KINGSVILLE, Texas — Students from across the Coastal Bend packed the second floor of the Memorial Student Union Building at Texas A&M University-Kingsville on January 26th for a chance to receive practical, hands-on demonstrations on a variety of health care professions.

The Future Health Professionals Conference, which is hosted by the Texas A&M Coastal Bend Health Education Center, is held each year to introduce teenagers to the breadth of health care professions available to them. This year—the 15th for this event—nearly 350 students from 13 middle and high schools around the Coastal Bend attended.

“The conference set out to give students new opportunities to interact with health professionals, learn new skills and begin to think like a health professional,” said Nancy Ortega, Health Careers program coordinator at the Coastal Bend Health Education Center. “One of the main messages I hope students received was that each patient needs a team of people to treat them and provide the best possible care. Becoming a part of that team requires a lot from each individual. They have to draw on their personal strengths and work on their weaknesses to be able to develop this concern for each patient they will encounter.”

Students heard lectures and received practical teaching from practicing clinicians, including nurses, respiratory technologists and pharmacists.

“I liked the hands-on demonstrations the best,” said Desiree Alvarado, a junior at Ingleside High School. Alvarado, who wants to be a nurse, said the conference was “a fun, great learning experience.”

Schools sent 24 teacher chaperones to help guide the students through the crowded halls.

“It is very engaging for students,” said Ted Garcia, a counselor for John Paul II High School. “This conference is a good way to expose students to those areas.”

Garcia brought 26 students, all of whom are involved in their school’s Health Careers Club. Garcia said the event gives students a “better idea of careers through presenters, training and the day-to-day lives of these health professionals.”

More than 40 speakers and vendors presented at the event, and more than 20 college student volunteers helped.

“In the future, we will be looking for these students as health care leaders in our community,” Ortega said.