Rural Health Scholars Research Cancer at Summer Camp


The NE KY AHEC’s second Rural Health Scholars summer camp was hosted at the Center for Health Education and Research in Morehead from July 21-24. This year’s camp focus was on cancer research and careers. 

During the four-day camp, more than 20 high school students from northeastern Kentucky were introduced to the field of oncology by Susie Hamlin, an oncology nurse from St. Claire Regional Medical Center. Hamlin spoke to the students about what cancer is and how it affects the body, the patients, and their families. Dr. Anthony Weaver, a long-time member of the St. Claire medical staff and associate dean of the University of Kentucky Rural Physician Leadership Program in Morehead, then spoke about rural Kentucky’s cancer disparities and provided a brief introduction to research. 

Students became familiar with three types of cancer by participating in hands-on activities with family medicine residents from St. Claire Regional. Students biopsied a chicken thigh and sutured it back up, checked for lumps on male and female breast models, and took part in a lesson on lung cancer with actual pig lungs. 

Scholars were also divided into groups and each group was assigned a specific type of cancer to research. Among other things, each group was asked to discover where that cancer originates, how it affects the body, how it is treated, survival rates, and what existing research says about the cancer. Students then created a poster board as well as a PowerPoint in order to present their topic.

On the final day of camp, students were able to walk through a giant inflatable colon and learn about the different types of polyps that can form on the colon and how doctors look for and treat these polyps. Students presented their research topic to a panel of four judges, AHEC staff, fellow scholars, and family members. After the students’ presentations, Dr. William Murphy, a second-year St. Claire osteopathic family medicine resident and two-time cancer survivor, spoke about his personal dealings with cancer and becoming a physician. 

“At the end of camp, I felt like the students had a better understanding of cancer and the different career fields out there that deal with it,” said Lainey Mattox, health careers coordinator for the NE KY AHEC.

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