Interested in becoming a doctor or nurse? Want to improve your health care knowledge and apply it to your job? Maybe you want to know more about the opioid epidemic or aging successfully?
Southwestern Colorado Area Health Education Center has a course for you.
For eight weeks, the free Mini Med School program brings presentations about health-related topics to communities around Colorado via live broadcast from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Locally, classes are broadcast at the Commons Building in Durango, in Cortez and in Silverton.
The speakers are CU professors, and the topics are different every year, said Karen Rider, education liaison for the Southwestern Colorado Area Health Education Center.
“These speakers are so engaging. The fact that you’re getting these professors at CU and Anschutz Medical Campus – they’re on the cutting edge of information, so you’re getting the latest and greatest of information on whatever topic they’re talking about,” she said.
The courses, which began Sept. 6 with a talk about the current opioid crisis, include topics such as medical ethics (Sept. 27); what science tells us about how to lose weight and keep it off forever (Oct. 11); emergency medicine (Oct. 25); and how doctors diagnose (Nov. 1).
Dr. Jeff Wallace presented “The Secrets of Successful Aging” on Sept. 13. Wallace, a specialist in geriatric medicine, covered a host of aging issues in his hourlong talk: Mental health and aging, vitamins, diet and exercise were some of the topics he touched on. The presentation was followed by a 30-minute question-and-answer session.
Rider said that about 750 people were reached during the presentation. The 12 people who attended the class at Southwest Colorado Community College in Durango were a mix of students interested in the medical field and professionals using the classes to add to their skill sets. There were also people just interested in that particular class topic.
Elizabeth Gallegos drives in to Durango each week from Ignacio for the classes. Gallegos, who works for the Southern Ute Tribal Health Department, sees the program as a chance to further her knowledge.
“When I saw that this was available, I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to take advantage of because we’re seeing some of these issues through the people that we serve,” she said. “I thought, the more I know, the better able I am to serve the people I work with.”
Gallegos said the knowledge she gains through Mini Med School will make her a one-stop shop for her clients.
“I do benefits coordination, as well referrals, and so I’ve built up a rapport and trust with a lot of the people that we serve, so if I can have an answer for them rather than having (to say), ‘Well, why don’t you go talk to so-and-so,’ or ‘Why don’t you go down there?’ or ‘I don’t know the answer’ – the more knowledge I have, the better able I am to serve them,” she said.
For high-schoolers, it’s a way to figure out what their future in the medical field may look like.
Caitlyn Steiner, a sophomore at Durango High School, is attending Mini Med School for her second year. She says the weekly class commitment hasn’t been a strain.
“I’ve always wanted to go in to the medical field, so it just seems worth it to me,” she said. “It’s kind of just diving into every single field for an hour. Every time, you get to learn about a whole new field. It kind of helps you understand what you don’t want to do and what you might want to do.”
Rider said the Mini Med School is just the tip of the iceberg of the programs the local AHEC offers. AHEC’s mission is to try to improve access to quality health care, she said, and it does that through a multitude of programs, including the health careers camp for students held every year and through continuing medical education for primary care doctors.
“It’s just another way to help let you know that AHEC is out there. AHEC is just such a great resource whether you’re a community member, whether you’re a health care provider, whether you’re a student considering a health care career,” she said. “We’re a fantastic resource that can point you in the right direction.”