KCHS students have medicine on their minds in new club

By Dan McWilliams

Knoxville Catholic High School junior Andrew Dreiser has a strong interest in a medical career, and he has shared his zeal for that field with many of his fellow students by starting what has become the extremely popular Irish Medicine club.

Begun in the fall, Irish Medicine already has more than 60 student members who have their eyes on a medical profession, whether as a doctor, nurse, respiratory therapist, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, certified registered nurse anesthetist, certified nursing assistant, athletic trainer, EMS, or a veterinary medicine practitioner. Irish Medicine is partnered with East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, Covenant Health, and other local medical establishments to offer students a variety of medical-based experiences and projects.

“The idea for creating Irish Medicine was something that came to me at the end of my sophomore year,” Andrew said. “Since there were only a few weeks left of school, I decided to wait until the start of the next school year to introduce it. I have always been very active in the medical field, and many of the student body have seen me, for example, working on the sidelines of football games as a student trainer, and I started to get questions about how to start and become involved. This led me to really wanting to bring the club to Catholic. A few of the Knox County schools do have health-science programs, but unlike many of those programs, we have unique partnerships with local medical establishments to offer students experiences that generally are not commonly seen.”

Irish Medicine offers job shadowing, meeting and speaking to health-care professionals, facility tours, medical-based service projects, clinical rotations, and internships.

Because of the interest and success of the organization, Andrew, in conjunction with Knoxville Catholic, offers an after-school Advanced Medical Pathway (AMP) Health Science Academy, open only to KCHS students. The spring course is offering CPR/AED/first aid, and basic life support.

Students who take their licensing exams through this course will be eligible to work as nursing assistants and tech and medical assistants. Course agendas have included fundamentals of medicine, basic orthopedic and cast/splint procedures, neurology and cranial nerves, cardiology and central nervous system pharmacology, respiratory care, trauma, and nursing.

Irish Medicine club members get an up-close look inside the Lifestar medical helicopter at KCHS.

During the trauma course on March 30, Andrew lined up a Lifestar helicopter to land on the Knoxville Catholic football practice field, where students were immersed in a simulated trauma response to learn emergency-medicine skills.

Andrew’s interest in a medical career goes way back, and he sees the bigger picture with his opportunities to come. He plans to major in business and political science in college while pursuing a medical degree.

“Since I was 5, I have always had a passion for the medical field, with a particular interest in emergency medicine,” he said. “As I’ve grown older, the dream has evolved to include pursuing a business/poli-sci pre-med degree, which will allow me to focus not only on practicing medicine but also on enacting congressional reforms focused on health care. I believe that this dual approach will enable me to enact change. By combining my knowledge of the health-care industry with business acumen, I can be a voice for change and ensure that patients receive the best possible care. Additionally, I hope to use my platform to advocate for congressional reforms that address some of the systemic issues facing the health-care industry today. In short, my childhood dream of becoming an emergency-medicine physician has expanded into a multifaceted career path that includes both practicing medicine and advocacy.”

Irish Medicine gives students a chance to meet those in the health-care profession.

“One of the club’s offerings is the chance to interact with health-care professionals during lunch, where students can learn about their experiences and career paths,” Andrew said. “Another benefit is the opportunity to partner up with professionals for mentorship and guidance. In addition, students can participate in job shadowing, where they can observe health-care professionals in their workplace and gain insight into different specialties.”

On April 28, students lunched with a cardiovascular intensive-care unit nurse, “who shared his personal journey into the medical field and discussed nursing as a profession,” Andrew said.

The KCHS junior is pleased with the popularity of Irish Medicine.

“When starting out, I figured there would be a few students interested, but I was pleasantly surprised to see the overwhelming interest among students for the Irish Medicine club,” Andrew said. “The response was far beyond my expectations, which has made fundraising much more efficient and easier for the club. The KCHS community has warmly welcomed the club, and it has become an integral part of the community. It’s been heartening to witness the student body’s active involvement and eagerness to explore the health-care field through the club’s various offerings.”

