The next Within Reach program in Roanoke will shed light on the depth and breadth of health care career options and what it takes to get there.
The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine is teaming up with the Jefferson College of Health Sciences, Virginia Western Community College, and Virginia Tech’s Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health program to help area students understand what health care educational offerings are available in the Roanoke and New River Valleys — and to realize that a health care career is within their reach.
Representatives from each of the schools will discuss a range of health care careers and offer tips on preparing for these training programs. The event will take place, from at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, located at 2 Riverside Circle in Roanoke. An information fair starts at
School representatives will highlight more than two dozen academic programs, including those that lead to a certificate in medical laboratory science or practical nursing; an associate degree in such fields as respiratory therapy or surgical technology; a bachelor’s degree in a range of fields, including emergency services or health care management; a master’s degree in such fields as nursing; a doctoral degree in translational medicine; or a medical degree. A question-and-answer session will follow the presentations.
“We’re hoping to reach students who never even considered a career in health care as a possibility,” said David Trinkle, associate dean for community and culture at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. “This includes high school and college students as well as mid-career professionals.
Participants will learn that many different professions are within their reach, and that once they get a job in health care, their futures abound with many more opportunities.”
Also invited to attend are teachers, school counselors, and parents.
The event is free. Ample parking is available. In case of inclement weather, the program will be held, at the same time and place.
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Born in England and raised by a single mother with modest financial means, Amie Calimlim found her way to becoming a United States citizen and eventually was selected to be a member of the Class of 2019 at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.
She epitomizes the term "self-starter."
Recently, Calimlim became the school’s first recipient of the Caroline Osborne Memorial Scholarship, which was established to honor the memory of a student in the school’s charter class. Caroline Osborne, a graduate of Virginia Tech, was diagnosed with cancer during her third year of medical school. She fought a courageous battle, but eventually succumbed to the disease in the fall of 2014.
Calimlim is the first person in her family to go to college, which makes the scholarship even more meaningful for her.
“Words cannot express how truly grateful I am to be given this award,” she said. “I want to honor Caroline by striving to be the best person and physician I can be.”
After arriving in the United States at the age of 19, Calimlim joined the U.S. Air Force, serving as an EMT. Through this experience, she became interested in going to medical school and counted those years as on-the-job training.
“I came in to medical school with a strong clinical background, which has really helped me contribute to the class and small group learning,” she said. “I’m also the most nontraditional student in my class.”
Calimlim is the proud mother of six-year-old twin boys, who live in Northern Virginia with their father while she is in school.
It’s definitely a sacrifice,” she said. “I have guilty mom moments, but I keep reminding myself, one day, this will be worth it.”
The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine was Calimlim’s first choice when applying to medical school. While serving as a scribe in the emergency department at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, she was impressed by the third- and fourth-year students from the school who came through the department during their clerkship rotations.
“The VTC students were amazingly well-trained,” she said. “That left a positive impression on me. A lot of credit goes to the school and its curriculum for preparing future doctors.”
Calimlim is especially enthusiastic about the school’s patient-centered, small-group learning curriculum, calling it “the best part of the school.”
“I’m learning to talk my way through challenges and problem-solve with my peers, which is exactly what I’ll be doing as a physician one day.”
The school is one of the few in the country that utilizes this curriculum in which small groups of students learn from real patient cases and have a weekly wrap-up session with the patients they study.
This aspiring emergency medicine physician is also fascinated by infectious diseases, and obstetrics and gynecology.
“Although my interests are varied, I’ve always been drawn to helping people,” Calimlim said. “Basically, I just want to do the most amount of good for the greatest amount of people in the short time that I am here on this planet.”
The Caroline Osborne Memorial Scholarship was established by Carl and Ellen Osborne as a way of honoring their late daughter while recognizing a deserving student at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.
“Caroline felt the school was very, very special,” Carl Osborne said. “Starting a scholarship in her memory was the one thing we could think of that would capture her spirit and what a special place this was for her. What she was unable to accomplish in life, the scholarship can help others achieve.”
For Calimlim, the scholarship will help offset some of the financial burdens of being a full-time student.
“I’m so grateful for this award,” she said. “It’s the first scholarship I’ve ever received. I hope to one day pay it forward.”
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Pieces of his past have shaped Quan Phung’s future, including his decision to become a doctor, which eventually led Phung to the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.
“When I was growing up, I didn’t have a lot of the bone structure in my mouth. I went to a lot of different doctors when I was kid, getting referred back and forth. No one would address the situation,” Phung said. “Eventually I met a dentist when I was 13, and he stepped in to take care of it. It made the difference and started planting the idea to go into medicine.”
Phung said he also felt a special drive to succeed for his family. He was born in Vietnam, but his family immigrated to the United States when he was an infant. His parents worked hard to give him and his sister better opportunities. Phung completed his undergraduate studies in biology and psychology at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
“I thought about going into medicine from there, but wasn’t quite ready to make the jump considering finances, so I took a job in health policy research for a few years,” Phung said. “But I wanted to work with people directly and kept coming back to the idea of medicine. I finally decided to apply to medical school and make the switch.”
After his interview at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, he felt at home.
“I got the sense that I would be pushed the hardest here, but it would make me stronger," he said.
