The lazy days of summer – time for selling lemonade on the sidewalk, watching Canadians games at Nat Bailey Stadium, hanging around the pool, and.… learning about health technology?
Yes, that’s right – “eHealth” is on the agenda for 50 curious teens this summer, thanks to a new UBC summer camp that will showcase how information technology is transforming health care and will encourage participants to become part of that transformation.
The eHealth Young Innovators Summer Camp will take place mostly on UBC’s Vancouver campus in two week-long sessions, one in July and the other in August, organized by the eHealth Strategy Office of the Faculty of Medicine.
The camp was the brainchild of Kendall Ho, Director of the eHealth Strategy Office and an associate professor of emergency medicine. He noticed that young people have been conspicuously absent from public forums organized by his group over the past two years on subjects such as diabetes and heart disease.
“When you don’t need health services, and you’re not sick, you don’t think about it,” Dr. Ho says. “But we know kids like technology. And they have the ideas about the next generation of technology that might elude their elders – including me.”
Thanks to financial support from Telus, the summer camp became a reality, with three core goals: introducing young people to various health career tracks, eliciting ideas from them about new eHealth applications, and encouraging healthy practices – especially diet and exercise – by the participants.
“This really made sense for us,” says Preet Dhillon, marketing director for Telus’ consumer health division, which is piloting a couple of products in the eHealth realm, including online personal health records and an iPhone app that helps people with diabetes manage their condition. “We want to make sure that there is a pipeline of bright, motivated young teens who can make the most of the technological revolution in health care.”
Registration opened April 20, and filled up by early June, with some teens coming from as far away as Smithers and Pitt Meadows.
“I’m hoping to get a behind-the-scenes look at the health care field, something you can’t usually get as a 16- or 17-year-old,” says Bavenjit Cheema, who is entering her final year at Crofton House School in Vancouver, and is thinking of becoming a pediatrician.
Activities during the week include: career discussions with professionals working in the health field; touring a virtual hospital and escorting a patient to an MRI in the multi-user online platform “Second Life;” and field trips to the Telus Innovation Centre in downtown Vancouver and the Centre of Excellence for Simulation Education and Innovation (CESEI), a high-tech classroom for health professions students at Vancouver General Hospital.
Campers will also team up to create a health-related smartphone application. On the final afternoon of each camp, students will demonstrate their programs.
But, like any camp, there will also be time for outdoor play – but even then, technological components, including heart rate monitors and pedometers, will be integrated with the activity.
One of the camp instructors, Francisco Grajales, a UBC graduate student in eHealth and health services research, gained his appreciation for eHealth while learning to use simulation technology as an Army medic.
“I wish I could have had an opportunity like this in high school,” Grajales says. “And seeing how quickly the registration filled up makes me even more passionate about the future of eHealth.”