," she says. "Everything branches out, and from that it just goes out from there. It's just endless possibilities."

During the past few days, students like Regan Williams – a sophomore at Newport High School – have learned what it takes to become everything from a veterinarian, to a surgeon, to an EMT.

"I went into this undecided," Williams says, "but I'm really starting to lean towards going to medical school definitely and becoming a doctor, probably in private practice."

The students have also gotten to observe a few procedures, including several child births and a cataract removal. These experiences have assured Chris Melton, a student at Jonesboro High School, that surgery is his calling.

"You can change someone's life in surgery in particular," Melton says. "You can save someone's life, and it's where the action is in the hospital."

Despite having different interests professionally, the students all seem to agree that giving up two weeks of their summer vacation to work in a hospital was worth it.

"It's a wonderful program," LaFarlette says. "It's so much fun, and I recommend it for everybody that's even the slightest bit interested in medicine."

Harris Hospital now plans to offer the two-week program every summer. Next year, the hospital hopes to double the number of participants.

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