Conway Regional Health System hosted 20 students from schools around Faulkner County who were interested in exploring the health care field this past week.

During the one-week CHAMPS (Community Health Applied Medical Science) program, students participated in hands-on activities including dissection lessons, learned to cast and suture and earned a CPR certification.

The group also heard from several health professionals in family and internal medicine, nursing, pharmacology, laboratory sciences, physical and occupational therapy, respiratory therapy, radiology, radiation therapy, kinesiology and ophthalmology.

Oncology Outreach Coordinator Lori Reynolds said the program for juniors and seniors exposes the students to all aspects of the health community, not just physicians and nurses.

"It exposes them to all kinds of different things so they can decide for sure what they want to do in their life," she said. "First off, do they want to go into health care and then what aspect of health care do they want do to."

All students, Reynolds said, wanted to be there. She said they had to apply and were chosen for the CHAMPS program based off their GPA, reference letters, past experience and an essay they had to write.

"These folks already had an interest," Reynolds said. "These students are the cream of the crop. They are very smart. They are very engaging. They ask questions I’m afraid I may not have known to ask that question until I was a junior or senior in college."

Most importantly, she said, the students are starting early, which Reynolds said is crucial because they’re not playing catch up later and wont waste their money and time on something they don’t want to do later on in life.

"The earlier you start, the better off you’re going to be," she said. "Also, it’s finding out [their] interests … letting students explore at a young age what they’re interested in and then being able to focus their interest on that."

Reynolds said Monday when the students started, they had them fill out evaluations and at the end of the week, will also have them complete another one to see how what aspects of the program affected them, what they learned, if it was helpful and if their career ideas stayed the same or changed.

The hospital partnered with UAMS (University of Arkansas for Medical Science) and Farm Bureau for the program.

Reynolds said Arvest Bank even bought and donated scrubs for the students to wear, which was a surprise.

"It’s like it kind of made them feel official," she said. "They have to wear them everyday."

Reynolds said they also gave the students hospital name badges with their pictures that they are required to wear daily as well.

"I think they’ve really felt like a part of the team this week, I really do," she said. "They keep referring to ‘us’ like us as a community, as a medical community and we love that."

At Conway Regional, Reynolds said, they want the students to feel a part of it because they are.

"This is our community," she said. "The reason we’re doing this is community outreach. To show our community that we really do care. We want to invest in not only from educational, but [from a] financial standpoint."

The program, Reynolds said, isn’t cheap.

"We’re making that investment in these children," she said. "[They] are our future."

Greenbrier High School student Daizy McCollum said she decided to apply because she’s always been a lover of science and in the past couple of years, realized that she was interested in being in the medical field.

"I love helping people," she said. "I love being there for people and learning how to solve problems. I’m always the first one there when someone hurts themselves."

The program, McCollum said, fell into her lap.

"It was such a blessing to be able to get this experience," she said. "I originally thought I was just going into pediatrics or just into family medicine, but I realized I have a love for surgery now."

The 17 year old said she learned "so much" during the CHAMP week and was thankful to the hospital and all the businesses that contributed to the program.

"This will help future leaders in medicine," she said. "This is just absolutely an amazing thing that Conway Regional has been able to offer us."

The following 20 students participated in the program:

Conway students Mary Barre, Mary Kate Freyaldenhoven, Jaydon Grinder and Makya McMillion; Conway Christian students Olivia Ford and Kendra Lea; Greenbrier students Rachel Dixon, Mary Andie Finley, Daizy McCollum, Ashlan Smith and Holly Smuck; Morrilton student Alyssa Sparks; Nemo Vista student Taylor Bess; Rogers student Ciarra Goines; St. Joseph students Caroline Hambuchen, Lauren Holbrook, Aidan Lambe and Brent Yrle; Vilonia student Samantha Biltgen; Wonderview student Shelby Reynolds.