THHS Kid’s Health Fair
exposes youth to healthcare professions
By B.L. Azure
Ryan Smith from spectrUM monitors the hands-on learning anatomy portion
of the University of Montana affiliated traveling exhibit aimed at
elementary school students. (B.L. Azure photo)
ST. IGNATIUS — The tribal education review team
is, among other things, searching for answers on how to get young
tribal members interested in the math and science professions for
potential employment within the various tribal departments.
High on the list is educating members of the
Salish, Kootenai and Pend d’Oreille tribal confederacy for potential
professional medical positions within the Tribal Health and Human
THHS Director Kevin Howlett has stated many times
in public education forums and elsewhere that there is a lack of
qualified tribal members for the licensed professional positions within
the tribal healthcare system.
He said very, very few tribal members have gone on
to the professional schools that educate doctors, dentists, physical
therapists and other such medical professions.
Holly Truit, director of the spectrUM Discovery Area at the University
of Montana shows elementary students how the head bone is connected to
the neck bone and neck bone is connected to the backbone and so on at
the THHS Kids' Health Fair. (B.L. Azure photo)
Many times Howlett has gone before the
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Council to seek permission to
hire non-tribal members for the professional positions within his
department due to the lack of qualified tribal members.
It’s a quandary that the Education Planning and
Review Team are trying to unravel. Most EdPaRT members agree that a
large piece of the puzzle is finding ways to spark interest in young
students about the healthcare professions.
Perhaps that piece of the puzzle is just down the
road in Missoula and a health-related endeavor called spectrUM
Discovery Area at the University of Montana’s College of Health
Professions and Biomedical Sciences.
It is a hands-on health science-learning exhibit
located in the Skaggs Building at UM. Part of the program is mobile and
it hits the road taking hands-on learning to various schools throughout
the state. The program is also targeting Indian reservations in its
effort to plant seeds that may someday sprout doctors, pharmacists and
Students from the Kicking Horse Job Corps nursing program manned
several health stations at the THHS Kids' Health Fair including the
blood-sugar testing stop. (B.L. Azure photo)
Last week they were a prominent part of the THHS
Kids’ Health Fair at the Mission Community Center. And it appeared that
the mobile hands-on science-learning center hooked kids like a good
lure lands the big one that always got away before.
“The program is not just for the young kids
although they are the focus when we bring it to the schools,” said Ryan
Smith, spectrUM outreach public educator. “We want to start to expose
them to the world of science around them. Part of our mission is to
tour the state’s rural and tribal areas, the Indian reservations
because they don’t have local access to these types of programs.”
It is the only program of its type in the
Northwest United States and its primary focus is introducing elementary
students to the science professions especially the healthcare
“We focus on health professions and let the kids
know what kinds of jobs there are in the many health fields,” said Lisa
Woods, spectrUM business manager. “We bring the health sciences and
technology to all Montanans.”
Cece Tellier Brown gets a kick out of the spectrUM cleansing station
that illuminated just how unclean clean hands can be despite washing.
Holly Truit said the key to cleanliness is proper washing technique
that scrubs all parts of the hands including under the fingernails.
(B.L. Azure photo)
“When it comes to health and medical professions
you have to start working with the students early,” Smith said. “It is
a journey where you can figure out who and what you are. Who you are
emotionally and what you are physically.”
“Often times the sciences take a back seat when it
comes to other courses at schools,” Woods said. “And the health courses
are even more important but they are often the first types of courses
that get cut back when it comes to budgets.”
The spectrUM program’s traveling exhibit has been
to all the reservations except Rocky Boy’s. They were scheduled to go
there this spring but the reservation was inundated with rains then
flooding that caused much damage to roads and bridges. Consequently
they had to reschedule and it’s on the itinerary.
The spectrUM traveling exhibit was all about hands on learning like
putting the components of the heart together. (B.L. Azure photo)
“We specifically sought funding so we could take
this to the state Indian reservations,” Smith said.
The program was put together by medical
professionals from the Western Montana Health and Education Center in
Missoula, one of four regional in the western United States.
A part of the tours to rural area and Indian
reservation schools is the inclusion of local healthcare professionals.
That way a local face is put on the face of health and science.
“This is grassroots education that exposes
children to the local medical connections in their communities by
bringing everyday components science to their communities and exposes
them to the local healthcare providers,” Smith said.
The eyes have it. Margene Asay and Ryan Smith helped youngsters put
together the anatomical components of the eye. (B.L. Azure photo)
“The bottom line is to inspire the next generation
of physicians and other healthcare practitioners,” said SpectrUM
Director Holly Truit, adding that the Mission Community Center was a
buzz of youthful inquisitiveness with children buzzing from one station
to another. She praised Margene Asay and the rest of the THHS staff
involved in setting up the Kids’ Health Fair.
“We just want all the kids aware of their health,”
said Margene Asay, THHS health educator and manager of the reservation
tribal fitness centers. The target age of the THHS Kid’s Health was
third, fourth and fifth grade students. “The health fair is a good way
to reach out to them and teach them about health. I don’t think we can
do enough of this type of education.”
The THHS set up various health stations that
checked blood sugar, cholesterol, height and weight and blood pressure
as well as give flu shots.
The Buckle Up Montana program, THHS Safe on all
Roads, Tobacco Prevention, Dental Hygiene and Diabetes programs had
Smoked ham. The THHS smoking prevention program used pig lungs to
display the damage to them caused by tobacco smoke. (B.L. Azure photo)
The Kicking Horse Job Corps Nursing Program manned
several of the stations.
There was even a haunted house spookingly manned
by members of the fitness centers.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the Washington
Foundation and PPL Montana provided funds to bring spectrUM to the