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Teens from across Phoenix metro area encounter 21st century medicine at Abrazo Health summer program

Teens watch as student volunteers took turns on the daVinci robot-assisted surgical system. (File Photos/
Summer volunteers at Abrazo West Campus get hands-on perspectives
Staff Reports | Digital Free Press

Teens from across the Valley spent the summer volunteering at Abrazo West Campus, learning about healthcare careers and helping in the hospital.

A total of 42 teens, ages 15-19, were selected as “Student Ambassadors,” completing at least 40 volunteer hours and attending numerous workshops and educational sessions. The eight-week program ran through July 29, according to a press release.

Participants came from Phoenix, Scottsdale, Goodyear, Paradise Valley, Litchfield Park, Avondale, Buckeye, Anthem, Peoria, Glendale and Surprise.

The experience helped Purvaj Vanga of Scottsdale see many sides of healthcare, something he is considering as a career.

“When you’re in a medical field it’s like a calling,” he said in the release. “I’m able to experience the true joy of how it feels when you’ve made a difference in their life.”

Highlighting the program were hour-long lunch-and-learn sessions and four-hour workshops that offered hands-on activities and speakers ranging from nurses to therapists to surgeons and trauma physicians.

Topics included careers in the Intensive Care Unit, respiratory therapy, radiology and imaging careers, emergency management, careers in emergency and trauma medicine, physical, occupational and speech therapy, pathways to careers in the operating room and more.

Cameron Peters of Goodyear got interested in medicine at a STEM event, so she jumped at the opportunity.

“I’ve always loved volunteering, it really makes you feel good,” he said of the experience. “Everyone plays a very important role and it really shows you how important everyone is in the hospital setting. It’s been a really great opportunity and been amazing to be here.”

Groups of students learned to apply various medical skills including “stop the bleed” for trauma emergencies, wound care and treatment and perhaps the most exciting, students say, was learning about the operating room.

The student volunteers were shown how OR staff scrubs in before entering the operating room. (File Photos/

Abrazo Health officials give up-close look

Staff from Abrazo West surgical services spoke about the different types of jobs supporting an operating room, nursing, technology and other clinical positions. Each student had the opportunity to learn about surgical instruments, suturing and “operating” with a mock surgical field as well as the daVinci surgical robot, the release states.

“The excitement and their eagerness to learn was one of the most rewarding things to see,” said Surgical Services Director Trisha Pollard. “The fact that this could actually impact their decision on what they want to do moving forward in their life is probably one of the biggest things about the program.”

Abrazo West Campus CEO Hans Driessnack echoed a similar sentiment on the potential impact on the students.

“This is a unique summer volunteer program for young people to contribute to their community as well as discover if a career in health care is in their future,” he pointed out. “I want to thank our hospital staff and departments for supporting this program.”

Kelli Jensen of Litchfield Park said her 15-year-old son Zach enjoyed the program.

“My son has had an amazing experience this summer in the ambassador program. On top of his volunteer time, he was able to learn about medical career paths that he didn’t even know existed,” she said. “He comes home from his time at the hospital excitedly talking about all that he has learned, and his passion for healthcare has definitely grown since starting the program.”

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