While University of Delaware students are relaxing on spring break, more than 800 high school students from across the state are visiting the STAR Campus for the 42nd-annual HOSA – Future Health Professionals State Leadership Conference.
From April 2 to 4, students will participate in career-focused competitive events – medical spelling, health career photography and forensic science, among others – designed to stoke their leadership skills and motivate and expose them to the world available in healthcare. Those who excel during the conference have the chance to represent Delaware in the national HOSA championships this summer in Orlando.
Kelsey Ramsey, a UD freshman nursing major, remembers the butterflies, the nervous energy and the last-minute cramming that went along with being a part of HOSA. She started competing in transcultural care during her junior year at Delcastle Technical High School, and visited the STAR Campus last year while competing in the state conference.
“After my event, I took the tour. We went to the cadaver lab. I thought, ‘This is fun,’” Ramsey said with a laugh.
This is the third year HOSA will be hosted at the STAR Campus. Alyssa Benjamin, pipeline coordinator for the UD College of Health Sciences, said HOSA’s goals of preparing the next generation of healthcare professionals mirrors those of the college.
“The hard work and talent shown by these students is really impressive. They have spent a tremendous amount of time studying, preparing displays and creating portfolios to be part of this conference,” Benjamin said. “They are great examples of the potential that can be found in this next wave of healthcare professionals and leaders in Delaware. Their conference is one of the highlights of the year for the faculty and staff in the College of Health Sciences.”
Benefits beyond high school
When UD freshman Arielle Thorpe started her nursing classes last fall, she had a head start on some of the medical jargon in her textbooks, thanks to competing in HOSA’s medical spelling bee during her senior year at Appoquinimink High School.
Her nursing classes haven’t yet covered the word she spelled correctly to win the state competition – fauces, the term for the arched opening at the back of the mouth leading to the pharynx – but Thorpe said the overall experience helped her confirm her interest in becoming a nurse.
“At first I didn’t want to do the conference because I was nervous about competing. It ended up being a great opportunity for me to make connections with people who are playing an important role in healthcare here in Delaware,” Thorpe said.
Ramsey is also reaping the benefits of HOSA, even though this year she’ll be attending as a volunteer and not a competitor. “I know a little bit more about how communities are different and also how to present yourself,” she said. “HOSA helped me straighten my path.”
Experience that matters
During the HOSA conference students will compete as individuals and in teams in more than three dozen events. Events are judged by volunteers from the College of Health Sciences, local healthcare industry and the Delaware Department of Education, which manages the HOSA program.
Thomas Pinto is a UD senior exercise science major currently deciding between dental school and physical therapy school. The interest in physical therapy is directly related to his major and working in the UD Physical Therapy Clinic, but HOSA is the reason for his continued enthusiasm in dental science.
“I started off my sophomore year competing in dental science. At first, I was doing it because my teacher told me I had to. Then I went on and competed in the state and national competitions,” said Pinto, who finished in the top 10 on his first trip to nationals and in the top three the following two years. He also went on to serve in a statewide leadership role his senior year as vice president of Delaware HOSA.
“Being around like-minded people and applying a lot of skills we learned in the classroom was awesome,” he added. “I loved HOSA so much. It was a huge piece of my high school experience. That’s one of the first things I always bring up.”
Chelsea Lee, a senior majoring in applied molecular biology and biotechnology, said HOSA helped her develop the critical communication, leadership and teamwork skills that she puts to use almost daily.
HOSA has become something of a family tradition, as this year Lee’s brother, a state officer in Delaware HOSA, will be at the STAR Campus competing in the interview event for Sussex Technical High School.
Lee will be there, too, as a volunteering doing tabulations for some of the events.
“I owe HOSA for giving me an introduction to what healthcare could be,” said Lee, who serves as president of the Pre-Student Osteopathic Medical Association, a resident student organization. “It really opened my eyes to thinking bigger, broader thi
ngs than just in Delaware.”