Prepare for the future: Student, surgeon teams up for an innovative internship
By Eileen Persike
A 2021 Rhinelander High School graduate, Abigale Henrichs has been interested in a career in healthcare for as long as she can remember. But health care is a big field and Abigale was unsure of which direction to take. Should she become a chiropractor like her parents, Dr Wendy and Dr Scott Henrichs, or consider medicine? Luckily for her, an innovative program formed by local orthopedic surgeon Dr. Kent Jason Lowry gave Abigale the opportunity to explore.
After completing a semester medical internship, she is still unsure of her path, but the opportunity has made her achieve some things.
“I know healthcare is what I want to do and doing the internship just solidified that,” she said. “I got so much out of it. And so many students who have even the slightest interest in healthcare and who are ambitious enough to seize this opportunity would benefit a lot too. “
Since 2013, Dr Lowry has mentored five high school students in an unofficial internship with Rhinelander High School. His first mentee, Ryley Zastrow, was accepted into the Johns Hopkins Orthopedic Surgery Residency Program.
“I watch him as I open a door into a room full of books and information and help them in, and now it’s on their shoulders to decide what they want to watch and what they want in. find out more, ”Lowry says. “I am very confident that I can say that these five students are the only five high school students in the country to have had this kind of experience.”
Lowry developed the guidelines and steps that students must follow in order to be successful in the program.
“There were some hurdles when we tried to bring Ryley into this experience,” he said. “The system said that the high school students are not ready, they will not get anything out of it, it will be too overwhelming, the patients will not be receptive, the staff will not be receptive. All of these concerns have been dispelled. What Ryley was able to gain from the experience and learn on her own is what really opened my eyes and allowed the program to continue largely by word of mouth in an informal arrangement.
Now he would like it to become something more.
“I personally feel a lot more comfortable and confident with the processes we have in place, the way the system responds and I accept students that it’s time to formalize it,” Lowry explained. “I think it’s time to put this forward and create a defined infrastructure around it.”
Rhinelander School District Superintendent Eric Burke agrees. Burke first learned of the internship when he attended a presentation Henrichs gave last month about his experience.
“Any kind of apprenticeship program we have – I want it expanded,” Burke said. “We need welders, machinists and builders; we need all of this for our economy. But we also need doctors and pharmacists, healthcare workers, bankers and CPAs. This program, because Dr. Lowry is so invested in it, is a great model that we can use as we try to broaden our horizons with health care learning programs.
The program is part of a new initiative, Inspire Rhinelander, in which Grow North, Rhinelander Partners in Education and the Rhinelander School District aim to provide students with information and opportunities to learn more about possible careers while they are in high school.
“It won’t happen overnight, but it is already happening in some ways, so students will be better informed when they leave here about what they want to do,” Burke added.
One of the missing pieces, said Lowry, is a definite set of prerequisites for a student to undertake this type of internship.
“Students need to be motivated and motivated, demonstrating a high level of academic achievement,” he said. “I think it’s important that it’s a personal motivation and not that they are forced to. It’s really up to them to make the experience valuable to them.
Every morning during the second semester, Henrichs spent an hour or two with Lowry, twice a week she was in the operating room – her favorite part – even washing up for surgeries towards the end of l ‘experience.
“Being able to see every movement that Dr. Lowry made opened my eyes to the intricacies of surgery,” said Henrichs. “From a distance you don’t really notice when he pulls a nerve apart or cauterizes a specific bundle of blood vessels and sees it up close… it’s a lot more complex than I thought.”
On other days, she followed Lowry on postoperative visits and clinic appointments and had experiences in various other departments, internal medicine, pediatrics, general surgery and learned to read an MRI.
Henrichs got half credit for the time she spent observing surgeries at Ascension St. Mary’s Hospital, learning the language of medicine and the culture of an operating room. Additionally, she noted, doing the internship instead of an advanced or weighted course cost her the top academic spot in her promotion. But it was “totally worth it” because of everything she learned.
“It was my biggest conflict before that; do I want to give it up for this, ”said Henrichs. “And I’m so glad I did because I don’t think having a normal experience in my last year would have compared to the knowledge I gained from spending time with Dr Lowry.”
Henrichs is leaving for the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the fall, planning to major in neurobiology and eventually earn a certificate in business in case she ever wants to open her own practice.
As the informal medical internship perhaps moves closer to formalization, Lowry said it gave him the chance to give back to the opportunities that were available to him as a student, and “It’s also having the opportunity. to be part of this process for energetic minds; I think it’s very rewarding.