UAMS Regional Campuses Wraps Up Successful Year for MASH Program

By Chris Carmody

This year marked the 35th anniversary of the creation of MASH, which features summer enrichment camps that allow teens to participate in team-building exercises, attend field trips and interact with health care professionals.

The MASH program has served thousands of students since its inception in 1988. This year, the program offered camps in 19 cities across the state, hosted by UAMS’ eight Regional Campuses or by local hospitals or colleges. Most of the camps ran for two weeks, but a few sites held “Mini MASH” camps that condensed their activities into a single week.

Students take part in a casting activity at the MASH camp in Pine Bluff.

Students take part in a casting activity at the MASH camp in Pine Bluff.Image by Danielle Harris

During a two-week camp in Texarkana, students gained exposure to a wide variety of health careers, including medicine, nursing, dentistry, pharmacy and physical therapy. They also received practical training in procedures such as CPR and first aid.

One segment of the camp featured a trauma-scene simulation in which students learned how emergency workers would respond to a stabbing incident. The students assessed the scene, called for an ambulance and received guidance from medical professionals on how to treat the patient.

The MASH group then accompanied the ambulance to a local hospital’s emergency department, where the simulation continued. Physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists and other medical professionals talked to the students about the mock patient’s injuries and explained how they would respond if it were a real-life emergency.

Hannah White, a junior at Texas High School in Texarkana, said the trauma simulation was her favorite part of the camp.

“Seeing what would take place during those situations was fascinating,” she said. “First responders have to be able to move quickly because they have someone’s life in their hands every day.”

The Texarkana program also partnered with Christus St. Michael Hospital for a simulation center activity that allowed students to hone their CPR skills in a medical setting. They also learned about the childbirth process with the help of a maternal-care manikin.

White said these types of behind-the-scenes experiences gave her a different perspective into the work of medical professionals.

“The MASH experience was phenomenal, and I would do it every year if I could,” she said. “If you are unsure of which direction you want to go in the medical field, I promise this camp will help you find your way.”

Another highlight of the camp focused on the study of how hearts function. Matthew Nix, M.D., director of the Family Medicine Residency Program at the UAMS Southwest Regional Campus in Texarkana, held sonography and stethoscope sessions that taught students about the heart and its rhythms. They later conducted dissections on sheep and pig hearts, led by a perfusionist who explained how cardiac surgeries are performed.

Emily Thornton, a senior at Genoa Central High School in Texarkana, Arkansas, said she appreciated the hands-on lab experiences. Erin Spears, a junior at Genoa Central, said the program showed that the health care field offers many more career options than she had previously known.

“My experience with MASH was amazing,” she said. “It helped me to better understand which careers I’m interested in.”

In addition to providing exposure to health careers, the MASH program seeks to raise awareness of health-related issues that teens commonly face. The Texarkana camp covered topics such as smoking and vaping, drugs, alcohol, social media and bullying. Students also learned about ways to increase physical activity, eat healthily, reduce stress, and find a balance between the demands of school and life.

“We encourage healthy lifestyles and empower students to become advocates for their peers,” said Destiny Carter, education coordinator for the Southwest Regional Campus.

The MASH program is a collaborative effort backed by a variety of local, state and federal organizations, including the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Arkansas Farm Bureau, a longtime sponsor of the program, this year pledged a gift of $500,000 over five years to create the Farm Bureau Fund for Excellence, which will support health career recruitment programs such as MASH, as well as a related program geared for younger students, Community Health Applied in Medical Public Service (CHAMPS).

Hospital partnerships are also a vital part of these programs. During a MASH camp in Pine Bluff, students shadowed health professionals at Jefferson Regional Medical Center. The teens took part in several hands-on activities, including a lesson in which orthopaedic and spine specialists taught them how to properly place a cast on a patient.

“We had two weeks filled with fun, engaging and educational activities that sparked interest and motivated these future medical professionals of Arkansas,” said Danielle Harris, education coordinator for the UAMS South Central Campus in Pine Bluff.

These programs are supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an annual award totaling $2,308,000.00 with 50% financed with nongovernmental sources.