While medical school hasn’t been easy, some of his other anxieties – including the small class size of just 42 students – have waned as a second-year student.
“I think I was worried that we would be in each other’s space all of the time,” Phung said. “But I don’t feel that way. I think we all have our own goals. We are not trying to get in each other’s way or compare between each other. It’s very supportive.”
Being a few years out of school before starting his medical education, Phung had to brush up on some of his study skills, while using some of his on-the-job training in school as well.
“Different parts of my experience come into play in different areas," he said. "Doing interviews for my past job and talking to our standardized patients now, those skills carry over. For research, the mindset of how to approach a problem and be purposeful about what you are trying to accomplish.”
Students at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine are required to do a research project of publishable quality throughout their four years of study. Phung is doing his project with Warren Bickel, a professor and the director of the Addiction Recovery Research Center at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute and professor of psychiatry at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, as well as Sarah Snider, a post-doctoral associate.
“Dr. Bickel and his colleagues are finding that people with addictions have measureable patterns of behavior," Phung said. "My project focuses on if we give them a certain prescription, can we change that behavior? If we give a prescription that has an opposite kind of effect, would it have the opposite effect on that behavior?”
Phung is actively involved in on-going study demands, data collection, and analysis, as well as regular reporting of his research progress.
“Quan is an outstanding addition to the lab and is a diligent worker,” said Bickel, who is also the Virginia Tech Carilion Behavioral Research Professor.
Phung is also focusing on addiction through the medical school’s public health club, which he and another student are leading this year. Their goal is to plan addiction-related volunteer service projects with organizations in the community, such as the Bradley Free Clinic, where Phung has also volunteered to assist with patients. Recently, during an international refugee night at the free clinic, Phung was able to use the conversational Vietnamese he is used to speaking with his parents to help a patient.
“After getting acquainted with the patient and his wife, it was easier for me to speak with them in Vietnamese and relay it back to English. I may not know the word for a specific disorder, but I could use other words to describe the condition,” Phung said.
“Quan provided a fabulous service for a recent refugee in our area, including a lengthy discussion with the patient about his treatment plan, medications, and possible side effects,” said Bruce Johnson, associate dean for faculty affairs at the medical school who was the attending physician at the free clinic that day. “The patient was engaged, and I could tell he was getting the information and reassurance he needed.”
“It was nice to feel like I could help the patient beyond the normal scope that day,” Phung said.
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OurHealth’s four-part series: How to in Healthcare, is a step-by-step guide for those interested in pursuing a career in healthcare.
Imagine a career that has the potential to save lives each and every day. From emergency medical technicians and anesthesiologists to physical therapists and trauma surgeons, those who work in the healthcare field come together to save lives or improve the quality of life for their patients.
In recognition of May as Mental Health Month, the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine will focus its spring Mini Medical School on mental health issues.
“Dispelling Myths, Moving Forward: Science and Mental Health” will explore the history of mental illness, debunk myths, examine community issues regarding mental health, and take a look into the future. Health care and other professionals, along with policymakers, will take participants on a journey from the “olden” days, when mental illness was commonly referred to as “madness,” to today's cutting-edge treatments and innovations.
“As a geriatric psychologist, I know well the amazing advances that the field of mental health has made in the last 20 years,” said Dave Trinkle, a medical doctor and associate dean for community and culture at the school. “I know equally well the lack of advances in certain types of diagnoses and treatments, as well as the frustrations many families have getting access to treatment for their loved ones.”
Trinkle said the series will enable an open discussion about the history and future of mental health treatment and what the community can do to improve care.
The series will include three sessions that meet from 6 to 8 p.m. May 12, 19, and 29.
The May 12 session will take participants on a quest for a cure, looking at the history of mental health care, as well as modern-day treatment approaches that center around the neurotransmitters dopamine, noradrenaline, and serotonin and what lies ahead. Psychiatric artifacts will be on display. Speakers will include James Reinhard, M.D., of Virginia Tech's Cook Counseling Center at Virginia Tech, and Michael Greenage, D.O., and Thomas Milam, M.D., MDiv, psychiatrists with Carilion Clinic.
The May 19 session will take a scientific look at mental health care today and in the future, including a discussion on the evolution of psychiatric diagnoses and explore cognitive disorders, the aging brain, what the future holds for slowing the aging process in the brain. Speakers include William Rea, M.D. and Azziza Bankole, M.D., psychiatrists with Carilion Clinic.
The May 26 session will feature Jeff Leonard, certified peer recovery specialist for On Our Own of Roanoke Valley, who will discuss his own experience with mental illness and subsequent treatment and recovery, along with a panel discussion that will include Jacqueline F. Ward Talevi, chief judge of the Roanoke County General District Court; Anders Sylvester-Johnson, chief operating officer of the Roanoke Rescue Mission; and Capt. Rick Morrison of the Roanoke City Police Department.
Ample time will be given for audience questions each night.
The series will be at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine at 2 Riverside Circle in Roanoke. Doors open at 5:30 each evening, and there is plenty of free parking available.
The cost for all three nights is $20, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Mental Health America of Roanoke Valley. Scholarships are available.
Registration is required at http://tinyurl.com/VTC-MMS-2016.