SPOKANE, Wash. — For one summer intern, suddenly hospital patients became more than patients, they became people who needed a positive outcome. At that moment, the Project HOPE intern went from exploring health care professions to understanding exactly why people choose the health care/caregiver profession.

“Students realize why people succeed and want to be in health care,” said Project HOPE (Health Occupations Preparatory Experience) coordinator Bettie Rundlett who manages the program through the Area Health Education Center at Washington State University Spokane.

Project HOPE is an annual summer internship offered to high school students across Washington state. This year 11 eastern Washington communities, including Chelan, Chewelah, Manson, Moses Lake, Othello, Pasco, Prosser, Spokane, Sunnyside, Tonasket and Yakima, received a student intern on a part-time basis for six weeks. The students receive a $600 stipend once the internship is successfully completed.

Some 27 Eastern Washington health care facilities hosted 20 high school students this summer to introduce them to a variety of careers in the health care field.

“I think the student gained insight into how a medical clinic functions and was able to appreciate the number of different functions each department has,” said George Thomas, Physicians Assistant-Certified, of Columbia Basin Health Association in Othello.

Deaconess and Valley Hospitals, Sacred Heart Medical Center and St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute are participating Project HOPE sites in Spokane. Students have the option to choose a health care facility within an easy commute distance from their home and may spend a part or the entire six weeks in one facility or more.

In 2001, Project HOPE was established by the Washington State Department of Health in response to the Washington State Board of Health’s report on health disparities.

The report showed in order to decrease the ethnic and racial disparities existing in health care, the health workforce should mirror the population it serves.

The Washington State Department of Health and Washington’s two Area Health Education Centers urge local health care facilities to be a partner in the effort to expand the future health workforce, Rundlett says.

The AHEC at WSU Spokane, like similar AHEC organizations around the country, focuses on health professions education and training, recruitment, and retention, especially for rural and underserved communities. It is an integral part of the health science programs at the WSU Spokane campus, which include professional and graduate studies in Health Policy and Administration, Pharmacy, Human Nutrition, and Speech and Hearing Sciences, and Aging.

Editor Note:
The following Project HOPE interns in the Spokane area are available for interview through Friday (July 26). (Contact the site coordinator to arrange for interviews.)

Rachel Thurman at Valley Hospital. Contact site coordinator Joey Frost at (509)473-5415.
Mai Phuong Do at Deaconess Hospital. Contact site coordinator Joey Frost at (509)473-3058.
Allie O’Shogay, Sacred Heart Medical Center. Contact site coordinator Claudia Peters at (509)474-3166.
For a comprehensive list of all Project HOPE sites in Washington state contact Bettie Rundlett at 358-7646.