Andrew detailed the Health Science Academy’s advantages.

The Health Science Academy offered by the Advanced Medical Pathway is an after-school class designed for students interested in pursuing a career in medicine.

“The Health Science Academy offered by the Advanced Medical Pathway is an after-school class designed for students who are passionate about pursuing a career in medicine,” he said. “The course covers the fundamentals of medicine and provides a comprehensive understanding of the various body systems, their treatments, and common diagnoses. By the end of the course, students will be equipped with the skills and knowledge required to work as a patient-care tech, nursing assistant, or ER tech/medical tech. Additionally, students will be licensed as Basic Life Support (BLS) Providers with the American Heart Association.

“One of the highlights of the class is the hands-on patient-care experience. Using high-fidelity patient simulators that mimic human functions, students can apply what they have learned in a real-world setting. During clinic days, students are challenged to diagnose and treat mock patients played by fellow students or mannequins. The course also covers topics such as ALS (advanced life support), pharmacology, and other practical skills,” Andrew said.

“As the creator of this class, I am an optometric tech and an American Heart Association Basic Life Support, CPR, and First Aid instructor. I am also an Advanced Life Support Respiratory, Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support, Pediatric Advanced Life Support, Sedation, Trauma Aid, and Tennessee Naloxone provider. Many students were curious about how and when I was able to obtain these certifications, as many require CPR and BLS as prerequisites. Using the knowledge I obtained from those classes along with the work experience I had/have, I was able to create this class to help ease one of the hurdles for students and equip them with the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed in the field of medicine,” he added.

Having the Lifestar helicopter land at the school “was a valuable opportunity for students to witness an integral part of the health-care system,” Andrew said.

“I believe they learned a great deal from the experience, and many were inspired to possibly pursue careers in flight medicine,” he said. “The trauma simulation, in which a group of AMP students participated, I felt went excellently. The simulation aimed to replicate an out-of-hospital emergency response, and the students gained insights into the critical nature of emergency medicine. Overall, I was very pleased with how the experience went, and I believe it was a fun but educational experience for the program.”

Andrew is grateful to Knoxville Catholic for its backing of the club he founded.

“As a junior, I have been incredibly grateful for the support that my school has provided me in starting and running my club, as well as my work in the medical field. The administration and teachers were amazing, offering their guidance and support in any areas they could,” he said.

Specifically, Andrew thanked KCHS science department chair Tammy Walden, director of marketing and communications Pam Rhoades, academic dean Jane Walker, dean of students Ore Pumariega, English teacher Julia Weech, and school president Dickie Sompayrac for their help.

“I would like to thank all the teachers and administration at Catholic,” Andrew said. “Mrs. Walden has been by my side since day one, offering to help and mentor wherever needed. Ms. Weech for spending the time after school to help with the class. Mrs. Rhoades has gone above and beyond to set up media appearances and so many other items. Mrs. Walker has always been so kind to work with me to organize the field trips/events for the club such as when we went to LMU or the Lifestar visit. Mr. Puma has always been open to new fundraising ideas and supporting me with teaching this new class. Finally, president Sompayrac for always having my back and allowing this club to be a part of the KCHS community.”

Andrew also saluted parents John and Heather Dreiser.

“Obviously, my parents have always been such a backbone helping in any way they could, including funding some of the early projects,” he said. “They have always been my biggest fans and advocates!”

Mrs. Walker is a big fan of Andrew.

“Andrew first approached administration in the fall about the possibility of creating this club for students interested in pursuing careers in the medical profession,” she said.

“He has followed through with surprising maturity and invigorating enthusiasm. He organizes and teaches classes that result in various certifications for basic first aid and life support. Students in the classes seem eager to respect his directives. Andrew brings a unique positive energy and sense of authority to the table. His keenness for all things medical permeates his work here. We are proud of Andrew and his true servant’s heart,” Mrs. Walker added.

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