WESTFIELD – Early in the school year, Westfield High School sophomore Ciara Johnson-Corwin approached Laura Blocher, her Anatomy and Physiology teacher about starting a club for students interested in pursuing a career in the medical field, and whether Blocher would be the advisor.
“Throughout COVID, so much has been taken away from the education and growth of students. I thought why not add an addition to the high school that could give students an opportunity to learn more about this particular field. I really have an interest in the medical field, and I knew that other students had the same interest,” Johnson-Corwin said.
Blocher readily agreed, and the Future Medical Professionals Club was born. Blocher said that Johnson-Corwin took the reins and got in touch with medical professionals from around the country. The first meeting was held on Nov. 2, and since then, they have had 13 meetings with 30-plus students joining the club and meeting speakers from all over the country.
Blocher said speakers have come from California, Arizona, and Florida, as well as from right in Westfield, to speak with the students about what they do and what advice they have for aspiring medical professionals. “We usually meet a couple times a month and learn about a different medical profession each time. We meet via Google Meet, which has actually worked out well for us this year, since we can have guest speakers from all over join us,” she said.
Johnson-Corwin said if a student isn’t available to make a meeting, they can always go back onto the Google Classroom and watch it at a later date. “I’m so glad that we were able to create a club that could provide information on the field, as it definitely helped me see the different careers that are offered,” she said.
Asked which speakers and careers have stood out to her, Johnson-Corwin listed several. “Some of our speakers that were very interesting to watch were Dr. Mitrani, who is the chief science officer at Organicell and is working with the FDA to see the use of Zofin on osteoarthritis in Miami. Another speaker was a spine surgeon, Dr. Andrew Chung, who works at the Sonoran Spine Institute, doing his residency at Mayo Clinic in Arizona.” She said the club has shown the students how many jobs there are in the healthcare industry.
On May 5, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) Christina Massaro from Philadelphia talked to the students about how she got into the field, and what a CRNA does. She called it “a nice marriage of patient care and nursing,” and an opportunity to “connect with people and build trust.” She also talked about her own educational pathway, which culminated in a doctorate in critical care.
Massaro made recommendations to the students about steps they could take now to get involved in the medical field. “Volunteering is huge,” she said, and suggested volunteering at a fire house where they could have opportunities to do junior emergency medical services; ride along with an emergency medical technician (EMT), or go to EMT school. She said it’s something they can do over a summer, which can give them prehospital experience.
Massaro also recommended that they become certified nurse assistants (CNA), which gives them exposure to a lot of different people and skills. “If you can get in early in the EMT or CNA world, it’s a great place to start. I did both, it opened a ton of doors for me, and landed me in a profession I knew nothing about,” she said.
“Being a CRNA is a lot of hard work, dedication and really understanding the patient and what they are going through. It opened my eyes to all of the anesthesia world, it’s so much more than what people usually assume about the field! It’s a very interesting job that I would love to learn more about,” Johnson-Corwin said after Massaro’s talk.
Also attending the May 5 meeting of the club was WHS Principal Charles Jendrysik. “Clubs are a very important part of the student experience at Westfield High School. I am always happy to support new clubs. The Future Medical Professionals Club has really stood out as a club that is new and exciting. Ciara, Miss Blocher and the rest of the students have helped to bring in some amazing speakers to discuss their careers and hopefully give some of the students in the club some direction in their future careers. I’m extremely impressed,” Jendrysik said.
Johnson-Corwin said she wants to keep the club going next year and to make it available to all high school students in Westfield who are interested.
As for her personal goals, Johnson-Corwin said they include ”to go to college and then medical school to become a physician.”