NOVO’s Patti Schaetz welcomes Appleton North’s Annika Rossebo to OSI.

By Nikki Kallio & Scott Hutchinson

When Appleton North junior Annika Rossebo visited the Orthopedic & Sports Institute (OSI) with other students to learn about medical careers, little did she know she’d be back two months later for surgery.

“I tore my ACL by doing a jump spin kick in karate,” said Rossebo, who had surgery on the first day of her spring break.

Learning about what happens at the facility – the surgical process and recovery – helped ease her nerves and made her more comfortable going into surgery. But a more long-term impact of the tour and discussions with providers was a deeper insight into her possible future.

“I enjoyed getting to visit the Orthopedic & Sports Institute because it helped me get a better understanding of the medical field and all the different possible careers that are open to me,” Rossebo said.

The Student Leadership Program (SLP) was launched by Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. in 2008 in Savannah, Ga., in partnership with the public school system as a way to introduce students to career pathways in the community.

“This program is all about giving the students the opportunity to explore careers,” said Chris Nowicki, community investment specialist for Gulfstream. “We want to reach students who really aren’t quite sure what they want to do. This is an opportunity to captivate them for two years.”

The program enlists 75 area sophomores each fall from Appleton North, East, and West High Schools for the two-year program, exposing students to companies that they may recognize but not understand what happens inside, he said. During the course of the program, students will visit three local companies each year in addition to Gulfstream.

Participating companies have included Pierce, Plexus, Miller Electric, Boldt, Bemis and OSI/NOVO Health (OSI is one of the independent provider groups of NOVO Health).

Students also complete curriculum that includes training in soft skills and leadership abilities that are highly sought after by hiring managers. The program also includes a community service component volunteering with Feeding America as well as a visit to Chicago in the summer.

Gulfstream, which has a location at Appleton International Airport, expanded the program to Wisconsin three years ago. Each Student Leadership Program is tailored to best fit its community, and the Appleton program was designed with the help of the Appleton Area School District, leaders from the business community and the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce, Nowicki said.

“We really look at it from a community perspective,” Nowicki said. “We know if other businesses thrive, we’re going to thrive as well. It’s just being a good community partner.”

Gulfstream and the school system sought a healthcare option and NOVO fit the bill, joining the program in 2017. Students were able to tour the Appleton campus of OSI and visit a variety of stations, including one where they learned to take vitals like blood pressure, one that walked them through a joint replacement surgery and recovery, and a (now infamous) station demonstrating the sterilization of instruments.

One challenge was managing to host 150 students – plus their mentors and teachers – while still ensuring patient privacy and minimal interruption to a busy staff and system that has to run on a schedule, said Patti Schaetz, NOVO Vice President of Provider Relations.

“We weren’t sure we could pull that off with that many kids coming through, but the clinical staff said, ‘We barely knew they were there, really,’” Schaetz said. “Every one of the kids just couldn’t have been nicer.”

Another challenge turned out to be the instrument sterilization stop. Three kids on three separate tours passed out after viewing scalpels and other medical instruments.

“It was helpful to be in a medical facility if that was going to happen,” Schaetz said.

Those were teachable moments, though, both in terms of demonstrating medical care in action as well as showing students that there’s more to medicine than sharp objects. Students had a chance to talk with x-ray technicians, MRI techs, medical records clerks, and nurses, in addition to administrative and business office staff, and participate in Q&A sessions.

“We show them that they can still have a career in a medical facility, even if they aren’t able to stand the sight of blood,” Schaetz said.

Kristine Xiong, in her junior year at Appleton North when she visited OSI, joined the Student Leadership Program “because I wanted to grow more as a person and saw SLP as a great opportunity to do so.” Xiong had planned to pursue a career in art, but was looking for more direction.

“Both of my older sisters are graphic designers, and art just generally runs in the family,” Xiong said. “However, through my experiences with SLP, I actually came to the conclusion that art just isn’t the field for me . . . I still like to use creative paths to help other people, thus I settled on a career in the human resources field.”

Aside from gaining that insight, Xiong also said the relationships she built with her fellow students and adult mentors throughout the program were beneficial. She also enjoyed visiting NOVO, saying it was a safe and welcoming environment.

“Additionally, I was able to find out that the company also does summer internships for high-school students,” Xiong said. “Although I don’t plan on going into the medical field, it was still nice to see the opportunities that are available in my local area.”

That summer internship is Medical Mentoring of the Fox Valley, which pairs high school juniors with area medical professionals for a 12-hour job shadowing experience. For Rossebo, who recently completed her hours in the 2018 mentoring program, SLP first provided the opportunity to gain an inside view of a medical facility, with staff explaining their roles and giving her a better understanding of the field she plans to pursue.

“We saw everything from surgery rooms to physical therapy areas,” Rossebo said. “It was very interesting to get a comprehensive view of the whole facility and see all the different work that goes on in one building.”

Roberta Baker, a teacher-adviser at Appleton North who specializes in personal financial management courses, said students were intrigued by seeing the behind-the-scenes work up close, in one instance watching a cast removal.

“It was like a little career fair where they could talk to people about what kinds of training and skills they would need to get into those jobs,” Baker said. “It was very positive.”

The variety of careers was eye-opening for them, she said, “and they were very intrigued that they could start a nursing career with a two-year education.”

Once students recognize the variety of possibilities available to them, they can pursue those pathways and make the connections than can offer them the guidance they need.

The power of these early experiences for student participants can be profound. For Rossebo, whose parents are both veterinarians, following a healthcare path always made perfect sense to her, although she didn’t have a clear vision of the field she wished to pursue. Starting with SLP in her sophomore year was exciting, especially when she found out that one of the stops was OSI.

“I knew that was going to be right up my alley,” Rossebo said.

Following her involvement with Medical Mentoring of the Fox Valley this year, Rossebo admits she’s very interested in orthopedics.

“I had the opportunity this summer to see two knee replacements, two knee scopes, a carpal tunnel surgery, and a spine surgery,” said Rossebo. “It was super cool to watch.”

The surgeries Rossebo viewed brought back memories of her own surgical experience. Kickoff night for the Medical Mentoring Program did the same, as all students and parents are taken on a simulated journey of an athlete who has just torn an ACL.

“Yes, I knew what that was all about,” she said.

NOVO Health plans to continue its participation in these programs and looks to develop more job-shadowing opportunities, Schaetz said, in order to accommodate as many students as possible.

“We are looking into creating internships for program participants so they can continue the experience and clearly understand the possibilities open to them,” said Schaetz. “Even if just one or two kids find their path as a result of coming here, it will be worth it.”