Scrubs Academy Captivates Kids

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

University of North Dakota


An initiative by the Center for Rural Health (CRH) at The University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences grabbed a lot of attention on campus this summer. Better known as the Rural Collaborative Opportunities for Occupational Learning, or R-COOL-Health Scrubs Academy, this summer camp was for kids who just finished grades six, seven or eight.

In its first year, the CRH received an overwhelming response of 60-plus applicants to fill 40 spots. “We were so excited we received such an overwhelming response. It was unfortunate to have to add some students to a waiting list, but we were thrilled so many wanted to be a part of the Academy,” said Kristine Henke, communication coordinator for the Center for Rural Health and group leader at the Academy.

The Scrubs Academy is one of more than 50 projects carried out by the Center for Rural Health to support rural health services on state and national levels.

The Scrubs Academy used very direct methods to develop interest among its participants, enlightening them on health care and issues related to it. The kids learned through a series of interactive activities that each took one hour. Activities and topics included dentistry, dissecting a pig’s heart, nutrition, mental health, nursing, occupational therapy, pharmacy, physical therapy, and radiology - among many others. Students also had the opportunity to become CPR and HIPAA certified, which can help them if they want to job shadow in a health care facility.

Tammy and Julia, two of the bright young minds at the camp, were captivated by having had the opportunity to learn in some sessions by seeing many different things real health care professionals and students work with and learn from, such as human simulators. The direct experience made an impact on their education. “We loved it,” they said.

Coordinated with local health care professionals, instructors and students from many entities including UND, North Dakota State University, and Northland Community and Technical College, the Scrubs Academy worked to bring in individuals to lead the sessions in lively and interactive ways, giving demonstrations of tasks they actually do in their professional lives. Beyond the fun, leaders were upfront about the timeline to finish health care studies in college and educated the kids as to the courses they should take to follow up the concepts they learned at camp, and to give them a strong basis for a career in health care.

For one of the activities, the Academy invited UND undergraduate student Scott Amundson, who is looking to pursue a degree in dentistry, to visit with the students about dentistry and oral health. His father is a dentist so Scott was able to share with the students his perspective, as well as his father’s.

“This is a great way to help them get rid of the fear of going to a dentist because a lot of people, even older than these guys, are afraid to consult a dentist,” said Scott.

He showed educational videos on basic procedures at a dentist’s office, but the activity the kids enjoyed the most was the “Purple Chewing Tab”. Each student was given a purple chewing tab, which showed the areas on the students’ teeth where plaque or bacteria was present. After chewing the tabs and seeing the results, students had the opportunity to brush their teeth using new toothbrushes and techniques.

The opportunity to interact with students at this level is one way to help inspire future generations of health care providers. It is an important goal for the Center for Rural Health and the School of Medicine and Health Sciences as a whole as there are dramatic shortages predicted for many positions in the health sciences over and above medical doctors. The R-COOL Health Scrubs Academy is one important way to help bring more excited individuals into the field.