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Cherry Valley 1st grade class tours Polson THHS Clinic

By B.L. Azure

Health care can be fun, including a visit to the dentist as Cherry Valley Elementary School 1st graders found out on a tour of the Polson THHS Clinic Friday. (B.L. Azure photo) Health care can be fun, including a visit to the dentist as Cherry Valley Elementary School 1st graders found out on a tour of the Polson THHS Clinic Friday. (B.L. Azure photo)

POLSON — The vast majority of Americans are linked to the healthcare system from cradle to the grave. Although the Cherry Valley Elementary School 1st grade students that toured the Polson Tribal Health and Human Services Clinic Friday might not grasp that now, they got a handle on what lies between the two health-related bookends of life by the medical professionals at the clinic.

About 20 of the young students accompanied by teacher Helen Siemers and parent Kelly Schultz got a good peek at what health care professionals provide cliental at the clinic.

“We are studying the human body and we thought the clinic would be a great place to come for a tour. The learning sinks in better when you see this in the field,” Siemers said. “Seeing people working in the field is a great way to make the connection of the classroom to the real world. It is very important to expose kids this age the different types of things out there that they might do as adults. This also connects the school to the community.”

Pharmacist Dr. Cristin Johnson-Doble shows Cherry Valley 1st graders how some candies look like prescription drugs. Dr. LeeAnna Muzquiz (right) provides a helping hand. (B.L. Azure photo) Pharmacist Dr. Cristin Johnson-Doble shows Cherry Valley 1st graders how some candies look like prescription drugs. Dr. LeeAnna Muzquiz (right) provides a helping hand. (B.L. Azure photo)

The three-story Polson THHS Clinic that opened a couple of years ago is one of the two “flagships” of the THHS health care provision system on the Flathead Indian Reservation, according to THHS Director Kevin Howlett.

The other flagship is the St. Ignatius THHS Clinic that is slated for major improvements and additions in the near future.

The two clinics will serve as anchors in the north and south portions of the reservation, and smaller THHS clinics in Arlee, Ronan and Elmo as well as a non-THHS clinic in Hot Springs will provide services but at a lesser level. They will not have dental, x-ray, optical or physical therapy services; those are available at the two larger clinics. They will have medical clinicians and doctors though and can take care of their health needs or refer patients to the two larger THHS clinics or third party health care providers if necessary.

X-ray technician Sandee McBride discusses her profession with the youngsters touring the Polson THHS Clinic. (B.L. Azure photo) X-ray technician Sandee McBride discusses her profession with the youngsters touring the Polson THHS Clinic. (B.L. Azure photo)

The Cherry Valley 1st graders got a peek at some of the services provided by the Polson THHS Clinic on their tour, under the guidance of Dr. LeeAnna Muzquiz. “You’re going to see lots of things today,” she told the young students at the beginning of the tour. And they did.

They checked out physical therapy, optical, dental, pharmacy, x-ray and records sections of the clinic. At each stop the medical professionals explained their jobs and the equipment they use in them. They answered they youngsters’ questions and posed some to them.

Dr. Muzquiz told the students that the medical profession education never ends. It’s a lifelong on going process that requires constant learning to keep up with the changes and advancement in the various medical professions.

Dr. LeeAnna Muzquiz gives the Cherry Valley 1st graders a quick anatomy lesson Friday. Nurse Catherine Addison is on the left. (B.L. Azure photo) Dr. LeeAnna Muzquiz gives the Cherry Valley 1st graders a quick anatomy lesson Friday. Nurse Catherine Addison is on the left. (B.L. Azure photo)

“I still go to school but not always in the classroom like you do,” she told the students, adding that much of the medical education can be done at seminars, workshops and through on-line courses. She said math, science and technology are the foundations of the profession and advised the youngsters to keep on top of those as well as other subjects in the classroom whether or not they plan to pursue a health care profession.

When the tour was over, the students were given a backpack with health-related gifts, courtesy of the THHS Diabetes Prevention Program.

When asked who wanted to be a doctor at the end of the tour almost all the students raised their hands. Although not all of them will become doctors or medical professionals, all of them have visited medical providers previously and will in the future, and all of them will have some knowledgeable insight that many of their peers won’t as a result of the clinic tour.

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