HOSA students gain medical experience, networking skills

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published February 25, 2015

 Members of Fraser High’s HOSA organization show off their medals from a recent competition. In back, from left, are Kyla Brown, Rachael Griffith, Savannah Fraser and teacher Marti Iwanicki. Front, from left, are Katie Nowicki, Hope Schop, Katlyn Mullins and Allie Edenstrom.

Members of Fraser High’s HOSA organization show off their medals from a recent competition. In back, from left, are Kyla Brown, Rachael Griffith, Savannah Fraser and teacher Marti Iwanicki. Front, from left, are Katie Nowicki, Hope Schop, Katlyn Mullins and Allie Edenstrom.

Photo by Nick Mordowanec

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FRASER — The journey toward a medical career can be a long and arduous one, but students at Fraser High School are getting firsthand experience.

Students who are part of Health Occupations Students of America, or HOSA, have a vested interest in the program because of both personal and team-oriented preferences.

Students involved in HOSA, which fits into the arena of health science education, chase their own dreams while being part of a collective. Some students are interested in pharmacology, while others are entertained by the thought of working in sports medicine or ophthalmology.

Marti Iwanicki is a health science educator at the school, and she is also the HOSA advisor. She began teaching there in 1999 and didn’t know the extent of what HOSA was until a few years later.

That was partly because the school didn’t engage in HOSA-related competitions and symposiums for many years.

Iwanicki said the organization was alive at Fraser High in the 1980s, then disappeared for a while until it was reinstated around the 2003-04 school year.

Now, in its 10th year of offering competitions, HOSA has become a mainstay in not only the curriculum but also in regional and national competitions — all for the betterment of students’ passions and future career choices.

“For me as a health science teacher, it’s a really great springboard to teach some of the soft skills in professionalism,” Iwanicki said. “Also, it’s a way for the kids to share their knowledge. Some of these folks, they may not be the greatest athletes so they may not get any accolades for being an athlete or a musician. They are recognized for their knowledge and their skills, so that’s what we’re looking for.

“It also gives them some good networking skills and people skills to be able to talk to adults.”

Fraser HOSA has 56 members, most of whom are seniors. Freshmen have competed for the school during competitions, which really put skills to the test.

Even non-health students who have an interest in health care can participate.

Preparation and enthusiasm are at the crux of what makes the members thrive.

“Personally, I know I want to be a pharmacist when I’m older, so I think it’s a great opportunity to have something that can get me started in high school,” said member Rachael Griffith. “A lot of other high schools don’t necessarily have the chance to begin their education earlier (and) explore their options, but HOSA has helped me to understand that, yes, I want to go into the medical field, and it helps me learn about it sooner than I would.”

Hope Schop said she also wants to enter the medical field, and being in HOSA gives her the ability to learn more “before you actually pay thousands of dollars to go to college.”

Iwanicki said HOSA consists of multiple elements, such as leadership training, community service and education. The biggest aspect, though, is competition because it’s “when you get a chance to show off your knowledge and skills early, and learn some of the skills that you’re going to be using in this future career.”

There are eight regional conferences and this is the fifth year Iwanicki has been a conference coordinator. It is also the fifth year that Fraser High School — which is part of Region 4 — has held a regional leadership conference.

The event was held Feb. 7, and nearly 700 students from 25 member schools competed for regional awards in 44 events, including sports medicine, medical math, nurse assisting, physical therapy and veterinary science.

Finalists are eligible for the State Leadership Conference, which will be held April 16-17 in Traverse City. The National Leadership Conference takes place in Anaheim, California, in June.

Fraser students performed well, as 14 competed and 13 finished in the top 10 in various categories. Iwanicki said that during the school’s first year of competition, nobody qualified for nationals. At least one person has qualified each year since.

HOSA State Director Mark Burley said HOSA membership has increased over the years. Michigan has a record 5,201 members this year, including 4,192 students who participated in eight Michigan regional leadership conferences in an attempt to qualify for the state conference.

Charlene McPeak, dean of health and public services at Macomb Community College, said the college partners with HOSA at competitions and works to provide students and staff with information. They also fill students in about opportunities and the application process.

“The thing is, from my standpoint, is that HOSA makes them very much aware of what’s involved in health care,” McPeak said. “They are in health occupations programs at the high school level, and by the time they are ready to come to the community college, they have a much better understanding of what health care is about and what these different occupations entail than, say, students who don’t belong to HOSA or see what HOSA has to offer.

“It makes them more educated into what health careers are, and they have a better understanding of whether they want to go into a health career or not, and how much work it is.”

Savannah Fraser, who finished first in the sports medicine competition, said the competitions are a great way to meet others and develop relationships with students and  renowned speakers and take part in leadership roles.

“The stakes start to get a little bit higher (in national competitions) because there are some competitions that, if you win a gold medal in that competition, you get scholarships,” Fraser said.

HOSA at Fraser is more than just medical education and evaluation; it’s also about helping others.

One project involved making 300-plus valentine cards for military veterans, while another raised more than $1,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Another was the recent Teens for Jeans — a national campaign in partnership with Aeropostale and DoSomething.org. The initiative encourages helping others in need, and the school aimed to collect 200 pairs of jeans that could be distributed to global shelters.

At press time 232 pairs were collected and they were still collecting more.

HOSA competition results can be found at www.michiganhosa.org/.

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