Local students could be key to one day solving doctor and nurse shortage in the Central Valley

In a hospital room in Modesto, 17-year-old Will Jones is helping give birth to a baby. 

"It's eye opening. It's real and like how crazy it is," Jones said, an incoming senior at Lincoln High School in Stockton.

But it's not real.

It's a simulation.

It's all part of a high school program now in it's 16th year called "Decision Medicine."

Students from high schools throughout the Stockton, Tracy and Lodi area participate in the hopes of practicing medicine in a region in dire need of help.

"Currently, there are only 48 practicing physicians per 100,000 residents which is much lower than the state recommended average which is 60 to 80. And so that's in the entire Valley. I know in San Joaquin County it's even a little bit lower than that," said Brandon Piasecki, a Stockton high school chemistry teacher who runs the "Decision Medicine" program.

For two weeks, two dozen students are exposed to medical facilities across the Valley and Bay Area.

On this day, Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Modesto serves as the students' laboratory to learn.

16-year-old Kate Lagera wants to be a pediatrician.

"I want to be part of the change. I want to be part of the solution. Not only like right now, but for the future," Lagera said, who is an incoming senior at Stockton's Bear Creek High School.

In the challenge for hospitals in the Central Valley to keep doctors and nurses, pediatricians like Steven Millar, now 13 years in his field, say the key is selling the area's location and inspiring them to want to stay local. 

"Have them want to come back where they grew up to practice medicine amongst their peers, former classmates and that will really be what helps solve the doctors shortage," Millar said.

Perhaps one day that will be students like Will Jones, who is practicing delivering babies for now, with the hopes of practicing sports medicine for real as a surgeon later.

 

© 2017 KXTV-TV


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