- Associated Press - Monday, June 25, 2018

LAWTON, Okla. (AP) - Naomi Vinson stands over a mannequin on a gurney methodically maneuvering a ventilator tube down its throat. As she does so, she explains that the process is known as a tracheal intubation, used to maintain open airways on patients under anesthesia. Though her patient is not real, her passion is.

Vinson was at Cameron University participating in Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences’ “Operation Orange,” a summer traveling medical camp aimed at finding future doctors for rural Oklahoma.

Vinson is 13, but going on 14. She attended MacArthur Middle School last year, but after the summer will be moving on to high school. She came to “Operation Orange” with one goal in mind.

“I want to be an oncology nurse,” Vinson said.

Vinson is a cancer survivor. She wants to go into the medical field to be able to help other people cope with the same struggle that she lived through.

Vinson was one of dozens of high school and college students attending “Operation Orange,” the Lawton Constitution reported.

Christopher Thurman, one of the program’s coordinators, and an associate dean at the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine, was on hand to guide students as they explored different aspects of the medical field.

“The students that participate get a chance to go through a series of different exercises, almost like a camp where they have different areas where they learn medical procedures,” Thurman said.

“There is an area where they learn laparoscopic simulation, so they learn the skills that a surgeon would use when performing laparoscopic surgery. There is a suturing station, where they learn how to do knots and sew lacerations up. There are CPR chest compressions where we use high fidelity mannequins to measure the rate and depth of their compressions and actually give them a grade based on that.”

The primary mission of the program is to recruit rural students to medical programs, and then to convince those students to return to their rural communities as family practitioners after their education.

“We’ve found that it is easier to take a student that has grown up in a rural area and convince them to go back and help out their towns. It’s harder to convince someone from downtown Tulsa to do that. The rural students grew up in the area and have ties to the land and families,” Thurman said.

“Operation Orange” is designed to allow students to experience a day in the life of an OSU medical student. And there were plenty of volunteer medical students on hand to talk the attendees through the different stations. One of those volunteers, second-year med student Jacy O’Dell, understands firsthand the need for recruitment in rural communities.

O’Dell grew up in Claremore, where her high school graduating class consisted of 42 people.

“I volunteered for this partly because Oklahoma, in general, is this giant rural area between two big cities. I grew up in a tiny town, outside a tiny town, outside Tulsa. Pretty much everybody I knew from high school is still there,” O’Dell said. She wanted to show students that your background doesn’t matter as long as you have the drive and the work ethic, even a kid from the country could go to medical school and become a doctor.

As Vinson finished intubating her mannequin she smiled and stepped aside for the next student to learn the ropes.

“I want to be able to help people, but especially people like me,” Vinson said. “I want to help people that struggled like I did.”

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Information from: The Lawton Constitution, http://www.swoknews.com

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