Throughout high school, students have many visions of what they would like to be when they grow up. Ultimately, some choose to pursue careers in medicine, becoming doctors, optometrists, dentists, or other related professions. Often, students do not know the challenges of these careers because they do not have firsthand experience or extensive knowledge of the medical field. CampMed, a nonprofit organization that started at UCLA in 2013, fills this gap by educating children about the various career options within the world of healthcare.
The organization recruits UCLA undergraduate students who are interested in the medical field to serve as volunteer camp counselors. CampMed then raises funds for a three-day camp for underprivileged high school students in the Los Angeles area, targeting high school students who are considering pursuing the pre-med or pre-health path in college. Currently, CampMed serves students from Birmingham Community Charter High School, Ulysses S. Grant High School, and Reseda High School. CampMed members fundraise continuously throughout the academic year to reduce the financial burden associated with the camp.
“CampMed is unique in that we don’t expect anything from the campers,” said Sanah Budhwani, a Program Planner for CampMed. “The high school students don’t need to pay for anything; all they need to do is come with a big smile, and we supply the rest.”
Once at camp, youth are exposed to various elements of healthcare. Students are able to gauge their interests in professions such as pharmacy, nursing, and family medicine. Members of CampMed invite interesting and engaging physicians to coordinate on hands-on workshops covering topics such as phlebotomy, suturing, and dental impressions. These presentations aim to provide youth with inspiration and insight into pursuing a medical career.
While the students greatly benefit from this experience, members of CampMed also have much to gain. Volunteer camp counselors network with, and learn from, professionals who have already excelled in the distinct realms of healthcare that they are interested in pursuing. CampMed provides a beneficial experience for everyone involved, which is one reason the club is so successful.
“One of the main reasons I joined was because it was a mix of mentoring and medicine, two of my biggest interests,” recalls Budhwani. “I was able to help the youth, while also honing in on the specifics of my passion within the field.”
CampMed has also had its fair share of difficulties. When the organization was just starting out, members found it difficult to get in contact with high school administrators and physicians. As college students who are not from the Los Angeles area, they did not have contacts at any of the local high schools and had limited connections in the medical field. However, through positive recommendations, the organization was able to expand and gain contacts. Now, high schools independently ask to be a part of the program, and physicians look forward to speaking at camp. CampMed has grown to 30 counselors, 12 board members, and 75 campers.
As successful as CampMed has grown to be, it strives to continuously improve. The organization hopes to expand to additional high schools and hold follow-up activities to deepen the mentorship experience between campers and counselors. Overall, the members of CampMed are proud to expose high school students in underserved areas to a preview of all that the healthcare field has to offer. Volunteers love seeing campers step outside their comfort zones, meet new people, and fully immerse themselves in the camp experience.
Because of the unique education it provides to both youth and volunteers, the Volunteer Center Fellows are proud to award CampMed with the Winter 2017 Mongelli Award for Excellence in Civic Engagement. UCLA students are invited to join CampMed and become the next great camp counselor. For more information, visit CampMed’s website or like them on Facebook.