Applications available for MASH camps

Applications are now being accepted for two summer camp opportunities designed to introduce high school and junior high students to potential medical careers.

The camps are scheduled in 19 different communities throughout Arkansas, including Malvern.

The Medical Applications of Science for Health, or MASH, concept was first piloted in 1988 by the UAMS Regional Campus in Pine Bluff. Arkansas Farm Bureau "quickly recognized the value and importance of these MASH camps in helping rural communities 'grow their own' health care providers, and when initial grant funding ended, Farm Bureau stepped up to ensure continuation of these programs," a news release said.

Hosted by one of eight UAMS' Regional Campuses or a local hospital or college, MASH is a two-week summer day camp that introduces students entering grades 11-12 to multiple health care careers.

"Through hands-on activities, tours, and exposure to various health care practitioners, students learn about different career options in health care. In addition to doctors and nurses, other professions that may be presented include physician assistants, medical/radiologic technologists, respiratory care, pharmacists, EMT/paramedics, physical/occupational therapists, dietitians, public health, and mental/behavioral health professionals. Emphasis is placed on how these different professions function both individually and as part of an interdisciplinary team," the release said.

By 2019, MASH had expanded to 34 locations across Arkansas, reaching around 500 students annually, and had also been replicated in several other states.

"COVID restrictions interrupted programming during 2020-2022, but this summer, the 35th anniversary of MASH, 22 camps are returning in various forms to meet the unique needs of Arkansas communities," it said.

In addition to a full two-week MASH camp, Mini-MASH is an intensive one-week summer program for students entering grades 11-12, and Community Health Applied in Medical Public Service, or CHAMPS, is a three- to five-day camp for students entering grades 8-10.

In addition to Malvern, communities hosting camps this year include Blytheville, Conway, Crossett, DeWitt, El Dorado, Fayetteville, Forrest City, Fort Smith, Harrison, Helena, Lake Village, Monticello, Paragould, Rogers, Pine Bluff, Texarkana, Warren, and West Memphis.

Deadlines for applications range from March 27 through May 12, but most applications are due in April. For a list of program locations and to apply, visit https://bit.ly/42FmCu4.

"Helping to create the prototype for our MASH programs 35 years ago is one of the greatest highlights of my career," Robin Howell, senior program manager for UAMS Regional Campuses, said in the release.

"Since 1988, nearly 10,000 Arkansas students have participated in a MASH camp, with many of them going on to pursue health careers. These programs have helped thousands of students make informed decisions about what they wanted to do with their lives. We have seen many who started in MASH, then came to UAMS, and are now practicing somewhere in Arkansas. We're very proud of the many 'homegrown' Arkansas success stories that began with one of our pipeline programs. And we're incredibly thankful for the amazing long-term partnership we have in Arkansas Farm Bureau. It simply wouldn't be possible without them."

Farm Bureau's involvement in the programs is an outgrowth of its efforts to ensure access to quality health care throughout Arkansas, with a special focus on rural health care needs.

"After an almost three-year hiatus, it is exciting to see MASH camps returning," Jennifer Craig, director of Leadership Development for Arkansas Farm Bureau, said in the release. "The opportunity provided to students through this program is unmatched. For many students, MASH solidifies their commitment to a career in the health field and most importantly, in rural Arkansas.

"Farm Bureau is proud to be a part of ensuring the future of health care providers in rural Arkansas."

MASH, Mini-MASH and CHAMPS offer a variety of activities and experiences to instruct students in core topics, which may include CPR and first aid training; dissections, suturing, casting; mental/behavioral health issues; opioid/substance abuse awareness; telemedicine; blood typing; and social media safety.