By the end of his chat with about 30 Hopkins High School students, Dr. Allan Kind had been asked his thoughts on natural birth, quizzed about the rising cost of medical school and even fielded a question about technology from a student wearing a pair of bunny ears.
And while Kind was happy to share his vast knowledge of medicine, he was even more pleased to get a better feel for how high school students think, what’s important to them, and what’s not so important.
“We’re here today because we don’t have the foggiest notion about what’s going on in high school today,” he said. “But we want to know more.”
Kind and two other retired doctors recently spoke to the students as part of a new, burgeoning relationship between Minnetonka senior citizens and high school students in Minnetonka and Hopkins.
The relationship is being driven by the Minnetonka Senior Citizen Advisory Board, which advises the Minnetonka City Council on matters important to senior citizens. Last year, the board reached out to both high schools after members voiced a desire to get more involved with young people in the community.
“Many of our residents, once their children leave, they really do lose their connection to the local schools,” said Steve Pieh, the city’s manager of senior services and staff liaison to the board. “That’s what we’re trying to change.”
Since then, members of the advisory board have met with students participating in Minnetonka’s Vanguard program, which offers juniors and seniors real-world experience in professional settings, visited Hopkins High School, and are contemplating getting involved in a mentoring program. Students from Minnetonka High School gave seniors a preview of the play they were producing, “Urine Town,” at the community center.
Though the relationship is still in its early stages, so far it’s been a win-win for both. Seniors get the opportunity to give back to their community while students can learn from their elders’ vast experiences.
At the seniors’ first organized foray into Hopkins High School, the doctors spoke to students participating in BOOST TASC, a program for high schoolers who are caught up on their studies, and interested in extending their learning. The criteria include grades of B’s or above in all classes for the term and good attendance. The program will occur throughout the year and feature speakers who represent a variety of professions.
Since three of the members on the senior advisory board — Kind, Christopher Meyer and Richard King — are doctors, they were a good fit to speak at a recent BOOST TASC meeting focused on careers in health care.
Helping teens think ahead
Rick Rexroth, the social studies teacher who coordinates the speakers series, said it’s never too early for students who are interested in health care careers to begin planning for life after high school.
“Students may not realize it takes years to become a doctor, and if you are planning to specialize, you may not practice medicine until you are in your mid-30s,” Rexroth said. “That may not be something students are thinking about at 18.”
Meyer told students she wanted to be a science teacher until she discovered the degree required more education classes than she realized. Medicine felt like a better fit. That led her on a path toward the pediatric neonatal intensive-care unit, where she would devote much of her career to helping critically ill babies.
“The big thing about ICU is that it involves lots of physiology,” she said. “Basically what we’re talking about is organs that don’t function properly.”
Meyer and the other doctors acknowledged that a career in medicine often means long hours and time away from family. But it also gave them a chance to form meaningful relationships with patients, many of whom continue to stay in touch.
“The opportunities are endless when you’re in medicine,” Kind said.
Kamal Baker, a junior who is contemplating going into medicine, said he found the chat with the three retired doctors helpful.
“It was interesting,” he said. “I’m glad to know there’s such good job security if you’re willing to do the work. I think I am.”