G.A.P.S. Program Trains Students for Medical Careers
Alma College Gratiot Area Physicians and Students (G.A.P.S.) program is a booster shot to students competing for spots in medical graduate schools and ultimately careers in health care. The program introduces students to the rigors of medical school and the health care environment.
"G.A.P.S. familiarizes students to the hospital and allows them to experience the setting to see if that is really the career they want to be in," explained sophomore Joey Burgam of Norton Shores, on-campus coordinator for hospital volunteers. "It's a great place to make contacts with nurses and doctors for summer internships or job shadowing."
Founded by local osteopathic doctor William Thiemkey, G.A.P.S. provides a hands-on, volunteer experience for pre-medical, exercise and health science, biology and physics majors with medical personnel at Gratiot Community Hospital (GCH). The hospital benefits from the program by gaining a large group of enthusiastic and energetic volunteers.
G.A.P.S. is supervised at the College by Dr. Kay Grimnes, professor of biology. The program provides insight into medical careers with lectures, admissions visits by graduate schools and an intensive Alma Spring Term practicum. A weekly seminar called Grand Rounds, hosted by the hospital, involves a presentation by a doctor on a specific medical topic and current health concerns and procedures.
Thiemkey explained the importance of the G.A.P.S. program following a Grand Rounds presentation by emergency room doctor Craig Holland, M.D. "The G.A.P.S. program is a great symbiotic relationship between the hospital and the school," Thiemkey said. He believes that the program is useful for pre-medicine students and anyone interested in the health care field.
Program success stories are numerous according to Alma College Physician Assistant Joe Gelina, director of health services at the Wilcox Medical Center on campus. Schnepp Health Care Center in St. Louis paid for Certified Nursing Assistant training for a work-study employee and hired her for the rest of the summer.
GCH Chief of Staff Dr. Chris Murray, a 1983 Alma College graduate, was the first to both participate in the G.A.P.S. program and receive credit for the forerunner to the G.A.P.S. Spring Term.
The culmination of the G.A.P.S. program is the intensive four-week Spring Term that allows students the chance to shadow doctors such as Thiemkey, Murray, Dr. Michael Stack, Dr. Terry Ball, Dr. Kurt Anderson and Dr. Craig Tubbs. Gelina added, "Many people think the G.A.P.S. program is just a Spring Term. It's not; it's volunteering at the hospital, attending Grand Rounds, participating in seminars and talking to doctors and nurses. Students work up to the Spring Term experience."
During the Spring Term, students spend three days a week in the office with a primary physician they select and two days in meetings with specialists like Dr. Simi Vancise and Dr. Pankaj Janwani, internal medicine physicians. Thiemkey and Gelina host a weekly workshop where students practice basic medical skills on each other. Students spend half a day each week discovering medical specialties like x-ray technology, nuclear medicine, laboratory and pharmaceutical practice. They also visit various medical facilities such as the Michigan Spine and Pain Clinic in Mt. Pleasant.
Because it is so focused, a class is limited to four to six students. Slots are offered preferably to juniors with many volunteer hours and a high probability of continuing to medical school. Although the selection committee has accepted some sophomores and seniors, committee members look for students who benefit most from the program and have serious career goals.
Thiemkey stressed the intensity of the G.A.P.S. program. "Imagine someone holding your head under water and the need to breathe. When you want to learn as badly as you want air, then you're ready."
Posted: Mon, December 13th, 2004 at 8:00AM