Mock accident scene a training ground

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Student Sonja DeBruyn, left, comforts mock crash victim Nora Sonu under the guidance of paramedic Jon Benoit as part of the mock accident Friday in Percy Park in Chatham.
Student Sonja DeBruyn, left, comforts mock crash victim Nora Sonu under the guidance of paramedic Jon Benoit as part of the mock accident Friday in Percy Park in Chatham.

The bodies lay strewn around the bleachers. One victim had a severed hand; others suffered multiple broken bones.

Ten local teenagers were scattered about, and soon people their age came to provide assistance … with the oversight of veteran first responders.

None of the wounds were real, as this was a mock accident put on as part of the annual MedLINCS program.

This year, 16 teenagers from around Chatham-Kent took part in the weeklong health-care exploration program. Med school students from the University of Western Ontario oversee the camp. They are part of the MedLINCS (Medical Learning in Community Settings) program.

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Laura Johnson, executive director at the Chatham-Kent Family Health Team, said her organization has been overseeing the local MedLINCS program – formerly known as MedQuest – for about seven years now. The six-week elective the med school students are put through exposes them to a gamut of medicine doctors practice in Chatham-Kent.

“They can shadow in emerge, family docs, any discipline, and they have to create this one-week learning program for high school students,” Johnson said.

Alan DeVillaer, assistant fire chief, said the program is a success.

“We’re starting to get some of the original MedQuest students back as medical residents,” he said. “It’s starting to pay its dividends.”

Tom Kujawa is one such person. He took part in the program back in 2010 as a summer student, and now is one of two Schulich School of Medicine students taking part in a six-week elective in Chatham-Kent. Part of their task is planning and overseeing the weeklong exploration program.

“We introduce simple skills,” he said, adding they include how to take blood pressure, use a stethoscope, and do sutures.

The teens also get exposed to a multitude of career opportunities in the health-care field during the week, which culminates with the mock disaster.

Kujawa said he has enjoyed both elements of the MedLINCS program – as a teen and as a med student.

“I did this five years ago. I still didn’t know what I wanted to do. It taught us about being a health professional,” he said. “Now, I just finished my first year at med school. We’ve shadowed local physicians, seeing how health care is delivered in a smaller community.”

He wants to go into family or emergency medicine, and Kujawa said if he winds up in a community such as Chatham-Kent, he would be able to do both, something that isn’t an option in a bigger community.

Kujawa said it’s too early to speculate where he’ll wind up after graduating, as he still has a half-decade of education ahead of him.

“(Practising in Chatham-Kent) is definitely something I’m keeping in mind,” he said. “The lifestyle here is very good.”

Meanwhile the high school students Kujawa helped oversee in the exploration program – the 16 who were either victims or paramedics at the mock accident – are all Grade 11 and 12 students from across the municipality.

“This gets them interested and starts them thinking about emergency services,” DeVillaer said. “This links the students to medical-related fields.”

Nora Sonu, a Chatham-Kent Secondary School student, loved the weeklong program. She may have a future in emergency medicine in front of her, as she said she was particularly interested in the casting process of protecting broken bones, as well as doing sutures to sew up wounds.

Student Michelle Denijs, left, supports the neck of “injured” driver Olivia Ermers, while Chatham-Kent firefighter Tom Dodman offers advice. The three were part of a mock accident Friday at Percy Park in Chatham.
Student Michelle Denijs, left, supports the neck of “injured” driver Olivia Ermers, while Chatham-Kent firefighter Tom Dodman offers advice. The three were part of a mock accident Friday at Percy Park in Chatham.

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