Introduction to medicine: Teen Health Camp features workshops, hands-on activities

  • Photos by HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald

    University of Hawaii at Hilo nursing student Rachel Fisher, left, teaches Kamehameha Schools juniors Nev Fukui-Stoos, 16, center, and Jen Andrade, 16, how suture a wound Thursday during the Hilo Medical Center Foundation Teen Health Camp.

  • ABOVE: Pahoa High School sophomore Desirae Salmo, 15, puts a plaster cast on junior Alexis Sylva, 17.

    RIGHT: Ka‘u High School freshmen Roseanne Lindsey, 14, and Alayna Mapal, 15, learn how to take each other’s blood pressures.

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Ka‘u High School freshmen Roseanne Lindsey, 14, and Alayna Mapal, 15, learn how to take each other’s blood pressures Thursday during the Hilo Medical Center Foundation Teen Health Camp at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

Ronnal Dalmacio said she’s someday considering a career in nursing.

So when the 15-year-old Pahoa High School freshman got a chance to attend Hilo Medical Center Foundation’s annual Teen Health Camp on Thursday, she jumped.


“It’s been pretty cool,” Ronnal said that morning as she mixed up a container of “silly putty” during a workshop designed to demonstrate the science of pharmacy compounding. “I think (the camp) will help me decide if I want to work in the medical field or not.”

Ronnal was one of nearly 300 East Hawaii teens who participated in the free camp this year, its largest turnout ever. The goal was to expose students to various health care-related careers in Hawaii, which historically has experienced a shortage of physicians and other medical workers.

In addition to compounding, students got to learn how to suture, put on an arm cast, practice calculating body mass index and take blood pressure.

Workshops were led by older health care students, including medical students at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and pharmacy and nursing students from UH-Hilo.

“Hands-on is always better but medicine is very hard to do hands-on,” said Yuki Yano, a teacher at Kamehameha Schools Hawaii, which had about 20 students at the camp. “You don’t have lessons to do so. So when you do these types of hands-on activities, hopefully it helps pique their interest in health care as one of their future career options.”

During Thursday’s wound suture workshop, groups of students were huddled around stations set up with manikin arms, scissors and sewing materials. The suturing process was akin to sewing with a fishing hook and required steady hands, they explained.

“Learning how to finish the knot,” was the most difficult part, said Pahoa freshman Ayden Hau. “You have to do it just right or it won’t come out.”

“I’ve had stitches myself so I can remember how they were able to do it in surgery,” added Kamehameha senior Lia Wengler. She’s not considering a medical career at this time but thinks “it’s super interesting to learn how these things are done.”


A second teen health camp is scheduled for April 7 at Kealakehe High School.

Email Kirsten Johnson at

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