Hospital addressing need for rural doctors through MASH program

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

Harris Hospital in Newport has partnered with UAMS to onceagain offer the MASH program, or Medical Applications of Science for Health. Thegoal is to inspire high school students to pursue a career in medicine, and itappears to be working.

"We know that in the next decade, we are going to face asevere shortage of all health care providers – not just physicians, but alliedhealth professionals also," says Rebecca Pearrow, the hospital's marketingdirector. "The intention is to allow students the opportunities to get somecareer 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 followin 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, havingalmost completed the two-week MASH program.

"There are so many things you can do under nursing, justlike 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 justendless possibilities."

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

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

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

"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 thehospital."

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

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

Harris Hospital now plans to offer the two-week programevery summer. Next year, the hospital hopes to double the number ofparticipants.

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