As reported by the New Britain Herald, March 19, 2008.

Health Center Tries to Woo Students with Clinical Career Day

By Fran Morales

FARMINGTON — Dressed in medical masks and gloves, teenagers Gopi Surti and Farah Khan weren’t at all grossed out as they picked at cavities and tooth decay in model teeth Wednesday at the Clinical Career Day at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington. Instead they got to see what it would be like if they became dentists some day.

Sixteen-year-old Surti and Khan, 17, both students at Manchester High School, were among the more than 300 high- school students from 19 schools, including New Britain, Plainville and Southington, that got a chance to feel what a health career was like at the event.

The career fair was sponsored by the UConn Health Center’s Human Resources Department, Area Health Education Center and Celebrate Health program.

Students who filled the halls of John Dempsey Hospital explored career choices at the various booths and participated in health-related workshops such as open-heart surgery, diagnostic imaging, anatomic pathology and dentistry. Some students even got a chance to shadow real-life medical personnel.

Seventeen-year-old Evan Guimond, a senior at Plainville High School, was among the more than 20 students crowded inside a tiny operating room. They all tuned into Ron Salonia, a perfusionist, whose job is to operate the heart and lung machines during cardiac or bypass surgery.

Although there was no blood or hearts on display, Guimond found the profession appealing.

Salonia didn’t hold anything back.

“This is not for the faint of heart,” Salonia said. “It’s a highly stressful job. One small error could cost a person’s life. You are constantly on your toes because you have someone’s life in your hands.”

Although the thought of being a heart surgeon enticed him, Guimond said he wants to be an anesthesiologist because he could manage the medical care of patients before, during and after surgery.

Surgeons and anesthesiologists are among the various health care jobs in demand. As a result, work-force shortages in the health-care industry are reaching crisis levels, said Bruce E. Gould, associate dean for primary care and medical director at St. Francis Hospital and UConn Primary Care Center.

“Just about in every realm, all of these health professions will be in short supply if they aren’t already,” Gould said.

“If that’s not a crisis then I don’t know what is.”

To help supply the demand, UConn’s Area Health Education Program, based in Farmington, has already begun targeting students, particularly minority students, as early as elementary and middle school to enrich their math and science curriculums and entice them into a future in the medical field.

Gould hopes students will develop a calling, “but you need to start that very early in their lives.”

UConn includes the schools of medicine and dental medicine, John Dempsey Hospital and the UConn Medical Group and University Dentists.

An estimated 320 students are enrolled in the School of Medicine alone, according to Gould, who serves on the admissions committee.

On average, 80 students graduate from UConn’s medical school every year.

Gould hopes exposing students to these various health professions will entice them to pursue a career in the medical field.

“We want them to get accurate information [in comparison to] what they [may see] on TV’s ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ or ‘Nip and Tuck’,” he said.