Students learn about, excel in health science programs

By: Alex Szwarc, Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published February 4, 2019


FRASER/MACOMB TOWNSHIP — On Jan. 19, at Fraser High School, health science students from Macomb and St. Clair counties took part in the Michigan Health Occupations Students of America Future Health Professionals Region 4 Leadership Conference.

Nearly 900 students from 22 member schools competed for regional awards in more than 50 events, including knowledge tests medical and dental terminology tests.

One group that participated in the event was Dakota HOSA, or DHOSA, consisting of over 120 students from Dakota High School.

In the Dental Terminology event, two Dakota students — Alexa Cipponeri and Madison Cartwright — took the top two spots, respectively. Michael Fullerton, Spencer Wozniak and Kevin Jumaa took first place in the HOSA Bowl, which involves a written test prior to moving on to a question round, facing off against another team in a “Jeopardy!”-style format.

DHOSA is a student leadership organization for students enrolled in the medical academy. This is the students’ third year as part of the organization.

Marti Vaneenenaam-Iwanicki, the HOSA Region 4 Conference coordinator and coordinator at Fraser High School, has overseen the school’s HOSA organization since it was established 15 years ago. This school year, FHS has 60-plus members.

She identified her organization’s core values, as it pertains to HOSA, as majorly focusing on education, leadership, competition and community service. She said that while many student chapters statewide focus on competition, FHS students have a different passion.

“At Fraser, it really never has been about competition,” Vaneenenaam-Iwanicki said. “We’ve had some pretty big chapters, and most of the students care most about community service.

“I think they like helping others. Many of them, they want to get into the health professions and they’re about helping people. That’s what they like doing.”

This year, three Macomb County schools — Fraser, Dakota and Armada high schools — are partners with the Macomb County Health Department’s Medical Reserve Corps to provide emergency preparedness training for the surrounding community.

Armada was the first to join MCR, with Fraser jumping on board the last school year and Dakota joining this school year. MCR is also a HOSA competitive event.

Vaneenenaam-Iwanicki said MCR volunteers help and support law enforcement, as well as provide a variety of health-related needs, such as helping at warming shelters during frigid temperatures.

During the late-year holidays in 2018, her students — of which there are five core MCR members — did a “Let’s Talk Turkey” campaign, in which they sent notices to staff and community residents about safety techniques to remember while cooking turkey. The students looked at outcomes, which involved surveying district teachers prior to their experiences and finding out what they learned afterward.

FHS students’ biggest activity to date has revolved around sharing emergency preparedness presentations with district fifth-graders.

“They found out how much work it is,” she said. “It was a year-long commitment for them to actually do a lot of activities. … It’s been more of a competitive thing. I think it’s cool, and I’m trying to send a message that, hey, we’re doing something good in Macomb County. Hopefully those kids now will say, ‘Hey mom, I learned that and we should do this’ kind of thing.”

DHOSA advisor Julie Zemnickas indicated that HOSA provides students with networking and learning opportunities.

“At the competition, there was about 50 different categories of health care topics students can compete in,” she said.

Categories included dental terminology, human growth and development, pathophysiology and medical math.

“We placed in 24 different categories with 93 students,” Zemnickas said. “They also have health profession events where they have to do a test and a skill like clinical nursing, nursing assisting and EMT.”

Judges from the health care industry filled out skill-rating sheets which determined the score for individuals or teams.  

The next HOSA competition is the state leadership conference March 21-22 in Grand Rapids. After states is the international competition in Orlando, Florida, in June. Last year, DHOSA members attended internationals in Dallas.

“There are nine regions, and the top 10 from each region go on to states,” Zemnickas said.

​DHOSA’s goal is to provide students opportunities for hands-on experience in the medical field through competition. These competitions allow students to show what they know, step outside their comfort zones and find the larger meaning in the word “medicine.”

Zemnickas said the biggest benefit of students being in HOSA is, “They get to study the topics they are most interested in. It’s part of their resume building, so it’s their first professional organization they belong to.”

Vaneenenaam-Iwanicki said that HOSA prepares all students for their futures, regardless of whether they actually enter health-related fields.

“Even if some of them do not want to go into health care … just the prep work, organizing yourself and presenting yourself in front of others — that speaks volumes,” she said.