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College of Medicine Camp Sparks STEM Interest in Students

College of Medicine Summer Camp Sparks STEM Interest in High School Students

We sat down with the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine's Outreach and Recruitment Coordinator, Brent Ross to learn more about the S.P.A.R.K. Camp for high school students that are underrepresented in medicine.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your work at the OU College of Medicine?

I am the Outreach and Recruitment Coordinator for the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine and I have worked for OU for over 10 years now. My primary role is role is to meet with college students (Pre-Med Clubs/Pre-Professional Health Clubs/Intro to Professional Health Courses) across the state of Oklahoma and provide information about the College of Medicine and our admissions process. I also meet with students individually for advisement to answer specific questions about their application to the College of Medicine. In addition, I also spend part of my time meeting with high school students to talk about medicine and promote our SPARK summer program. I will normally bring a couple of our medical students along to talk about their experiences in medicine. Recently, we also started a mentoring/tutoring program at one of the local OKC public schools which allows our students to meet with current high school students and answer questions about medicine, college, scholarships and provide tutoring help in math and science.

Students interacting with a camp counselor.


Give an overview of the S.P.A.R.K. Camp – when did it begin, what does S.P.A.R.K. stand for, what is its purpose?

SPARK began in the summer of 2016 so this coming summer will be the third year of the program. SPARK was created to help provide opportunities to high school students that are underrepresented in medicine. Our goal was to provide meaningful experiences in healthcare for students by allowing them to interact with our faculty and medical students and provide them with interactive lectures and hands-on activities. The goal of the program is to SPARK an interest in medicine by providing these students with meaningful experiences and to encourage them to realize that they have the ability to pursue a future in medicine.


How many students, what ages and from what schools attend S.P.A.R.K.?

Students are eligible to apply to the SPARK program as sophomores and juniors. Since SPARK is a pilot program, we have been primarily focusing on 8 different OKC public Schools: ASTEC Charter, Capitol Hill High School, Classen SAS, Dove Science Academy, Harding Charter Prep, Santa Fe South, Southeast High School and US Grant High School. During the summer, we will offer 2 separate weeks of SPARK during June and July and we will normally have 25-30 students attend each week.

two students working on a table top project together


What do students do during the camp?

When students attend SPARK, they are able to hear lectures from faculty in areas such as anesthesiology, surgery, emergency medicine, neurology, otolaryngology and family medicine. Students will attend workshops on casting and suturing, learning to treat sports-related injuries and examining brain specimens. In addition, students will have the opportunities to interact with robotic patient simulators and laparoscopic surgery simulators at the state-of-the-art Clinical Skills Center.

students watching a doctor demonstrate in an operation room.


What has the feedback been from both students and their teachers?

The feedback from students and teachers has been overwhelmingly positive. We do student surveys each summer after the program is completed and the one thing I hear repeatedly is that they wish the experience could last longer. I recently ran into one of our former students who currently attends a state university and she sent me this comment about her experience at SPARK- “Thank you so much for this amazing opportunity because without it I would be a freshman in college without any type of medical experience. SPARK played a major part in my academic career and I am so happy I was a part of this program.” The teachers and administrators have also been very gracious to provide us time to interact with their students at school to talk about medicine and the SPARK program. They always love having the opportunity to interact with our medical students and hear their insight into medicine.


Why is it important to expose students to our medical school at this age?

Honestly, many students involved in SPARK are from families in which they will be the first generation to attend a college or university. We really want these students to understand that a career in medicine, while challenging, is an obtainable goal that can be reached if they are willing to work hard and make the most of their opportunities. SPARK is an opportunity that gives students hands-on experiences in medicine while allowing them to engage and interact with faculty and medical students that are passionate about their profession.


At OU Medicine, our mission is leading health care. Our vision is to be the premiere enterprise for advancing health care, medical education and research for the community, state and region. Through our combined efforts we strive to improve the lives of all people. Learn more about the OU College of Medicine.