Medical Careers Exploration Program
The Medical Careers Exploration Program (MCEP) for Indigenous Youth is an innovative initiative that provides students hands-on experience and the opportunity to discover a wide variety of healthcare professions. The program provides educational support and encouragement needed to pursue careers in the healthcare sector. MCEP began in 2007 as a partnership between Pan Am Clinic, Pan Am Clinic Foundation (PACF), Winnipeg School Division (Children of the Earth High School), Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and the University of Manitoba Access Program. In 2022 the MCEP began its expansion to the entire Winnipeg School Division and has nearly doubled the number of students that are involved.
The underrepresentation of Indigenous people working in healthcare is highlighted by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #23. The Pan Am Clinic Foundation believes the key to increasing the number of Indigenous healthcare workers is to inspire and support youth to join the field in the future. The first phase of the program is Grade 9 Discovery Day. Students experience an interactive live surgery and are given the opportunity to ask questions and interact with the surgeon, anesthetist, and other operating room staff. Grade 9 students have the opportunity to apply to the program which begins in Grade 10. The Medical Careers Exploration Program has 4 major components; in-school learning and supports, on-site practicums and supports, post-secondary planning and supports, and culture and celebration.
In-School Learning and Supports
The education needed for many healthcare careers starts in high school, which is why we work hard to ensure that the students have the supports they need right from the beginning. Part of the program’s requirements are for students to take Grade 11 and 12 Biology, Chemistry and Pre-calculus or Applied Math, as these are most often needed for post-secondary programs in the healthcare field. As we recognize these can be challenging courses, we ensure that each student is getting the support they need to succeed in these classes by having each student meet with the Indigenous Graduation Support Teacher (IGST) or Guidance Counsellor at their school. Additionally, we have created a unique grade 10 credit course, called “Medical Explorations” that each student takes when they join the program, generally in Grade 10. This course includes units on CPR Certification, First Responder First Aid Certification, Customer Service Training, Anatomy and Physiology, Traditional Medicines, and Holistic Healing and Healthcare. This gives students some of the knowledge and skills that will help them succeed in the practicums, but also in their career and education paths.
On-Site Practicums and Supports
A unique part of program is the participation in hands-on practicum days. In their first year in the program, Grade 10 students have 8 full days of practicums, in Grade 11 they have 9 days and in Grade 12 they have 15 days. These practicum days are hosted by healthcare centers all around the city of Winnipeg, including the hospitals, research centers, community clinics, training centers, personal care homes, and specialized clinics. During their practicum days students see a large variety of careers, behind the action tours of the sites, opportunities to shadow and be mentored by professionals, participate in hands-on sessions with medical equipment as well as the opportunity to put casts on each other or practice on realistic mannequins. The program focuses on showing the students that there is more to healthcare than just doctors and nurses. Students learn more about many careers including healthcare aides, MRI technicians, physiotherapists, recreational therapists and so much more. Students receive additional supports through the program on practicum days including lunches and bus passes, as well as having MCEP staff on site to provide guidance and support.
Post-Secondary Planning and Supports
For many healthcare careers some form of post-secondary education is needed, from short 8-month programs for healthcare aides, to 8 years of medical school. MCEP is dedicated to helping students find their right path. In Grade 12, students meet with their Guidance Counsellor and/or IGSTs and the MCEP Program Coordinator to discuss future plans and goals. Students are then introduced to the post-secondary programs that exist that can continue to support them through their post-secondary education. Subsequent meetings are set up to help the students with their application to their post-secondary institute of choice. Additionally, students are guided to scholarship and grant opportunities to help them pay for their education. Students are eligible to earn a $1,000 bursary that is held in trust for every year they complete in the program (Grades 10, 11, 12), up to $3,000 if they complete all 3 years in the program. MCEP also supports an additional needs-based scholarship for those pursuing healthcare-related education.
An important aspect of the program is teaching and including elements of Indigenous culture. One way this is done is through the opening and closing ceremonies, where traditional Pipe Ceremonies and teachings are done at both. Additionally, in the Medical Explorations class for the program students learn more about traditional medicines and holistic healing healthcare, which includes teachings on plants and their use as medicine, as well as Sacred Sweat Lodge Teachings and the holistic approach to cleansing. An emphasis is placed on opportunities for students to meet Indigenous professionals in the medical field, while also including traditional practices, like sharing circles, during practicum days.
If you have any questions about the Medical Careers Exploration Program for Indigenous Youth, please reach out to the Program Coordinator, Alexandra Carroll at [email protected]
Thank you to all of our incredible partners and supporters, we could not make any of this happen without them:
Winnipeg School Division
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Manitoba Blue Cross
CST Foundation Learning Project
Carolyn Sifton Foundation
Telus Friendly Future Foundation
Manitoba Education and Early Childhood Learning