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Pickens County high school students visit College

Two dozen Pickens County high school students interested in health careers visited the College as part of a program of The University of Alabama-Pickens County Partnership.

The students are members of Exploring Professional Opportunities (EXPO), a program for sophomore and junior high school students to learn about career opportunities, scholarships and college life.

The UA-Pickens County Partnership, which is led by CCHS, works to place UA students in medicine, nursing, social work, nutrition, psychology and health education – and potentially others – in Pickens County for internships and other experiences. The rural county is provided with additional health resources, and UA students receive real world training in their respective areas of study.

Patti Pressley-Fuller, Pickens County Cooperative Extension Coordinator and a member of the partnership’s Advisory Committee, said EXPO gives students “an opportunity to open their minds to careers, a bigger world and a brighter future.”

During their time at the College, the students heard from Dr. Dan Avery, director of medical student admissions. Avery said the most frequent question he gets from students is how can they pay for medical school? “Don’t let that be an impediment. There are scholarships, grants, all kinds of things that are available,” he said. “We desperately need primary care physicians in this state and in this country, and the most likely people to practice in rural and underserved areas are people who grew up there.”

The College, which also functions as a regional campus of the University of Alabama School of Medicine, educates and trains medical students and resident physicians, with a focus on primary care.

The students asked Avery what undergraduate degrees help students get into medical school. “Make sure you get the required courses in biology and chemistry, but medical schools want students who are well rounded,” he said. “Medicine is problem solving.”

He said communications skills are essential. “Doctors have to talk to patients long enough, and they have to listen.”

Shawn McDaniel, a Pickens County high school teacher who accompanied the students, added that “people skills and communication are a big thing. Young people can text, but face-to-face communication is harder. But you have to be able to do that because as a doctor you’re taking care of people.”

In addition to visiting the College and touring its University Medical Center, the students observed a mock hospital simulation at UA’s Capstone College of Nursing, visited UA biology laboratories, heard a presentation from the director of UA’s Early College program, ate lunch at a dormitory cafeteria and received a tour of Bryant-Denny Stadium.